The Mountain Ungulate Research Initiative: A Collaborative Effort To Advance Understanding Of Bighorn Sheep And Mountain Goat Ecology

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
Montana State University
Greater yellowstone ecosystem
bighorn sheep
mountain goat
Volume 17, No. 1-4

The mountain ungulate research initiative: a collaborative 
Effort to advance understanding of bighorn sheep and 
Mountain goat ecology
Robert A. Garrott,* Fish and Wildlife Management Program, Ecology Department, Montana State 
University, 310 Lewis Hall, Bozeman, Montana 59717,
P.J. White, National Park Service, Yellowstone Center for Resources, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone 
National Park, Wyoming  82190, 
Jay J. Rotella, Fish and Wildlife Management Program, Ecology Department, Montana State 
University, 310 Lewis Hall, Bozeman, Montana 59717,
Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are 
important components of the faunal assemblage of Montana‚Äôs mountainous ecosystems 
representing high-profile large mammals that garner substantial public interest. While 
population restoration, augmentation, and introductions have traditionally been the 
predominant conservation activities associated with these species in Montana, basic ecological 
research has been limited. A new research initiative has been developed and funded to study 
bighorn sheep and mountain goat spatial and population ecology in a number of ecological 
settings within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The aspiration of the collaborators is to 
develop a long-term research program that could expand to other populations of these species 
in Montana if we are successful. Primary objectives of the studies include 1) understanding 
the ecological interactions between sympatric populations, 2) developing and refining habitat 
suitability models, 3) documenting spatial dynamics within and among populations and 
identifying important movement corridors, 4) collecting vital rate data to better understand 
population dynamics, and 5) investigating potential responses of bighorn sheep and 
mountain goats to gradual changes in the regional climate. The presentation will describe 
the collaboration and ongoing efforts to consolidate all available data on bighorn sheep and 
mountain goats in the GYE. These data are used to describe mountain goat range expansion 
within the GYE over the past half century and to conduct initial habitat modeling efforts. We 
will also describe our plans for initiating field studies in the near future.