Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep

(Ovis dalli dalli) - Imnaiq
Updated January 2008
 
Population Status
Distribution: Dall sheep occur in two locations within the Inuvialuit Settlement Region: (1) the British Mountains west of the Firth River (in Ivvavik National Park) ranging into the Brooks Range in Alaska, and (2) the northern Richardson Mountains (at the southern boundary of Inuvialuit Settlement Region). This population ranges over jurisdictions in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
 
Population size: Because they are easily seen, Dall sheep can be counted with a fairly high degree of certainty. In the British Mountains, the summer population has been observed as high as 171 (in 1986). Parks Canada personnel observed 85 sheep during a survey in July 2001. In the Richardson Mountains, the sheep population is currently believed to be approximately 700.
 
Population trend: The British Mountains population is believed to be stable. The population in the Richardson Mountains has been declining since the mid-1990s.
 
Unique or special characteristics:
  • Population of sheep in the Richardson Mountains is isolated from other populations. This makes it relatively vulnerable to exploitation.
  • The northern Richardson Mountains sheep population range is within an overlap area of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and the Vuntut Gwitchin and Tet’lit Gwich’in Land Claims.
  • The British Mountains population straddles the Yukon Alaska border and is considered to be an international population.
  • It is easy to distinguish the males from the females which makes selective hunting easier.
 
Habitat Features
Thinhorn sheep are restricted to broken topography and wind-blown slopes. They display traditional loyalty to winter ranges, lambing cliffs, and mineral licks.
 
Harvest
Inuvialuit: Under the IFA, the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee has the authority to develop bylaws that apply to the Inuvialuit harvest of specific species, should such bylaws be needed. NWT regulations must then reflect these bylaws. Bylaws may also be reflected in Ivvavik National Park regulations and Yukon wildlife regulations. There are currently no Aklavik HTC bylaws in place for sheep.
 
From 1988 to 1999 Inuvialuit harvest data was collected through the Inuvialuit Harvest Study. In the period from 1988 to 1997, the average annual harvest reported by Aklavik residents was two sheep. The Government of Yukon, in partnership with the Aklavik HTC, has been collecting sheep harvest data from Inuvialuit residents of Aklavik since 2001. Harvest information recorded includes species, date, location, sex and maturity of the animal. Funding and support for the collection of harvest data is provided through the IFA and by other agencies. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Inuvialuit harvested sheep from the British Mountain population, though currently there is no reported harvest.
 

Inuvialuit harvesting rights to Dall sheep
Ivvavik National Park
exclusive
East of the Babbage River
preferential
Adjoining NWT
exclusive

 
Others: Regulations under Yukon Wildlife Act, NWT Wildlife Act and National Parks Act apply in their respective jurisdictions. From 2004 to 2006, the Government of Yukon issued two permits per year for residents to hunt sheep in the Yukon portion of the Richardson Mountains. During that time the harvest was one sheep in 2004, one in 2005, and none in 2006. No permits were issued in 2007 as management planning discussions are underway.
 
Beneficiaries of adjacent claim settlements may harvest with Inuvialuit consent, on the same basis as the Inuvialuit. Little information is available on the level of the subsidence harvest in the northern Richardson Mountains, outside of the ISR. 
 

Other resident harvesting
Ivvavik National Park
none permitted
East of the Babbage River
2 permits issued annually from 2004 to 2006.
Adjoining NWT
none permitted

 
Eco-tourism
Dall sheep are easily seen along the Firth River and are a feature of the experience of Firth River rafters.
 
Threats
The sheep habitat in the British Mountains is protected within Ivvavik National Park. The creation of Ivvavik National Park and ensuing elimination of placer mining activities along Sheep Creek have reduced the risk of habitat loss of, and sheep displacement from, special mineral licks along Sheep Creek. Wildlife managers and community people identified no immediate threat to sheep habitat in the Richardson Mountains. However, the threat from potential oil and gas activity and due to climate change is unknown.
 
Species at Risk Status
Yukon: none
COSEWIC: none
CITES: none
 
Research and Monitoring
Population and other management research is conducted by government management agencies on the advice of WMACs and IGC.
 
Population monitoring: Surveys of Dall sheep were conducted in the British Mountains in 1984 and 1986. The most recent survey was conducted by Parks Canada in the summer of 2001. http://www.pc.gc.ca/docs/v-g/rs-rm2002/sec3/page4_e.asp
 
A detailed study of Dall sheep in the northern Richardson Mountains was carried out between 1984 and1987 to determine population size and trend, distribution and seasonal movement patterns, productivity, and survival rates. Aerial surveys of the Richardson Mountain were conducted by the Yukon and Northwest Territories governments in 2001, 2003 and 2006.
 
Research: Prior to 1986, a sequence of unsystematic surveys delineated the centres of sheep habitation for the Richardson Mountains and British Mountains.
 
The Northern Richardson Mountains Dall’s Sheep Ecology Project was recently completed by the Gwich’in Renewable Resource Board (Denise Auriat) This three-year project was designed to provide information on the relationships between Dall sheep and their habitat, such as seasonal range, movements, possible corridors and description of seasonally selected habitat, of which there is currently limited information. Additionally, the information will be useful in the development of a co-operative interjurisdictional management plan that is being developed to ensure the sustainable management of the Richardson Mountain's Dall sheep population. (A progress report on this project can be found at http://www.grrb.nt.ca/pdf/wildlife/dallssheep/N.Rich_sheep-eco.pdf)
 
Research on the Richardson Mountain population is currently underway by Catherine Lambert (doctoral candidate, University of Alberta). This project, titled “Dall sheep, grizzly bear and wolf interactions in the Richardson Mountains” is investigating the causes of the decline in the area’s sheep population, with an emphasis on the impact of grizzly bears and wolves. This project began in April 2006 and is expected to last until 2009. (http://www.biology.ualberta.ca/faculty/andrew_derocher/cathlk/index.html)
 
Deficiencies: The major deficiency is the lack of information about the overall levels of subsistence harvesting in the Richardson Mountains. Also, population surveys haven’t included the sheep resident in Cache Creek (in the ISR). The size of this population is unknown.
 
Management
 

Occurrence in jurisdictional areas
Ivvavik National Park
East of the Babbage
Adjoining NWT, northern Richardson Mountains
International agreements/ management plans
None
 
Applicable legislation
IFA
Yukon Wildlife Act
National Parks Act
NWT Wildlife Act
Lead enforcement agencies
Ivvavik National Park
Parks Canada
East of the Babbage
YTG
Adjoining NWT
GNWT

 
To meet conservation goals of the IFA, the co-management bodies are mandated to determine and recommend (to the governments of the Yukon and NWT and to Parks Canada) a total allowable harvest and/ or promote research, if and when required.
 
The Aklavik Inuvialuit Community Conservation Plan identifies the need to establish a management plan for the sheep population in the Richardson Mountains. Initial planning activities began in 1986. Recent initiatives, begun in June 2005, have resulted in a draft management plan.
The North Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Plan includes a chapter on the management of sheep in the Vuntut Gwitchin Traditional Territory which lies to the south of the Inuvialuit Settlement region in the Yukon. (http://www.yfwmb.yk.ca/comanagement/mgmtplans/northyukon.php)
 
Community-based Information
Community-based information on sheep may be found in the reports of the annual community-based monitoring program conducted in Aklavik and neighbouring communities by the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op. http://www.taiga.net/coop/community/index.html
 
Related Literature and Information Sources
 
Auriat, D. and J. Nagy. 2005. The northern Richardson Mountains’ Dall’s sheep ecology project progress report for year 2, 2004/2005. http://www.grrb.nt.ca/pdf/wildlife/dallssheep/N.Rich_sheep-eco.pdf
 
Barichello, N. and J. Carey. 1989. Mountain sheep status and harvest in the Yukon: a summary of distribution, abundance and the registered harvest, by Game Management Zone. Government of Yukon, Department of Environment.
 
Carey, J. 2007. Personal communication, Government of Yukon, Department of Environment.
 
Gordon, Danny C. Personal communication, Elder, Aklavik, NWT.
 
Gwich’in Renewable Resource Board. 2002. Report 05-02: Dall Sheep Local Knowledge study – local knowledge study Aklavik, Fort McPherson and Inuvik - Oct 2000 and April 2001.
 
Jingfors, K. 1989. Wildlife of Northern Yukon National Park, Chapter 9 in: Northern Yukon National Park resource description and analysis. Natural Resource Conservation Section, Canadian Parks Service, Prairie and Northern Region, Winnipeg.
 
Joint Secretariat, 2003. Inuvialuit Harvest Study, Data and Methods Report 1988 – 1997. Inuvik, NT. http://www.fjmc.ca/publications/IHS.htm
 
Kutz, Susan, Elena Garde, Alasdair Veitch, John Nagy, Farhad Ghandi, and Lydden Polley. 2004. Muskox lungworm (umingmakstrongylus pallikuukensis) does not establish in experimentally exposed thinhorn sheep (ovis dalli) Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 40(2), 197-204.

Nagy, J. and J. Carey. 1991. Population survey of Dall’s sheep in the Richardson Mountains. GNWT and Yukon Departments of Renewable Resources, Inuvik/Whitehorse.
 
Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) 1999. Yukon North Slope research review tables. http://www.taiga.net/wmac/researchplan/lmammals/dallsheep.html