Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wyoming
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wyoming Project

Nutritional Carrying Capacity and Interactions with Disease in Bighorn Sheep

December 2014 - December 2018


Participating Agencies

  • Wyoming Community Foundation
  • Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Wildlife Livestock Disease Research Partnership
Bighorn Sheep release

Our overarching goal is to ultimately identify and calibrate nutritional levels that correspond with NCC for bighorn sheep. In so doing we will evaluate the proximity of 3 key sheep herds to NCC, and elucidate the interactions among density dependence, nutrition condition, chronic stress, demography, and disease susceptibility. Achieving these key objectives will aid in understanding how herd density, environmental conditions, and harvest management interact to affect proximity of populations to NCC and their susceptibility to pneumonia. Notably, our objectives correspond directly to needs outlined in The Wyoming Plan by the State-wide Bighorn/Sheep Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group (2004). Specifically, that group expressed needs to monitor habitat selection and habitat NCC, evaluate if poor nutrition contributes to disease susceptibility, and determine if habitat improvements influence nutritional status of populations and thus influence NCC. In addition, the group indicated that knowledge of carrying capacity was necessary to ensure sheep do not exceed the capacity of their habitat, and that understanding how habitat improvements modify nutrition and subsequently influence performance is necessary for sound management.