Dall's Sheep

A group of Dall's sheep in rocky terrain.
Dall's sheep on a very steep and rocky slope in the Brooks Range in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

NPS/Sara Germain

Dall’s sheep are an alpine-adapted species at their northernmost extent in the Brooks Range of Alaska. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and Noatak National Preserve encompass most of the available habitat in the central and western Brooks Range and were estimated in the 1980s to contain 13-15% of the world’s Dall’s sheep population. Dall’s sheep are an important subsistence species for local residents and highly valued for sport hunting (where permitted). Dall’s sheep are also one of the most visible large mammals for wildlife viewing in northern Alaska. Widespread and dramatic declines in sheep numbers were observed in the early 1990s and again in 2013-2015, resulting in emergency closures for subsistence and sport hunting in the Western Arctic Parklands. Monitoring population trends is critical to conserving Dall’s sheep and maintaining hunting opportunities. Moreover, information about sheep abundance, distribution, demographics, and health can be highly indicative of changing environmental conditions over time.

We monitor Dall’s sheep in all Arctic parklands to better understand:

  • Long-term trends in sheep abundance and distribution.

  • Long-term trends in sex and age composition of sheep populations.

  • Sheep diet composition and quality in northeastern Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve.

Contact: William Deacy

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Duration:
8 minutes, 53 seconds

Counting Sheep in Alaska takes viewers on a flight with scientists as they survey Dall's sheep populations in remote locations of the Brooks mountain range. The video highlights the challenges associated with studying the sheep, which live on rocky, exposed areas high in alpine mountain locations. It also documents the importance of monitoring this species. Because they live in a specific habitat year-round, Dall's sheep can serve as an indicator of large-scale change to mountain ecosystems. National Park Service scientists involved with Dall's sheep monitoring efforts recently developed a state-of-the-art approach to study them that decreases the costs associated with monitoring while increasing the scientists' ability to accurately predict trends in the population.
Cover Image: NPS/Dylan Schertz

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    Last updated: September 15, 2020