• Population and habitat analyses for Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli) in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

      Terwilliger, Miranda Lilian Naeser (2005-08)
      We summarized and statistically analyzed historical fixed-wing aerial surveys (1949-2002) and harvest records (1983-2002) of Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli dalIi) from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST). Among survey units there were significant differences in observed densities, hunter-reported harvest, horn lengths of harvested rams, and horn length residuals from the regression of length on age. There was no consistent evidence of net change in WRST-wide sheep density, even though some survey units showed trends in density. Reported harvest in WRST declined linearly during 1973-2003 from 376 to 139 rams per year. We estimated the relationships among population and habitat characteristics with multiple linear regression. We standardized all variables and evaluated all 1, 2, and 3 variable models using Akaike's Information Criterion for small sample sizes (AICc) for model selection. The best model for sheep density showed a positive correlation with median NDVI (relative vegetation greenness) and terrain ruggedness. The same model resulted from examining adult and Iamb cohorts separately. Approximately 50% of horn length was explained by age. The habitat variables estimated did not explain a significant amount of the variance observed in reported harvests or horn length residuals from the regression of length on age.