Great Plains Natural Science Society
Date of this Version
The Prairie Naturalist 46:41–43; 2014
Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) are found throughout western North America (Krausman et al. 1993, Goodson 1994, Krausman et al. 1996, Besser et al. 2012). In their current range, commonly documented large predators of bighorn sheep include cougars (Puma concolor), gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), wolves (Canis lupus), and coyotes (C. latrans; Ross et al. 1997, Neale et al. 1998, Corti and Shackleton 2002, Dekker 2009, Karsch et al. 2013). Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) also have been documented as predators to both wild and domestic sheep (Kennedy 1948, Cunningham 1970, Nette et al. 1984, Watte and Phillips 1994, Warren et al. 2001). Eagles often take lambs and occasionally a yearling bighorn sheep (Kennedy 1948, Russo 1956, Jantzen 1961). Additionally, several biologists have reported watching eagles harass lambs, ewes, and young rams (Jantzen 1961, Cunningham 1970).
Studies have reported bobcat (Lynx rufus) predation on animals of similar size and weight to bighorn lambs (Jones and Smith 1979, Koehler and Hornocker 1991, Jacques and Jenks 2008) but few articles document bobcat predation on bighorn sheep (Groves 1957, Russo 1957, Johnson 1958, Elliot 1961). Bobcats have been observed stalking bighorn sheep with the subsequent escape of these potential prey (Hornocker 1969, Kelly 1980). Some early sources report bobcats killing young rams or ewes (Groves 1957, Russo 1957, Johnson 1958, Elliot 1961); in each of these reports, the authors provide compelling evidence on the cause of death to the sheep. More recent studies report bighorn lamb deaths attributed to bobcats (Deforge et al. 2000, Deforge 2002); no information, however, was provided to support their findings. Here we report, with evidence, a rare instance of a bobcat preying on a bighorn lamb.
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