Territory studying Dall sheep numbers

Since the last week in June, Environment Yukon staff have been peering out of helicopters, binoculars in hand, counting up just how many Dall sheep there are in southwestern Yukon.

Since the last week in June, Environment Yukon staff have been peering out of helicopters, binoculars in hand, counting up just how many Dall sheep there are in southwestern Yukon.

It’s likely the largest aerial count of the animal that has ever been done, said Troy Hegel, the biologist heading up the survey.

The survey, which is expected to wrap up next week, covers an area from Carcross to the Donjek River.

Biologists are counting the number of sheep they find, including lambs and rams. Rams are also being classified based on the curl of their horns – an indication of how old they are.

Many of the spots they’re looking at have never been surveyed before, said Hegel, which means biologists will now have a baseline for those populations.

“Largely what we’re looking at is lamb productivity, how many lambs there are in the whole area. That gives us an idea of how many sheep we’ll have in the future,” Hegel said.

Before this, sheep surveys were done on much smaller pockets of land, like in the Southern Lakes, Ruby Range, or Faro areas, at the same time as the annual caribou count.

Covering a wider swath of land this time means scientists will be able to do side-by-side comparisons between zones.

If the data is consistent across the region, it could be an indication of the natural ebb and flow of sheep populations, he said. At the same time, differences between zones might give scientists a better idea of the impact hunting is having on the sheep population.

Older rams, with full curls, are the only ones that can be hunted in the Yukon.

“For areas where we think there might be extra harvest pressure, we can look at what the rams are like in those areas and compare it to areas where there is maybe lighter harvest pressure.”

That information could be used for regulation changes in the future, Hegel said.

The lamb data could also provide information about the quality of the land where the sheep are.

“Especially with the lamb information, we can look at regional variations in lamb productivity due to things like habitat quality, or the role of weather or climate on how many lambs are produced,” he said.

Hegel is quick to point out that this survey is only providing a detailed snapshot in time.

“For the long-term effects of environmental variability like climate and weather we’re looking for many years of data to be able to tease out what’s going on,” he said.

It will likely be a few months before the final report is completed.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read