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Sexual segregation and group sizes of California bighorn sheep Ashcroft, Gregory Edward William


I investigated sexual segregation of California bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis californiana Douglas 1829) in south-central British Columbia. Results revealed that male and female sheep were segregated temporally and spatially during the three seasons (winter,spring,summer) outside of the fall mating period (or rut). Of the males that associated with females outside of the rut, 78 percent were immature, yet mature rams comprised 72 percent of the males found in mixed groups during the rut. While segregated, percent fecal crude protein differed significantly between males and females in winter (P<0.05), but not in spring or summer. Food habits in winter also differed between males and females, with males having consumed 78 percent shrubs and trees, while females ate 80 percent grasses, during the same time period. Hypotheses concerning the interaction of group size, behaviour, sex and season were tested using non-parametric contingency table analysis. Male and maternal group sizes did not differ significantly within season, or between two behaviours, foraging and bedding (P>0.05). Male and maternal group sizes differed among seasons (P<0.05). Comparisons of two group size measures suggests that mean group size is a misleading summary statistic for reporting group sizes.

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