Alaska Science Center
Dall Sheep Research
Dall’s sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) are found in the mountain ranges throughout Alaska. Ewes (females) form matrilineal groups with their offspring and show fidelity to annual ranges, while rams (males) live in bands and travel more widely, mixing with ewe groups during the mating season in late November and early December. The movement patterns of Dall’s sheep contributes to their genetic makeup as does the mountainous terrain they inhabit. Large glaciers and major rivers subdivide the landscape and could present barriers to sheep movement, thereby contributing to genetic sub-structuring of the population over time. In 2007 we began to study the genetic structure of the Dall’s sheep population in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, estimated at 15,000 -25,000 individuals, constituting 25-30% of Alaska’s total sheep population. Using both bi-parentally and maternally inherited genetic markers we are assessing levels of genetic diversity, structure, and gene flow within the sheep population in the 27,000 km2 study area.