Ovis nivicola 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Ovis nivicola
Species Authority: Eschcholtz, 1829
Common Name(s):
English Snow Sheep
Taxonomic Notes: Grubb (2005) recognized four subspecies: O. n. nivicola, O. n. borealis, O. n. kodarensis, and O. n. koriakorum. However, many Russian authors recognize a different set of subspecies: O. n. nivicola Eschscholtz, 1929 (Kamchatka); O. n. borealis Severtzov, 1873 (Taimyr); O. n. alleni Matsche, 1907 (East Siberia, Yablonovy and Stanovoy Ridges, to Verkhoyansky Ridge in the north); O. n. lydekkeri Kowarzik, 1913 (northeastern Siberia, from Lena River in the west to Stanovoy Ridge in the east, and Verkhoyansky Ridge in the south); and O. n. koriakorum Tschernyavsky, 1962 (Chukchi Peninsula and Koryak District) (K. Tsytsulina pers. comm.). Clearly subspecific taxonomy remains uncertain.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Harris, R.B. & Tsytsulina. K.
Reviewer(s): Harris, R. & Festa-Bianchet, M. (Caprinae Red List Authority)
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because, although some populations are might be in decline, overall this is probably at much less than the rate required to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is found in Russia, where they occur in the Putorana Mountains, north central Siberia, northeast Siberia from Lena River east to Chukotka and Kamchatka (Baskin 1985, Grubb, 2005, Pavlinov et al 2002).

The snow sheep is distributed throughout most of the mountain regions of eastern Siberia (Russia). The main distribution area begins just east of the Lena River and stretches as far as the Tenkany mountains on the Chukotsk peninsula on the western edge of the Bering Strait (Pavlinov et al 2002). This sheep also occurs in the volcanic mountains running down the Kamchatka peninsula, and the southern limit of the species appears to be in the Yablonovoi Range, south of the Lena River (Pavlinov et al 2002, Bunch et al. 2006). In addition, a totally isolated population, referred to Putoran snow sheep (O. n. borealis) is restricted to the Putoran Mountains south of the Tamyr peninsula (about 66° to 70°N and 92° to 98°E), east of the Yenisey River, and separated from the nearest Yakutian population by about 1,000 km (Sipko et al. 1999, Pavlinov et al 2002).
Countries occurrence:
Russian Federation
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):1700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:As of the mid 1980s, the total snow sheep population size was estimated to be between 85,000 and 95,000; comprised of 12,000 to 13,000 Kamchatka sheep (O. n. nivicola), 55,000 to 60,000 Yakutian sheep (O. n. zydekkeri), 10,000 to 12,000 Okhotsk sheep (O. n. alleni), 3,000 to 3,500 Koryak sheep (O. n. koriakorum), 3,000 to 3,500 Chukotsk sheep (O. n. tschuktschorum), and 3,500 Putoran or Norilsk sheep (O. n. borealis) (Revin 1982; Revin et al., 1988; Weinberg et al. 1997). More recently, numbers of Putoran sheep have been reported to be increasing (Sipko 1999), but population trends for other subpopulations are not available. There are now some new data on size populations of snow sheep. According to Kamchatka Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (2007), the latest population estimate of O. n. nivicola is about 7,000 individuals, of which 150 are hunted each year. The Putoran snow sheep (O. n. borealis) is a protected subspecies, and its population size has increased during the last decade and currently stands at about 5,500 individuals (Natural Resources Ministry of Russian Federation, Natural World Heritage Commission, 2008). The population size of Chukotsk sheep is estimated as 1,500 individuals. Its population density varies from 0.3 to 3.5 individuals per 1,000 ha, and in some parts of its range (Rarytkin, Zolotoy, and Elekay Ranges, Northern and Southern Vapanaivaam Mountains) only single individuals are registered (Red List of Russian Federation 2000). There is no recent estimate of the overall population size for the species, and its trends are unknown.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species occurs in rocky, mountainous areas, above 1,700 m asl in the Putoran Plato, and above 2,000 m asl in the rest of its range. It is generally non-migratory, but it makes seasonal short distance movements. At the beginning of spring pregnant females leave herds and in late May and June they give birth to a single young. In June herds the regroup. The old males form small groups and live separately until late autumn, while remaining animals form mixed herds. Mating is in November – December, after that during whole winter snow sheep stay in mixed groups (15 – 20 individuals). Their diet consists primarily of grasses, but also of lichens, mosses, and willow sprouts. Females are sexually mature at 2 years, while males are not until age 5. Mating is reported to occur in December with lambs born in late June (Hayssen et al. 1993). Baskin (1985) reports that their maximum lifespan is much longer than that of other wild Ovis.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Poaching is said to take at least 6,000 snow sheep annually, but mainly affects animals living close to human settlements. The overall affect of this hunting on the population is not known. Sheep on the Chukchi peninsula also compete with reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Kamchatka sheep (O. n. nivicola) was listed as Category III in the Russian Red Data Book (Ivanenko, 1999 ). Despite this, some have been hunted recently by foreign trophy hunters. Sheep in the Koryak and Chukchi ranges are listed under O. n. koriakum as Category II in the Russian Red Data Book (1983). The other subspecies are considered as game animals and a limited number of licenses are being sold in Yakutia and Kamchatka, many to foreign hunters. Approximately 1,300 Putoran sheep are protected in the Putoran Reserve, about 600 of the Kamchatka subspecies occur in Kronotsky Reserve, while for Okhotsk sheep, about 1,700 are protected in the Magadan Reserve and 1,200 in Dzhugdzhur Reserve. Conservation measures proposed: 1) Establish the several reserves for conservation of the Yakutian subspecies in the Tuora-Siz range (Lower Lena river) and in the Chersky range. Reserves would also be valuable in Chukotsk, Koryak Uplands and’in Kamchatka for the conservation of their respective populations. 2) Undertake censuses of numbers to verify distributions and population estimates. At the same time, 3) the taxonomy of snow sheep subspecies and their respective distributions requires clarification (Weinberg et al., 1997).

Citation: Harris, R.B. & Tsytsulina. K. 2008. Ovis nivicola. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T15740A5076357. . Downloaded on 27 August 2016.
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