Could trophy hunting possibly be working against bighorn sheep hunters? That is what a new trophy hunting study believes.
Scientists at the University of Alberta have conducted a trophy hunting study and recently released their findings. The group studied the impact of trophy hunting on bighorn sheep populations, and have come to the conclusion humans are causing bighorn sheep to produce smaller horns on average.
The concept humans are altering the population through artificial selection was spearheaded by professor David Coltman of the University of Alberta. Professor Coltman and his associates have concluded that since hunters are targeting only sheep with large horns, those sheep are removed from the gene pool, whereas the sheep left behind have produced smaller horns and remain available for reproduction. Professor Coltman said, “It doesn’t take a big stretch as an evolutionary biologist to recognize that this is strong selection pressure.”
Coltman and his associates reached their conclusion after studying three decades worth of data from some of Alberta’s finest sheep hunting regions. After studying their data their consensus was clear: Alberta is producing less trophy size sheep, and it is taking the typical Alberta sheep longer to reach the legal four-fifths curl. Not only have the rams declined, but they have declined by an average of 20 percent.
The recent study is not the first study to suggest humans are altering the gene pool to promote smaller horn or antler size. As we begin to learn more about our herds and our impact on those herds, it might not be a stretch of the imagination to think more trophy hunting studies like this will be conducted in the future.
With so many people getting involved in hunting, and everything seemingly more and more regulated these days, topics like this will be worth following in the future. Many state already set legal antler restrictions in an effort to promote better herds. Not everyone is in favor of these restrictions and I’m sure more and more debate will develop around this contentious topic.