Animal Info - Dwarf Blue Sheep

(Other Names: Bharal, Dwarf Bharal, Shí Yáng ("stone sheep"), Yá Yáng ("cliff sheep"))

Pseudois schaeferi (P. nayaur s.)

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Age and Gender Distribution, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Dwarf Blue Sheep #1 (26 Kb JPEG) (Grd Slm Club - Ovis), Dwarf Blue Sheep #2 (Kb) (), Dwarf Blue Sheep #3 (40 Kb JPEG) (Univ. Wash.) 

The dwarf blue sheep generally weighs 25 - 44 kg (55 - 97 lb).  It occurs on very steep rocky slopes, usually at an altitude of 2700 - 2900 m (8900 - 9500') in dry valleys with a sparse cover of grasses and low shrubs.  Its diet consists mainly of grasses and other plants such as clubmoss.  Blue sheep feed and rest alternately throughout the day on steep, grassy slopes. Groups of dwarf blue sheep currently average about 6 animals, down from 10 - 36 reported by local hunters to occur previously.

The dwarf blue sheep currently is only found in China in a narrow area in the upper reaches of the Changjiang (Yangtze River) watershed in Sichuan Province. It has declined significantly since the 1950's because of overhunting.  This continues to be its major threat, as well as some habitat loss.


Tidbits

*** The dwarf blue sheep is one of the world's rarest mammals.

*** Morphologically, blue sheep, or "bharal," is midway between a sheep and a goat.

*** There are two species of blue sheep: the dwarf blue sheep, Pseudois schaeferi and the blue sheep, Pseudois nayaur. The head and upper parts of the blue sheep are brownish gray with a tinge of slaty blue, and the underparts and insides of the legs are white.  This coloration blends well with the blue shale, rocks and brown grasses of the open hillsides.  The dwarf blue sheep has a drabber coloration with a silvery sheen. (Nowak 1999)

*** The dwarf blue sheep was recognized by some as a subspecies of the blue sheep in 1963 and as a separate species in 1978.  However, the taxonomic status of the dwarf blue sheep is still uncertain (Wang et al. 2000).

*** The dwarf blue sheep receives protection from local people in some parts of Sichuan Province because of their religious beliefs. (Shackleton 1997)


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Dwarf Blue Sheep Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in China (IUCN 2004).

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The dwarf blue sheep was first recorded by scientists in 1937.  Currently it is only found in China in a narrow area along the Jingshajiang ("Golden Sand River") valley, in the upper reaches of the Changjiang (Yangtze River) watershed.   It occurs in Batang County (Sichuan Province), principally between the villages of Suwalong and Zhubalong, 40 km southwest of the town of Batang; and in a very small area of Muking County on the other side of the river in the Tibet Autonomous Region (Wang et al. 2000)

Distribution Map (10 Kb GIF) (Huffman 2006) 

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The dwarf blue sheep has declined significantly since the 1950's because of overhunting.  This continues to be its major threat, as well as some habitat loss. (Wang et al. 2000)

Of all the wild sheep and goats in China, the dwarf blue sheep is probably the most endangered.  There is no formal legislation for the dwarf blue sheep's protection in China, because when the national protection list was established, it was not considered to be a separate species. (Shackleton 1997)


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The weight of male dwarf blue sheep has variously been reported as 28 - 39 kg (62 - 86 lb) and as 34 - 44 kg (75 - 97 lb) with a maximum of 65 kg 143 lb).  The weight of females has been reported as 25 - 35 kg (55 - 77 lb). (Wang et al. 2000)

Habitat:

The dwarf blue sheep is currently found on very steep rocky slopes (70 - 80 deg slope) at 2700 - 2900 m (8900 - 9500').  At this elevation, the valleys are dry with a sparse cover of grasses, low shrubs and clubmoss... Local hunters commented that it can also be seen between 2900 and 3200 m (9500 - 10,000') below the forest zone but that it is not present in oak forests.   The blue sheep Pseudois nayaur occurred on the same mountain range above 3200 m (10,000') up to the alpine meadows. (Wang et al. 2000)

The dwarf blue sheep is one of the species that live in the Mountains of Southwest China Biodiversity Hotspot (Cons. Intl.)

Age to Maturity:

Sexual maturity is reached at 1.5 years of age, although it is unlikely that males are able to mate under natural conditions before reaching trophy size at 7 years of age.

Gestation Period:

160 days.

Birth Season:

Young of dwarf blue sheep are born in May or June.

Birth Rate:

Usually 1 young is born at a time.

Early Development:

A young blue sheep is weaned at about 6 months.

Diet:

The diet of blue sheep consists mainly of grasses and other plants such as clubmoss.

Behavior:

Blue sheep feed and rest alternately throughout the day on the grassy slopes of mountains.

Social Organization:

Among 142 sheep observed, the average group size was 6.2 ± 0.8 SE (range 2 - 15). Three categories of groups were recognized: all-male, maternal (females and young) and mixed (males and females with or without young). (Wang et al. 2000)

Local hunters reported that previously observed group size ranges of 10 - 36 had dropped to 3 - 8 animals in the 1990's. (Shackleton 1997) 

Age and Gender Distribution:

Among 63 sheep (out of 142 observed) whose gender was identified, the male:female ratio was 67.7:100 and the ratio of young to females (adult and yearling) was 35.5:100 (Wang et al. 2000).

Density and Range:

Density: "...only 0.5 - 1.0 sheep/sq km" (1.3 - 2.6 sheep/sq mi) (Shackleton 1997).


References

Cons. Intl., Grd Slm Club - Ovis, Huffman 2006, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Nowak 1999, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Shackleton 1997, Tan 1996, Univ. Wash., Wang et al. 2000


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Last modified: February 28;

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