~ Publication details ~

Wingard, G. 2005. Seasonal food habits of argali and dietary overlap with domestic livestock in Mongolia. M.S. Thesis, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana.

Abstract - The degree to which wild ungulates and domestic livestock compete for forage is poorly understood.  Effective conservation of the endangered argali sheep in Mongolia is hindered by our lack of knowledge on how seriously they are impacted by sympatric domestic sheep and goats, hereafter referred to as “shoats”.  I studied the food habits of argali and shoats in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, in Dornogobi Province, Mongolia to evaluate the degree of overlap for forage.  I collected 100 fecal samples from argali, and 100 from shoats during all seasons in 2002-2003.  I used fecal analysis as a primary method to the estimate botanical compositions of their diets.  Shrubs were the most selected forage categories, followed by grasses, forbs, and sedges.  Argali diets were more varied than shoats for all seasons, with 12 key species consistently comprising a smaller percentage of the diet (58.0% summer, 46.9% fall, 68.6% winter, and 66.4% spring) compared to only 9 key plant species comprising a larger percentage of shoats’ diet (70.0% summer, 63.6% fall, 75.3% winter, and 78.0% spring).  Dietary overlap between argali and shoats was high and ranged from 93% in summer to 99% in winter at the plant category level; at the key species level overlap ranged from 72% in summer to 95% in winter.  I also compared forage availability between summer and winter by clipping above ground biomass in summer and above snow biomass in winter.  Biomass decreased significantly between seasons, from 19g/m2 to 3.4g/m2.  I collected plant species after our direct observations of argali and shoats to determine nutritional quality of forage.  These plants were analyzed for crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), acid detergent lignin (ADL), dry matter digestibility (DMD), and ash to determine their seasonal nutritional values and changes.  With increasing CP concentrations in summer and fall, the percentage of DMD also increased and both substantially decreased in winter and spring.  NDF, ADF, and ADL contents were lower in summer and fall and increased through winter and spring.  High degree of overlap, low biomass, and extreme cold winters suggests the potential for competition between argali and shoats.  A reduction of livestock would likely improve the situation for argali.

Publisher - University of Montana - Missoula

Reprints - Contact University of Montana, Wildlife Biology Program


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