Overall, the research is not so much to document that cougars eat sheep (this is well known), but to highlight which cougars are killing sheep and which sheep are being selectively preyed upon. Specifically, the study is designed to answer questions about whether or not cougars target certain age-sex classes of bighorn sheep in the study area. By visiting kill sites and determining prey composition, we will be able to answer how cougars spatially select for prey species, age, and sex classes. Further, we will be able to document if indeed cougars are selectively killing rams. Likewise, the age and sex composition all sheep killers identified using stable isotopes can contribute to our documentation of which cougars are most likely to be sheep specialists. Our research will contribute to the evaluation of alternative management actions to target sheep killing cougars. Recently, the government of Alberta implemented a new “boot season” to secure a larger harvest of cougars in mountainous WMUs, however, cougar quotas remain unmet. This might require enhanced communication with the hunting community about methods that can be more effective (e.g. use of predator calls). Although it is likely that greater changes to harvest practices need to be made. Data from our research can be used to inform harvest quota adjustments, evaluate new harvest regimes, and ultimately, contribute to the Alberta Government’s adaptive management plan.
Additionally, the project is providing insight into the reclamation process by mining operations. Using this information, Bighorn Wildlife Tech and Teck can target future landscape design to reduce forest fragmentation, increase forest block sizes, and/or increase distance between forest edges and escape terrain in an effort to ensure healthy bighorn sheep populations are conserved. Further, when the reclaimed mine land is returned to the Crown our results will contribute to formulating a scientific basis for how the land should be managed.