Bighorn sheep and mountain goats compete with one another throughout 1,500 miles of the Rocky Mountains, according to scientists’ research. Resources that are being revealed when glaciers melt are the focus of the competition. A recently published study details these hitherto unreported skirmishes and demonstrates that the goats are typically victorious.
The study, which examined a 1,500-mile section of the American Rocky Mountains, was conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Colorado State University, and the National Park Service. The mammals fight for access to these resources when more minerals, such as salt licks and potassium deposits, are exposed as a result of glacier melting. Journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution published the work.
According to Joel Berger, the study’s lead author, senior scientist for WCS, and holder of the Barbara Cox-Anthony Chair of Wildlife Conservation at Colorado State University, species aggression among our mammalian relatives is still largely unknown, despite the fact that humans continue to cause justifiable concern about the destruction we are wreaking on the planet as a result of climate change.
Scientists were also aback to learn that goats outnumbered bighorn sheep in the confrontations. Over 98% of the confrontations were won by mountain goats at three different locations in Colorado, Alberta, and Canada.
Berger told the Washington Post, “We were shocked that the mountain goats won. I had the nave idea that these mountains are home to two species that are identical in size. And if everything were equal, we would anticipate one winner half the time and the other half.
Although they are endemic to the northwest of the United States, mountain goats are not native to Colorado or Wyoming. The observations raise questions about whether mountain goats will be able to compete with the local bighorn sheep.
Scientists believe that melting glaciers that expose resources are a contributing factor to the issue, but human activity such as the construction of highways and artificial water sources that limit access to natural supplies for the animals may also be a factor.
According to Berger in a statement, if we can’t give other species a chance, we’re merely paving the way for our own destruction.
The Rocky Mountains have lost over 300 glaciers in the last 100 years, according to The Guardian.
The majority of the glaciers in Glacier National Park will no longer be visible by 2030, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. The species in these mountainous ecosystems may be further impacted by these continuous and quick changes brought on by global warming.
These locations were once blanketed with snow and ice. There is some contention over access now that they have opened up, Berger told The Guardian. None of these species seek direct war, but that is exactly what is taking place.