, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 393-400
Date: 27 Jun 2007

Estimating seasonal density of blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur) in the Helan Mountain region using distance sampling methods

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The monitoring of animal populations is necessary to conserve and manage the rare or harvest species and to understand the population change over several years. We used distance sampling methods to estimate seasonal density of blue sheep in a 2,740 km2 area of Helan Mountain region by walking along 32 transect lines from winter 2003 to autumn 2005. In all, 367–780 blue sheep were observed in 91–143 groups in the surveys during the seasons. Observed mean group size ranged from 3.42 to 8.35 individuals; encounter rate, the number of groups detected per kilometre, varied from 0.19 to 0.30 during the seasons. A hazard rate key function with cosine series expansion and a half-normal key function with either cosine or simple polynomial series expansion were the best fitting models based on the lowest value of Akaike’s information criterion (AIC). Density estimates varied between 3.627 sheep per square kilometre in spring 2004 and 4.635 per square kilometre in summer 2005. There were no detectable differences in estimated density among seasons (= 0.887). The estimated density of blue sheep was negatively correlated with the total number of deaths (< 0.05), number of sub-adult males’ deaths (< 0.05), number of sub-adult females’ deaths (< 0.05), and number of male lambs’ deaths (< 0.05). We concluded that distance sampling surveys should be used to monitor long-term population trends to provide the best quantitative estimates of blue sheep populations in the Helan Mountains region.