You’ve heard it before: “If we kill all the animals with the biggest horns, aren’t we selecting for smaller horns over time?” This week we take a deep dive into that question with ungulate biologist Tayler LaSharr in the third episode of our special series with The Monteith Shop. We’ll also talk about her research into how mule deer behaviors are affected by especially harsh winter events. 

  • 2:30 Squirrels… the gateway drug to hunting?
  • 4:00 A Wyoming antelope hunt with all the science gals, creeping in for that 150-yard shot
  • 7:30 Autopsy is to human what Necropsy (NEE-kraap-see) is to animals
  • 9:00 Antelope heart pastrami (!!!) – get the how-to right here
  • 10:00 Jess’s Wyoming tag line-up: Three antelope, three elk, three deer, and one bear
  • 13:00 Research deep-dive: The effects of hunter harvest on horn size in sheep. It started with a paper that used Boone & Crockett data to assess changes in horn size over time
  • 14:30 Bighorn sheep harvested by hunters anywhere are required to be checked into a Fish and Game station… which means there’s a treasure trove of data on size/ages of in every state
  • 16:00 Horn size is a function of age + nutrition + genetics
  • 19:00 Mom’s nutrition affects her son’s antler size
  • 21:00 Does the removal of big males (by hunter harvest) change a population’s genetics over time? A lot of it has to do with the average age of rams being harvested in different years
  • 23:00 Alberta harvests sheep by a different standard — the four-fifths curl. When you have management scenarios where harvest is determined by horns and not age (the annuli), there is evidence that it leads to decreased horn size over time. For example, if a five-year-old grows fast and gets to that four-fifths curl before other individuals his age, he stands to be harvested sooner from his population and may not have adequate chance to breed and pass on his genetics
  • 25:00 How do you age a bighorn sheep? 
  • 27:00 One hedge against the overharvest of big-horned young animals is a conservative tag system… it’s still a once-in-a-lifetime hunt in many states
  • 29:00 “Evolution reverse” is this theory (/misunderstanding) that hunter harvest of big-horned animals selects out those traits in a population over time. In reality, it’s way more complicated than that… management strategy plays a big role in how traits persist over time. Many factors are involved, and broad generalizations generally don’t hold up all the time.
  • 31:00 Changes in game management aren’t often reflected in an animal population for years/decades
  • 37:00 Rhiannon Jakopak’s digest of Tayler’s horn size work in layman’s terms
  • 38:00 Connecting sheep scientists with sheep hunters
  • 40:00 The Wyoming Range Mule Deer Project  – a long-term study following deer individuals throughout their lives AND their offspring
  • 42:00 Looking at the after-effect of harsh winters on mule deer. Differences in behavioral strategies? Migration routes? Reproductive strategies/mothering behavior? What allowed them to survive when other deer succumbed to winterkill?
  • 48:00 Fish and Game departments have to balance immediate hunter desire against the long-term, ever-changing health/hardiness of game populations
  • 57:00 The genesis of an ungulate biologist! 
  • 59:00 Check out more of the Monteith shop at UngulateCompendium.org