In Montana, the “salt war” between mountain goats and Canadian sheep

Could global warming cause animal conflicts of a new kind to appear? This is what a study published on October 17 in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, who is interested in the goats and bighorn sheep of Glacier National Park, Montana, suggests.

This national park in the northwestern United States has seen its ice rate decrease in recent years. The phenomenon revealed previously inaccessible salt reserves. “But when it comes to food, the competition is fierce,” explain it Washington Post.

During a 2019 trip to the national park, Joel Berger and Forest P. Hayes observed goats and bighorn sheep competing for a freshly uncovered salt patch. The rivalry lasted nearly three hours, which sparked the attention of scientists.

This kind of struggle is bound to intensify

“The size of the animals is usually a determining factor in the outcome of a confrontation”, stipulate the study. Since the two species showed the same build, the authors expected that the victors would regularly switch sides between the “Rocky Mountain goats” and the “canadian sheep”. But no matter the scenario, every fight showed that “The Rocky Mountain goat reigns supreme in this ‘salt war'”, declare the American newspaper.

While goats are naturally more aggressive, they didn’t need to show violence to make their opponents capitulate: “Their mere presence was enough to scare away the more passive herbivores”, report the Washington Post, allowing them to triumph in more than 95% of the conflicts observed.

This kind of struggle is bound to intensify: “With desertification and deforestation, water and shade will gradually become scarce in many parts of the world”, explains the daily.

The authors of the study say that the fight between mountain goats and mouflon is indicative of a change to be taken seriously: “If the upheavals that the planet is undergoing lead to an increase in confrontations linked to abiotic factors in ecosystems – but let’s not forget that this is only a hypothesis for the moment -, this could unexpectedly lengthen the list of consequences. climate change, particularly on biodiversity.

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