Sheep and Moose do not Migrate Naturally


Birds and insects employ their instinct in order to migrate at the right time and in the proper direction, but research has revealed that large mammals need a period of training in order to learn how to do it.

A recently published study notes that it takes decades for the migration culture to form, as younger generations learn from the elder one when it is the right time to move.

Should a path become blocked due to various reasons, ranging from natural disasters to human impact, a long time will pass until a reliable pattern will be established again. The elder generations will have to develop a new path themselves before the young ones learn it and as they grow old themselves; share it with the new ones. The cycle goes back and forth, and it requires a well-known development of patterns in order to succeed.

Over 260 bighorn sheep and 189 moose where observed in the US using GPS data. An interesting discovery was the fact that some of the populations were forced to relocate by extensive hunting and disease after they disappeared from their original habitats.

Researchers compared recent migration patterns with historic ones, which dated back to at least 200 years, according to official sources.

The movements where compared with real-time satellite data that follow the development of plant cultures used for grazing by the animals. They tended to go up in the mountains during cold weather in order to find better food, and came back down when the climate became rough.

One research notes than when sheep were relocated, they lost their tendency to migrate almost completely, with less than 9 percent of recently relocated sheep being able to migrate. In comparison, over 65% of the historic herds migrated independently

After observing multiple herds that relocated at different times, researchers concluded that it takes 40 years for sheep to have a cohesive migration system and up to 90 years for moose.

It is critical that migration corridors are conserved in order to maintain the habit over generations.


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