A few words on: The Corsican Mouflon

The Corsican mouflon is a wild mountain sheep. ‘Ovis gmelini musimon var. Corsicana’ – this is to distinguish him from his Sardinian and Cypriot cousins.  This mouflon has never been hybridised, so the preservation as a separate species is important to defend.
The mouflon prefers open country, hard underfoot, covered with grassy or bushy vegetation.  A Mediterranean hoofed animal who seeks steep slopes and rocks to protect himself from man and stray dogs. He is known for having diverse tastes in herbaceous food – mainly grass, but also leaves, buds, young shoots, berries, nuts, chestnuts, roots, mushrooms and lichen.  His main water intake is through the fresh vegetation he eats, as he rarely drinks.

Mouflons react to climatic and seasonal changes by seeking shelter from snow in winter, or drought and fire in the summer. They are sociable – at least the females and their young; a mother will often keep her previous year’s offspring with her as well as the current year’s.  After the rut, the females live apart from the males until the next rut.  They spend a large part of the day feeding, although in summer they will also eat at night. While mouflons eat a wide variety of plants they do not pose any problem to forest production.

In 1827, more than 2200 animals were counted and at the lowest ebb before all hunting of the mouflon was banned in 1956 – there were only 500 left. There are said to be up to 100 000 animals loosely described as Corsican mouflons round the world, but the ‘corsicana’ variety (un-hybridised) exists only in Corsica.  Therefore it is important to conserve this unique population.  Since 1989 the import of mouflons from outside the island has been forbidden. In Sardinia, thanks to an effective conservation programme, there are now about 2500 on the island.

They reach sexual maturity at two to three years of age. The rut lasts a couple of months, reaching a peak from mid-November in Bavella and from the first fortnight of December on the Cinto.  The male is polygamous.
Gestation is about five months and the female only produces one lamb a season. Reproduction is successful in about 50% of cases in Corsica, but this is insufficient to ensure the survival of the species here. They give birth in protected nooks and crannies such as dead tree stumps, bush country or rock ‘nests’.  The lambs follow their mothers within a few hours of birth. They suckle for about three months and already start eating little plants from two weeks old.  

The mouflon populations are especially found around the Cinto and Bavella massives.
The reproduction is very low in Bavella, but remaining stable towards the Cinto
– causes: degradation of the ecosystem, presence of humans being longer and longer after the estivale season too and climate warming.                                                           

Patience must be practised in order to perceive them hiding in the mountains, especially in the Cintu and Bavella reserves – currently, the population is estimated somewhere between  500/1000 animals, with around 500 in Bavella.

According to F. Poplin in 1979, and taken up by Vine (1992), the species was not present in Corsica before the Neolithic, therefore, the Corsican mouflon should be considered as a sheep (domesticated from two subspecies of western mouflon), brought by farmers to Corsica and Sardinia and returning to the wild. Thus, he would have reacquired characteristics closer to his distant and wild cousins.
There is also the suggestion that they may have come from Iran, 8000 years ago.

It is strictly forbidden to hunt these animals since 1953.

Finally, if you ever have the chance of seeing/meeting one you’d be very lucky !
– there are indeed beautiful, and require our total respect. 

 

 

Sources:
corsica-isula.com 
Corse Passion 
Images: Phot’eau corse ©

 

 

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