Acta Vet. Brno 2007, 76: 195-202

Foraging Strategy of Mouflon During the Hunting Season as Related to Food Supply

M. Heroldová1, M. Homolka1, J. Kamler1, P. Koubek1, P. Forejtek2

1Institute of Vertebrate Biology, AS CR, Brno, Czech Republic
2Institute for Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary and Pharmacological Sciences Brno, Czech Republic

Received August 25, 2006
Accepted April 26, 2007

The aim of this study was to compare the diet composition based on rumen contents of mouflons from two localities differing in food supply. In northern Moravia (NM), secondary forests with dominance of conifers prevailed, whereas in southern Moravia (SM) forests with broad-leaved trees dominated. A total of 50 (NM, n = 23; SM, n = 27) quantitative and qualitative rumen analyses were carried out. In rumen specimens from both localities broad-leaved tree species predominated (NM 32.56% of volume; SM 38.92% v) during the autumn-winter season. Among the woody plants, ash was the most frequently consumed in both localities and in both diets approximately the same amount was found (17% v). In SM the mouflon consumed a high-energy diet of various seeds (34% v); acorns and horse chestnuts were the most abundant. Coniferous shoots were consumed in NM (14% v) twice as much as in SM (7% v). A higher number of food items (S = 70) and food diversity (H' = 3.49) was found in NM than in SM (S = 58; H'= 2.88). The quantitative similarity index (SI) of both diets (individual diet items) was low (SI = 39.12%). When calculated for the main diet groups the SI was higher (73.60%). The nutritional value (metabolisable energy) of the diet was correlated with diet quality (seeds, broad-leaved tree leaves). Mouflon is considered as a typical grazer but we found that during autumn and winter periods both Moravian subpopulations preferred browse and, where available, high-energy food for successful over-wintering. In SM the individuals had a non-significant tendency to be heavier and also their body fat content was higher (p = 0.035). The body condition of mouflons was thus related to the quality of the food supply in the biotope.