The danger of trophy hunting for bighorn sheep



In the Amur Region, the Tokinsko-Stanovoy National Park is being designed on the site of the existing regional Tokino Reserve named after G.A. Fedoseev.

One of the main tasks of the reserve and the park being created is to preserve the population group of bighorn sheep.

The subspecies inhabiting here is Allen's ram listed in the Red Books of the Amur Region and Yakutia.

In the Amur region, thorny horns of this subspecies inhabit a narrow strip of the highlands of Tokinsky Stanovik (the eastern section of the Stanovy Range), and are occasionally noted on the Dzhugdyr Range; in Yakutia, the northern macroslope of Tokinsky Stanovik and certain parts of the Aldan Highlands.

Even according to the most optimistic estimates, the total number of Allen sheep in the Amur Region and Yakutia does not exceed 800–1000 individuals (Red Book of the Sakha Republic, 2003; Red Book of the Amur Region, 2009).

A significant proportion of the livestock of this rare subspecies is concentrated within two bordering PAs that occupy the central part of Tokinsky Stanovik: from the Amur side – the Tokinsky sanctuary; from the Yakutsk side – Lake Big Toko Resource Reserve.

Until recently, these specially protected areas of regional significance successfully coped with the task of protecting bighorn sheep.

The risk of negative human impact on the population grouping of Allen rams is increasing.

Across the western part of Tokinsky Stanovik, the Ulak-Elga railway and automobile routes were laid, from which it became possible for ATVs to penetrate directly to the ram's habitats.


To the north – in the neighboring Yakutia there is the Elginskoye coal deposit, which has been developed since 2000.

From the south-west, large-scale deforestation occurs, conducted mainly by Chinese workers who are known for their poaching tendencies.

On the east side, large-scale geological exploration of the nickel deposit (the mouth of the Ayumkan river and the Kun-Manyer river basin) is underway, which is currently entering the final stage, after which it is planned to be developed.

However, at present, trophy hunting poses the greatest danger to the snow sheep of the Amur Region and southern Yakutia.

Members of the Evenk communities “Yuktyu” (Spring) and “Taiga” periodically register cases of the use of helicopters on Tokinsky Stanovik for hunting.

Obviously, the main purpose of this expensive “pleasure” are bighorn sheep. The bighorn is a valuable object of expensive trophy hunting (Zheleznov-Chukotka, 2007).

Cases of prey of these animals from helicopters are widely known. Even when the organizers practice hunting from an approach, customers are always delivered to the habitats of sheep by helicopters, which bothers the animals.

Judging by the photo materials posted on the Internet (, such hunting is carried out not only in the summer-autumn, but also in the winter-spring period.

It is known that anxiety factor, approaching or flying a helicopter, hunting, forces animals to leave local parts of the mountains, rich in food, and move through the snowy floodpipes in search of shelter on rocky slopes.

Often, large herds disintegrate into smaller ones, or animals flee alone. Such movements are extremely dangerous for these ungulates (Fil, Mosolov, 2010).

The facts of the death of up to 40-50% of the population of groups disturbed by people at wintering sites are known (Bromley, Kucherenko, 1983).

Particularly cynical is the holding of trophy hunts on rare ungulates under the pretext of their study and even … protection.

The organizers and participants recently published an article “Snow ram (OVIS NIVICOLA) on the Tokinsky Stanovik ridge near the junction of the borders of the Khabarovsk Territory, the Amur Region and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)” (Medvedev, Bendersky 2019) about a similar hunt on Tokinsky Stanovik.

It reports on the results of aerial surveys and on the shooting of five males of a bipod in the second half of August – September 2018.

According to the authors, "the shooting was carried out in the Tuguro-Chumikansky district of the Khabarovsk Territory … with special permits issued by the Khabarovsk Committee of Hunting."

This statement contradicts the name and content of the article, since Tokinsky Stanovik does not capture the territory of the Tuguro-Chumikansky district, the nearest point of which is 60 km south-east of the extreme eastern tip of this mountain range.

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The eastern part of the northern macroslope of Tokinskiy Stanovik includes only the territory of the Ayano-Maisky district of the Khabarovsk Territory, for which no permits were issued for the shooting of hornbills.

The fact that the organizers of the hunt previously took permission to shoot three snowy sheep in the Amur region, where this species is listed in the regional Red Book (2009), also makes one doubt the exact location of the prey.

In addition, directly in the text of the message, it is mentioned that the sheep were shot at Tokinsky Stanovik, and the works and records of this hunting expedition "covered some parts … of the Amur Region and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the district of the origins of r. Zeya and Lake Big Toko.

Let us pay attention to the fact that the entire specified territory is under special protection, completely excluding the hunt for the rich horns: from the Yakutsk side there is the “Great Toko Lake” resource reserve; from Amurskaya – GA Tokinsky reserve Fedoseev.


That is, the content of the article clearly indicates that bighorn sheep were shot illegally: either within the protected areas of the Amur region and (or) Yakutia, or in the Ayano-May district of the Khabarva region, without the appropriate permits.

In addition, when aerial records in the area of ​​the origins of the river. Zeya and Lake Bolshoi Toko has been grossly violated the protected areas regime, prohibiting flights at altitudes below 1000 m. The recommended flight altitude with aerial surveys 100-125 m (Kuzmin et al., 1984); maximum possible – 200 – 250 m.

All violations reflected in the article D.G. Medvedeva and E.V. Bendersky (2019) gives grounds for the environmental protection structures of the Amur Region, Yakutia, the Khabarovsk Territory and the Russian Federation to thoroughly verify the legality of the actions of the members of the Mountain Hunters Club at Tokinsky Stanovik.

For the time being we will leave on the conscience of the authors the exact place and legality of shooting, as well as an obvious violation of the protected areas regime.

Let us ask ourselves a different question: for what scientific purposes were five (!) Adult animals killed, representing an indisputable genetic and socio-informational asset of a unique, extremely vulnerable population?

They were not presented in the collection of zoological museums – not a word about this in the article. The only valid information in this publication is the standard measurements of the shot bighorn sheep.

Currently, there are well-tested methods for the lifetime removal of biological material for genetic samples. In some types of studies, animal hair is sufficient.

To study the nutrition of wild ungulates, it is not necessary to open their stomachs; usually carry out visual observations of the feeding individuals with the subsequent analysis of food.

The sex-age composition of the shot snow sheep (five adult males) leaves no doubt about the real purpose of this “scientific” event – definitely only trophy hunting!

And the rare subspecies of the Allen ram, not the Yakut ram, was deliberately chosen as the target, the majority of whose populations do not yet cause concern.

Judging by the performances on television, for members of the "Club of Mountain Hunters" it becomes a special chic to collect complete collections of trophies of rare protected species and subspecies of mountain ungulates, including thornhorses.

In 2017, this organization tried to get permission to shoot 6 Putorani snow sheep listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation (KKRF), offering 30 million rubles. … to guard them.

The appeal of the Mountain Hunters Club to the authorities of the Russian Federation stated that they are counting on "cooperation" with other rare animals: the Altai argali (listed in the KKRF; under threat of destruction), the bezoar goat (listed in the KKRF), Kodar and Chukotka snow sheep (the first is in danger of extinction; the second is listed in the CCRF).

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Attempts to "scientific" justify the dangerous whim of collecting horns of rare and endangered species of ungulates cast a shadow on the scientific community and undermine the foundations of state environmental policy.

This really threatens the safety of the most vulnerable populations. It is appropriate to recall that the custom, which required young men to get a mountain goat during initiation, led to a catastrophic reduction (in places to complete disappearance) of Severtsov’s tour in most parts of Abkhazia and Svaneti.

Living conditions of mountain ungulates in the Far East are extremely harsh, and the area of ​​optimal biotopes, the number and density of the population are many times lower than in the Western Caucasus.

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The negative consequences of “hunting prestige” appear much faster. So, according to N.K. Zheleznova-Chukotka (2018), at present, intensive trophy hunting is already undermining the population group of thorny hills of the northern part of the Koryak highland.

It seems that the activists of the Mountain Hunters Club are preparing the same fate for the snow rams of Tokinsky Stanovik.

Frankly provocative is the proposal of D.G. Medvedeva and E.V. Bendersky (2019) on the creation of specialized hunting farms focused on the extraction of Allen's ram.

Moreover, it is proposed to do this not only in the Khabarovsk Territory, but also in the territories of Yakutia and the Amur Region, where this animal is listed in the regional Red Books and is stored in specially designated protected areas.

The goal of their initiatives "mountain hunters" declare … "the preservation of bighorn sheep and an increase in their number."

It makes no sense to prove that animals are safer in the natural undisturbed habitat, hunting for species and subspecies listed in the Red Book is illegal, violations of the protected areas are unacceptable, and attempts to artificially increase the number of population groups living in extreme conditions are fraught with disastrous consequences ( overgrazing, epizootic, etc.).

Apparently, the common sense of some "researchers" sometimes fades in front of the dazzling prospects of possible profit …


Despite the obvious curiosity of the considered publication D.G. Medvedeva and E.V. Bendersky, she clearly outlines the additional risks for populations of snow sheep of the Amur region and Yakutia.

The first step in the prevention of such threats should be a total indefinite ban on shooting of hornbills on the territory of the Amur Region for “scientific” or some other purpose.

On the territory of the Khabarovsk Territory, it is advisable to assess the state of the population of Allen's ram and, possibly, give it protection status.

It is worth considering the possibility of including in the Red Book of the Russian Federation the South Yakutia and Amur population groups of the bastard (a subspecies is the ram of Allen), probably representing a single whole.

At the same time, it is necessary to create PAs on the Khabarovsk side of Tokinsky Stanovik in the basins of the Kuraykandakan, Sargakanda, Idyum and Ege-Salak-Makit rivers.

If this is not done, then, obtaining licenses to hunt within the Khabarovsk part of the ridge, the trophy hunters will continue to threaten the "red-book" groups of Allen's ram, protected in the PAs of the Amur Region and Yakutia.

The creation of the Tokinsko-Stanovoy National Park will be of strategic importance for maintaining the steady state of the Amur population of bighorn sheep.

In our opinion, it is possible to save these animals unique for the Amur region only by the efforts of persons not interested in the extraction of sheep. This will be facilitated by strengthening the protection of the new federal protected areas, the development of scientific work and ecological tourism, which is an integral part of the activity of national parks.

In conclusion, it is worthwhile to separately dwell on the special role of the “Mountain Hunters Club”. This organization, which claims to be involved in scientific research and even in the protection of wildlife, is actually trying to "turn inside out" the generally accepted principles of attitude to the most vulnerable elements of biota.

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In recent decades, biological research around the world noticeably humanized. When conducting field observations, bloodless methods are preferred, and other options are not even considered for working with rare and disappearing taxonomic groups.

The Mountain Hunters Club takes a diametrically opposite position, offering “for the sake of science” to shoot representatives of rare and endangered species of animals.

The classics of the national ecological school G.A. Kozhevnikov, N.F. Reimers, F.R. Shtilmark in his works convincingly showed the absolute value of nature for humanity.

In many respects, thanks to their non-utilitarian approach, the conservation system and other environmental protection structures, Russia has repeatedly succeeded in overcoming the ordeals because they worked for the idea.

"Mountain Hunters" actually propose to abandon domestic environmental ethics and legislation in favor of ensuring the whims of rich and super-rich clients.

They demonstrate a complete disregard for the accepted standards of respect for wildlife, openly seeking for themselves the rights to extract rare protected species, including in specially protected areas, up to the creation of hunting farms within the existing protected areas!

Considering the attempts of the Mountain Hunters Club to lobby for their interests at the state level, as well as the significant financial resources of the organizers of elite trophy hunts, we have to admit that the activities of such organizations can undermine not only the populations of rare ungulates, but also the foundations of our country's environmental policy.

And this already carries a real threat to the ecological safety of Russia.

The moment of truth comes: members of the environmental and scientific communities need to prove in practice that not all can be bought, even for very big money.


In our opinion, the issuance of permits for “scientific” shooting of rare protected species (subspecies) of animals should be completely stopped.

At the same time, representatives of the Mountain Hunters Club should become persona non grata for all federal and regional environmental protection structures, as well as for theriologists and ecologists who value their scientific reputation.


Bromley G.F., Kucherenko S.P. The ungulates of the south of the Far East of the USSR. M. 1983. – p. 194, 232.
Zheleznov-Chukotka N.K. The program of conservation and enhancement of the bighorn sheep in Russia. HISTORY OF HUNTING scientific and practical and theoretical journal Volume 4 No. 3 2007 September – December.
Zheleznov-Chukotka N.K. Feedback to the report "On the counting of the number of bighorn sheep in the public hunting areas of the Anadyr district of the Chukotka Autonomous Region" (PJSC). Executive officer A.A. Turushev. Yelizovo, 2015. Organization – Non-profit partnership “Association of Kamchatka hunting users” M .: 2018. – 8 p.
Club of mountain hunters, (appeal date 20.06.2019).
The Red Book of the Amur region. Rare and endangered species of animal plants and fungi: official publication / Blagoveshchensk: BGPU Publishing House, 2009 – 446 p.
The Red Book of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). V. 2: Rare and endangered animal species (insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals) / Department of Nature Protection of the RS (Y), Department of Biological Resources. – Yakutsk: State Unitary Enterprise NIPK "Sakhapoligraphizdat", 2003. – 208 p.
Kuzmin I.F., Khakhin G.N., Chelintsev N.G. Aviation in hunting. M., Lesn. Prom-st, 1984, 128 p.
Medvedev, D., Bendersky, EV / Mammals of Russia: faunistics and questions of terriogeography. Rostov-on-Don. April 17-19, 2019 M .: Tov. of scientific. KMK Editions – pp. 160 – 163.
Fil I.I., Mosolov V.I. The snow sheep of Kamchatka / V.I. Fil, V.I. Mosolov. – Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky: Kamchatpress, 2010. – 170 p.
Internet resource

The authors:

Podolsky SA, – Ph.D., Corresponding Member. REA, s.n.s. IWP RAS, Deputy. Director of the Zeya State Nature Reserve for research ([email protected])

Kastrikin Vyacheslav Aleksandrovich – deputy. Director of the Khingan State Nature Reserve for Research

Domanov, TA – Ph.D., senior researcher Zeya State Natural Reserve

July 10, 2019 at 13:11

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