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E-mail :

Telephone : (819) 821-8000 ext 63069
Fax : (819) 821-8049

Twitter: @festa_bianchet



Ram Mountain, early June 2008. The ewes (E13, 9 years old with yellow T collar, and J5, 4-year-old) are mother and daughter.    E13 had already lost her lamb, while J5 was pregnant.  She gave birth about 10 days later, but her lamb died  in winter. E13 disappeared overwinter.  In 2009-2014, none of J5's 6 lambs survived to 1 year of age.  Not the best mother. Her  daughters U12 and V16, born in 2015 and 2016, survived to 2017. Both disappeared the following winter.

Eastern grey kangaroos can sometimes be caught with a 5-m jabstick!
Here are an adult female (#8) and her son (#15), at Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria,   August 2008.  In 2009, #8 had a son and the next year she had a daughter.  In 2011 her pouch young disappeared when aged a few months.  #15 likely  emigrated. 



B.Sc. (Zoology), University of Alberta (1981)
M.Sc. (Zoology), University of Alberta (1982)
Ph.D. (Behavioral Ecology), University of Calgary (1987)
NATO Science Postdoctoral Fellow, Large Animal Research Group, Cambridge, UK (1987 to 1990)


Ewe # 132 at Sheep River, Alberta, in 1986 at 2 years of age (left) and in 2000 at 16 years. She disappeared the following winter. She produced 14 lambs, of which 5 survived to 1 year of age.


Research Program

Animal ecology: individual reproductive success, reproductive strategy, population dynamics and conservation of mammals


Research Goals

My research seeks to understand how individual differences affect reproductive success, reproductive strategies and population dynamics of large mammals. Large mammals are long-lived, highly iteroparous, and their population dynamics often show time lags. Therefore, long-term monitoring of marked individuals is the best approach to test theories on their reproductive success and population dynamics. My students and I produce knowledge useful for wildlife management and for the conservation of biodiversity.  With mixed success, we argue that evolutionary ecology is important for conservation and for wildlife management. 

Current Research Projects:

Evolutionary ecology and population dynamics of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis).  With several students and collaborators, I monitor the Ram Mountain population in Alberta.  We have marked over 1100 bighorns at Ram Mountain since 1972.  This research has identified the factors that affect individual reproductive success, reproductive strategy, and population dynamics.  We have quantified the selective effects of trophy hunting and exposed the possibility that they may have negatively affected population dynamics.  Major collaborators are Jon Jorgenson, formerly of Alberta Fish & Wildlife, David Coltman of the University of Western Ontario and Fanie Pelletier of the Université de Sherbrooke.  This research includes an analysis of long-term data on harvested rams in Alberta.

Evolutionary ecology and population dynamics of Eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus), Victoria, Australia, in collaboration with Loeske Kruuk of the University of Edinburgh, Dave Forsyth of the New South Wales Wildlife Department, and Dany Garant of the Université de Sherbrooke.  Based on over 1300 individually known kangaroos, we are examining the determinants of male and female reproductive success, including population density, sex and age structure, body size, genotype, birthdate, parasites and yearly changes in the amount and timing of precipitation.  Kangaroos have indeterminate growth and a long reproductive season, providing an interesting contrast to temperate ungulates. 

Reproductive success and population dynamics of mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus). Caw Ridge, Alberta. This study began in 1988 and is now led by Steeve Côté of Université Laval. We explore the long-term effects of dominance status, age structure, resource availability, and horn and body size on individual reproductive success and on population dynamics.

Ecology and conservation of migratory tundra caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in northern Québec and Labrador.  A collaborative effort with Steeve Côté and Jean-Pierre Tremblay at Université Laval and Christian Dussault of the Ministère des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune du Québec.  Building on a unique long-term monitoring program of caribou with satellite radio collars, we are studying the effects of habitat changes (including climate change and other artificial influences) on the ecology, migration, reproductive success and population dynamics of caribou.


blu-blu.jpg (62486 octets)

 "Blue-blue" (#35T), 11 years old, visiting the trap at Ram Mountain, July 1999. He fathered at least 13 lambs, but was shot illegally in September 1999. Blue-blue was known for his love of salt and his lack of respect for handlers in the trap.


Selected recent publications:

Hamel, S. J.M. Gaillard, M. Festa-Bianchet, J.F. Lemaître, M. Pellerin, F. Pelletier, D. Nussey and N. Yoccoz.  2020. Allocation to early growth reduces late-life survival in the wild. Nature Communications, in press

Toni, P., D. Forsyth and M. Festa-Bianchet. 2020. Forage availability and maternal characteristics affect costs of reproduction in a large marsupial. Oecologia, 193: 97-107.

Montana, L., F. Rousseu, D. Garant and M. Festa-Bianchet. 2020. Siring success in kangaroos : size matters, but only for those in the right place at the right time. Behavioral Ecology, 31: 750-760.

Douhard, M., M. Festa-Bianchet and F. Pelletier. 2020. Sons accelerate maternal aging in a wild mammal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US, 117: 4850-4857.

Poisson, Y, M. Festa-Bianchet and F. Pelletier. 2020. Testing the importance of harvest refuges for phenotypic rescue of trophy-harvested populations. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57: 526-535.

Festa-Bianchet, M., S. Côté, S. Hamel and F. Pelletier. Long-term studies of bighorn sheep and mountain goats reveal fitness costs of reproduction. Journal of Animal Ecology,  88: 1118-1133.

Douhard, M., M. Festa-Bianchet, S. Hamel, D. Nussey, S.D. Côté, J. Pemberton and F. Pelletier. 2019. Maternal longevity and offspring sex in wild ungulates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286: 20181968.

Festa-Bianchet, M. and A. Mysterud. 2018. Hunting and evolution: theory, evidence, and unknowns. Journal of Mammalogy, 99: 1281-1292.

Douhard, M., S. Guillemette, M. Festa-Bianchet and F. Pelletier. 2018. Drivers and demographic consequences of seasonal mass changes in an alpine ungulate. Ecology, 99: 724-734.

MacKay, A., D. M. Forsyth, G. Coulson and M. Festa-Bianchet. 2018. Maternal resource allocation adjusts to timing of parturition in an asynchronous breeder. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 72: 7.

Festa-Bianchet, M., M. Douhard, J.M. Gaillard and F. Pelletier. 2017. Successes and challenges of long-term field studies of marked ungulates. Journal of Mammalogy, 98: 612-620.

Festa-Bianchet, M. 2017. When does selective hunting select, how can we tell and what should we do about it? Mammal Review,  47: 76-81.

Janeiro, M.J., M. Festa-Bianchet, F. Pelletier, D.W. Coltman and M.B. Morissey. 2017. Towards robust evolutionary inferences with Integral Projection Models. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 30: 270-288.

Kuparinen, A. and M. Festa-Bianchet. 2017. Harvest-induced evolution: insights from aquatic and terrestrial systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B,  372: 20160036 .

Pigeon, G., M. Festa-Bianchet, D.W. Coltman and F. Pelletier. 2016. Intense selective hunting leads to artificial evolution in horn size. Evolutionary Applications, 9: 521-530

goat book

Available from Amazon

Gab EcolMon



Complete list of publications

Research Team

Alumni: see

Current:  see  for an update

Benjamin Larue, Ph.D. Reproductive tactics in female mountain ungulates. Ewe U21 was 2 years old in 2017and nulliparous. She was born very late, in early July 2015. In 2018 she had a son X17, also late-born. She died overwinter. Benjamin

Roxane Lassis, Ph.D. Effects of hunting and environment on ecological and evolutionary changes in horn size of harvested mountain sheep.  Male lamb Y6 is the son of 5-year-old ewe U4 and was born in early June 2019. He disappeared during the following winter. Rox
Chad Rice, M.Sc. Regional variation in age of primiparity and harvest selectivity in mountain goats.

Rachel Bergeron, Ph.D. Population dynamics of eastern grey kangaroos.

Dr. Wendy King, Research Associate: behavioral ecology of kangaroos.  Female pouch young 24 emigrated as a 2-year-old.
Barbara Vuillaume, Ph.D., Université Laval, co-supervised with Steeve Côté.  Survival in migratory caribou.  Here attaching a video collar to a female from the Rivière-aux-Feuilles population

Kelly Forrester, M.Sc. Long-term reproductive tactics of kangaroos.


Emmanuelle Marchand, M.Sc.  Effects of age of parents and grand-parents on growth and life-history traits of bighorn sheep.  Here with Q11, at 9 years of age the largest male on Ram Mountain in 2020

An interaction between two adult male eastern grey kangaroos in November 2012, photos by Elise Rioux-Paquette.  Early in the breeding
season males establishing their dominance rank.  Male 274 (white collar) is the dominant of this pair.  He first stands tall, then
spray-urinates.  Male 312 is subordinate and appears not to enjoy the interaction.  He has several burs from vegetation stuck to his face.
 In October 2012, male 274 was about 2 kg heavier than 312. Between 2009 and 2013, DNA analyses  identified eight offspring of #312 and only four of #274.
Male reproductive success in kangaroos is not as skewed towards large dominant males as expected given the strong sexual dimorphism and stable male hierarchy.


Team 2015 at Ram Mountain: Simon,  Marc-Antoine and Limoilou, with ram M23, 8 yrs old.  In 2013, we had to shovel a lot of snow in May to see the entrance to the trap!
I am no longer accepting new graduate students. For (expired) advice, look here

Research funding: NSERCACANG

Conservation activities:

Past Chair (2002-2006) of COSEWIC (the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) and past Co-Chair of its Terrestrial Mammals Subcommittee (1998-2008).  Chair of the IUCN Caprinae specialist group from 1990 to 2016.


Eastern grey kangaroos at the Wilsons Promontory, February 2011.

# 236 (green collar) and # 253 (red collar) are adult females, tagged in August 2010.  # 253 weaned one son and died in August 2013 while # 236 weaned one daughter and one son, then died in August 2015.

# 28 (White-Red ear tags) is a young male, first tagged in his mother's pouch in August 2008.  Behind him is # 206 (white-pink), a 2-year-old female.  Both roos were still residents as of October 2018.

The study population has a very high density, 3-6/Ha.  We are currently monitoring about 230 marked roos at this site.

Last update:  May 19, 2020.

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