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Telephone : (819) 821-8000 ext 62061
Fax : (819) 821-8049

Twitter: @roosAndHooves @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, however, survived to 2017!

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 of Alberta Fish & Wildlife, David Coltman of the University of Alberta 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 Graeme Coulson of the University of Melbourne, Dave Forsyth of the New South Wales Wildlife Department, and Dany Garant of the Université de Sherbrooke.  We have marked over 1500 kangaroos in two populations and 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:

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.

Pigeon, G., M. Festa-Bianchet and F. Pelletier. 2017. Long-term fitness consequences of early-life environment in a long-lived ungulate. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 284: 20170222.

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 .

Gélin, U., M.E. Wilson, J. Cripps, G.C. Coulson and M. Festa-Bianchet. 2016. Individual heterogeneity and offspring sex affect the growth-reproduction trade-off in a mammal with indeterminate growth.  Oecologia, 180: 1127-1135.

Douhard, M., M. Festa-Bianchet, D.W. Coltman and F. Pelletier. 2016. Paternal reproductive success drives sex allocation in a wild mammal. Evolution, 70: 358-368

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

Douhard, M., M. Festa-Bianchet, F. Pelletier, J.-M. Gaillard and C. Bonenfant. 2016. Changes in horn size of Stone’s sheep over four decades correlate with trophy hunting pressure.  Ecological Applications, 26: 309-321

 Rioux-Paquette, E., D. Garant,  A.M. Martin, G.C. Coulson and M. Festa-Bianchet. 2015. Paternity in eastern grey kangaroos: moderate skew despite strong sexual dimorphism. Behavioral Ecology, 26: 1147-1155

Gélin, U., M.E. Wilson, G.C. Coulson and M. Festa-Bianchet. 2015. Experimental manipulation of female reproduction demonstrates its fitness costs in kangaroos.  Journal of Animal Ecology, 84: 239-248

Martin, A.M., M. Festa-Bianchet, D. Coltman, and F. Pelletier. 2014. Sexually antagonistic association between paternal phenotype and offspring viability reinforces total selection on a sexually seleted trait. Biology Letters, 10: 20140043

Festa-Bianchet, M., F. Pelletier, J.T. Jorgenson, C. Feder, A. Hubbs. 2014. Decrease in horn size and increase in age of trophy sheep in Alberta over 37 years. Journal of Wildlife Management, 78: 133-141

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Complete list of publications

Research Team



Benjamin Larue, M.Sc. Horn growth and fitness in bighorn sheep ewes. Ewe U21 is 2 years old and nulliparous. Despite a very late birth, in early July 2015, she seems to be doing well. Benjamin

Dr. Mathieu Douhard, postdoc, co-supervised with Fanie Pelletier.  Ungulate ecology, evolution and conservation.  September 2015 snowstorm at Ram Mountain.  Ewe R12 was 3 years old, 72 kg and nulliparous. Her first son, V14, in 2016, survived his first winter.
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

Marc-Antoine Poirier, M.Sc. Genetic and demographic rescue of a population of bighorn sheep.  Here is with 4-year-old ram Q4 in early June 2015.
Nadine Blais, M.Sc. Maternal effects in bighorn sheep.  Ewe U5 is 3 yrs old and was transplanted in 2015 from Cadomin, about 130 km NW of Ram Mountain to help with demographic and genetic rescue.
Luca Montana, Ph.D. co-supervised with Dany Garant. Sexual selection in kangaroos.  Male 450 was 56 kg on Nov 28 2015.
Allison MacKay, Ph.D.  Causes and consequences of variability in birthdate in eastern grey kangaroos.  She is checking out pouch young  #580, about 11 weeks old in March 2013.  At this stage, pouch young are permanently attached to a teat.  They can be safely measured and quickly returned to the pouch.  The mother, #403, was first caught in August 2011.  In late July 2013, she gave up on #580: it disappeared from her pouch.  Female #403 did the same in 2014, her pouch young disappeared in late August.
Limoilou Renaud, Ph.D., co-supervised with Fanie Pelletier.  Maternal effects in bighorn sheep.  Female lamb T2, daughter of M15, had her first lamb, W10, in 2017 as a 3-year-old. Lim
Pauline Toni, Ph.D. Reproductive strategies of female kangaroos. She caught and tagged female 967, 26 Kg and her daughter 968, 3 Kg on September 20, 2016. Roo968 was a young-at-foot, permanently out of the pouch, in March 2017

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.  So far, DNA analyses have identified five offspring of #312 and only two 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!
Interested in graduate studies under my supervision? 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, both nursing young-at-foot as of March 2013.  Neither had a new pouch young in 2013 and 253 died in August.

# 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 November 2015.

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

Last update:  June 14, 2017
Visits since September 8, 2008:

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