Tag Archives: aoudad (Ammotragus lervia)

Yet another introduction

Last year I made a point of trying to find and photograph some of the exotic animals introduced in Texas, like blackbucks and various deer species.  As a state full of hunters, plenty of interesting critters have been released into the wild to make killing and eating more interesting[1].

According to The Handbook of Texas Online, “more species and greater numbers of exotic big game are in Texas than anywhere else in North America.”  It goes on to say that the “most numerous species have developed substantial free-ranging populations.”  These include chital, nilgai antelope, and blackbuck from India; sika deer from Southeast Asia; mouflon sheep from Sardinia and Corsica; fallow deer from Asia Minor and southern Europe; and wild boar from Europe[2].

My list of photographic targets included all of those and more, including the aoudad (a.k.a. barbary sheep, arui or waddan; Ammotragus lervia) from North Africa, another free-ranging exotic in the Lone Star State.

Two aoudads (a.k.a. barbary sheep, arui or waddan; Ammotragus lervia) resting near a fallen tree (2009_05_22_020816_f)

In the unrelenting heat of May somewhere on a dirt road that wound through the hills, I caught a lucky break: some aoudads resting in a clearing.  One of them had tucked itself so far beneath the fallen tree that only its horns and the top of its head were clearly visible.  The other lay comfortably in the grass where he could be seen clearly.  Still, I wanted something other than drowsy shots of half-conscious critters.  So I drove on.  And found just what I was looking for.

A female aoudad (a.k.a. barbary sheep, arui or waddan; Ammotragus lervia) resting with her young (2009_05_22_020809)

As I rounded the hillside, there nestled together on the side of the road was a female with her young[3].  By the time I snapped the photo, she was already beginning to stand up.  The baby quickly followed, and before I knew it both vanished down the hillside.  It was enough, though.  That smile-inducing child comfortably leaning against its mother was enough to satisfy my aoudad craving.  It was more than I expected to see.

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[1] The interesting thing about all the exotic game animal introductions in Texas is that the state has the largest population of white-tailed deer compared to any other U.S. state or Canadian province.  The current estimate is that there are more than four million whitetails roaming around the state.  It begs the question of why so many (almost 100) exotic species have been let loose here.  (The obvious answer: stupidity.  See note [2] below.)

[2] Many of the exotic introduced species have since become pests, although the aoudad has yet to reach that status.  And because the majority of these nonnative animals are ill adapted to the Texas climate and ecology, they die out in large numbers during the extremes.  For example, I mentioned in June 2009 that entire herds of chital died out and wild boars were starving because of our last drought.

[3] Though called barbary sheep, aoudads are not actually sheep.  They are caprids, a type of goat-antelope bovid.  And since they’re not true sheep, I’m not convinced the young are called lambs or cossets, the females ewes, or the males rams, hence my avoidance of those terms.