May saw significant loss as five young endangered Peninsular bighorn lambs died on
two golf resorts in La Quinta (PGA West and SilverRock). These lambs died within a two week period and were showing signs of upper respiratory infection (coughing, nasal discharge, droopy ears and significant weight loss). This is the second year in a row that lambs utilizing the golf courses in La Quinta have become sick and many died. Last year, only 2 of 10 lambs using the courses survived and so far, we know that 5 of 15 lambs have died this year around the golf courses. We expect more lambs to die in the coming weeks. The sheep on these golf courses browse in abnormally large groups so when one animal is sick, disease can spread like wildfire. As long as there is no barrier to keep the sheep out of these urban areas, we anticipate this trend will continue.
Twelve bighorn sheep, that we know of, have now died in and around the La Quinta golf courses, since 2012. Four have drowned in the Coachella Canal, one ate oleander, one was hit by a car and six were sick and died. In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife wrote a joint letter requiring a barrier (i.e., a fence) to be built within 2 years around these La Quinta golf courses, but the authorities are still "studying" the issue. The 2 year deadline was February 28, 2016, and already 5 lambs have died since that expiration date. We have received much feedback from the recent news casts and newspaper articles about the lamb deaths and people keep asking us what can be done. Our best advice is to contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, CA Department of Fish & Wildlife, City of La Quinta and CVAG and ask why this is not being enforced.
Sheep in the Streets
As if five lambs dying wasn't enough stress in La Quinta, there were a few days that numerous sheep strayed into the streets, especially around SilverRock Resort. In late May, 2 yearling ewes wandered along Avenue 52 nearly 3 miles from the nearest mountains. Luckily, concerned motorists got behind the ewes and slowly drove behind them as they made it back to SilverRock and headed toward the hills. The next day, close to 30 sheep, ewes, lambs and rams, crossed the 4 lanes of Avenue 52 to eat citrus. They ventured out along the Jefferson circle later in the day. These incidents pose serious human safety issues as well as bighorn safety issues. Fencing along the golf courses would prevent bighorn from straying in the streets and protect us all.
On Friday May 20th, Bighorn Institute held its monthly Member Hike, which was a great success! Bighorn Institute's biologists took a small group on a hiking trail in Oswit (Eagle) Canyon in Palm Springs to look for bighorn sheep. We were able to track a radio-collared ewe and found a group of sheep, which of course was the highlight of the hike!
We will continue our member hikes this summer; please contact us if you're interested in an early morning hike to look for sheep 760-346-7334 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership starts at just $25/year and is tax-deductible. Space is limited, no dogs.
Update on Released Ewe
In early April, we released an adult ewe from Bighorn Institute's captive herd into the northern Santa Rosa Mountains. She continues to do well and has now been in the wild
for two months. She must survive in the wild for at least 4 months to be considered a successful release. We are thrilled to see her adapting so well to her new environment and will continue to track her daily.
Log Your Sheep Sightings!
We want to know where you're seeing sheep! We've started a citizen science project on iNaturalist where hikers can log their sheep sightings with Bighorn Institute. This helps us
keep track of the local herds and also gives others an idea where the sheep are. There's been a group of sheep near the Art Smith Trail recently as well as around the South Lykken Trail. We've seen postings on Facebook, but hope folks will join us in this project! Click on the photo for details.