Bighorn Institute’s annual membership meeting will take place at 8:30am on Saturday, January 7th at the Institute. We will discuss our accomplishments in 2016, plans for 2017, and elect the Board of Directors. All members are welcome, but please RSVP at (760) 346-7334. We hope you can join us!
Update on La Quinta Fence
In February 2014, as part of a multiple-species habitat conservation plan requirement, the state and federal wildlife agencies mandated that a barrier (i.e., a fence or functional equivalent) be built around four golf courses in La Quinta because bighorn sheep have been utilizing them as an artificial food and water source since 2007. The barrier was to be built within two years, but nothing has been built to date. In late September, the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity issued a 60 day notice of intent to sue the wildlife agencies, City of La Quinta and Coachella Valley Conservation Commission for failing to protect the bighorn in La Quinta since 12 bighorn have died from coming down to these golf courses. On December 20th, under the threat of a lawsuit, the City of La Quinta authorized a “temporary fence” along SilverRock golf course where many sheep congregate daily. This 8 feet high chain-link fence construction should begin in the next 60 days. The bighorn that utilize the La Quinta golf courses have become habituated to humans, congregate in unusually high numbers, which promotes the spread of disease, are more prone to predation as they stray farther from the mountains, and now pose human safety concerns as they stray into the streets away from the mountains. Additional fencing will be needed to exclude bighorn from the other golf courses, but this is certainly a step in the right direction to protect these endangered bighorn.
Recent Sheep Sightings
Bighorn Institute initiated a citizen science project for hikers to log their sheep sightings in iNaturalist, which helps with bighorn conservation. This not only lets others know where bighorn sheep have been seen, but helps our biologists keep track of the herds. Many bighorn are unmarked and are only seen by chance when tracking collared sheep. There have been numerous reports of bighorn sheep on the South Lykken trail in Palm Springs and the Art Smith trail in Palm Desert throughout December. If you see bighorn, please let us know! iNaturalist is an app that is free and easy to use, but if you use the app, be sure to log your sightings in the field or it will map you at your current location versus where you see the sheep. You can also log sightings on the iNaturalist.org website, which is very user friendly, but remember to log your sheep sightings specifically in Bighorn Institute’s project. For more information, visit our website: http://www.bighorninstitute.org/inaturalist-project
Bighorn Institute had the opportunity to give two presentations to the community this past month. The first talk was for a sorority philanthropic group at Smoke Tree Ranch and the second was for the Indian Wells Rotary Club. Both presentations were well attended and wonderful outreach opportunities. If you would like Bighorn Institute to give a talk at one of your upcoming events about the ecology and conservation of our local endangered Peninsular bighorn, please give us a call to schedule at 760-346-7334.
In late December, we received over 1 ½” of rain at the Institute. This was a beautiful slow rain which soaked the ground. This recent rain brings our total at the Institute to just over 5” for the year. This is the first year since 2010 that we have received over 5” of rain. This late rain should provide wonderful wildflowers next spring and new vegetation. The good news is, more rain is in the forecast and the Sierra Nevada Mountains are getting snow, which accounts for a third of southern California’s ground water.
Want to try to see bighorn sheep with us? Our next Member Hike will be in Palm Springs Thursday, January 19th at 8:00am. We would love to have you join us, but space is limited, no dogs, and you must RSVP for this first come first served hike. To sign up or for more information, please call us at 760-346-7334 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.