The Coachella Valley Conservation Commission released a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the La Quinta Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Barrier Project, to address bighorn sheep utilizing the golf courses and urban areas of La Quinta (http://www.cvmshcp.org/DEIR_Documents.htm). Ewes and lambs have been coming down to four golf courses (Tradition, SilverRock, PGA West, and The Quarry) since 2012 and now there is a group of around 40 sheep that use the urban areas daily and have become extremely habituated. Ewes no longer follow their innate behavior for rearing lambs in steep escape terrain, rather, they stray far from the mountains in the flats. Bighorn pass home range knowledge down to lambs so for the past few years, each new group of lambs has been taught that the golf courses are their “normal” place to live. This is detrimental to the current herd as well as the future population since many lambs have become sick, which will continue as they browse in close contact. We have also documented 12 sheep dying on or near the golf courses since 2012, which were completely preventable with a fence. The Sheep Barrier Project proposes an 8 feet high fence, which we fully support, but it has several build options. Alternative A, the toe of slope option, is the best option for the bighorn sheep. It minimizes the habitat lost to the sheep and will keep them out of the urban area, however, requires private landowner permission. The other fence build options remove between 420 and 2400 acres of important lambing habitat. We are asking everyone to email brief comments in support of the fence Alternative A by 5:00pm today, February 27th, to Katie Barrows (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Many more lambs were born since our last update and the current count is 36 lambs in our study area, which ranges from Palm Springs to La Quinta. Lambing season extends from January to June so we expect more lambs to be born in the coming months. We are busy with fieldwork trying to document lambs as most of the ewes are not marked. With the recent rains, the mountains are covered in lush vegetation, which is perfect for the lactating ewes as well as the new lambs. Remember, if you are lucky enough to see a ewe and lamb please view them from a distance so you don’t cause unnecessary stress, as lambing is already a stressful time.
San Jacinto Mountains Herd
This month, we observed 42 sheep in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs in one day. This is the largest number of bighorn observed in one canyon since we began conducting fieldwork in the San Jacinto Mountains in 1992. There are approximately 70 sheep in this herd now, which is due in part to the Institute’s augmentation efforts. In 2002, there were only 4 adult ewes in this range and today, there are nearly 30. This is one of the toughest ranges in which to monitor sheep with the steep slopes so this population growth makes our work worthwhile.
Last month, we took our members on a trail in La Quinta and a great time was had by all! Wildflowers were starting to bloom and we saw a group of bighorn sheep! The next Member Hike will take place on Thursday March 16th 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 email@example.com.
On Saturday, March 4th, the Friends of the Desert Mountains will hold their annual Wildflower Festival at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument visitor’s center. Friends of the Desert Mountains are expecting “the best wildflower season in more than a decade!” so be sure to mark your calendars. Bighorn Institute will have an information booth to reach out and educate the public about bighorn sheep. This is a great family event. Park at St. Margaret’s church on Hwy 74 and shuttle to the festival for free. We hope to see you there!