We are pleased to report that the City of La Quinta has installed a bighorn exclusion fence along the toe-of-slope at SilverRock Resort to keep the bighorn sheep off of the golf course. Bighorn have been regularly using the golf course as an artificial food and water source, to their demise. Since 2012, there have been 12 known urban-related bighorn deaths on or near the golf courses and at least 2 lambs have fallen into the canal this spring. We are relieved to have this section of fence completed since many recent urban-bighorn incidents took place on or near SilverRock, particularly sheep wandering onto the busy adjacent streets causing human safety hazards. Our hope is that PGA West, Tradition, and The Quarry will now allow a fence to be built at the toe-of-slope along their properties to keep the bighorn in their native habitat. We appreciate the City of La Quinta building this fence and will keep tracking this herd to see how they fare.
Bighorn Hit on Highway 74
In late April, a bighorn ewe was struck by an automobile and killed on Highway 74 south of Palm Desert. We have been working with the wildlife agencies and Caltrans to get additional bighorn crossing signs installed, but they are not up yet. The new signs will include two yellow beacon flashing signs, which we feel will be a tremendous help alerting motorists to the presence of sheep on this already treacherous road. Please use extra caution driving Highway 74 and watch out for sheep.
Sick Lamb in La Quinta
At the end of the month, we received a report of a sick lamb in the middle of a trail in La Quinta Cove. We responded immediately and found a moribund male lamb lying in the flats around 200 meters from the nearest mountain and its mother. The lamb appeared to have an eye injury/abnormality and showed severe signs of upper respiratory illness (droopy ears and nasal discharge) and could barely stand. The lamb perished within hours and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife took it to the state lab. We look forward to gaining valuable information from this lamb and certainly appreciate the good will of the reporting party so we could get to the lamb quickly. If you see a sick lamb, please do not approach or handle it, but contact Bighorn Institute at (760) 346-7334 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Pictured: an example of a sick lamb)
In mid-April, a 19 year old captive ewe nicknamed “Flint” passed away. With an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years in the wild, she certainly lived a long life, in fact, this is the second oldest Peninsular bighorn we’ve documented. “Flint” was captured as a lamb in the central Santa Rosa Mountains and brought to the Institute as breed stock to increase genetic diversity. “Flint” gave birth to 13 lambs (9F, 4M) in the captive herd, 10 of which were released into the wild. Three of her female offspring are still alive in our study area in two separate ranges. “Flint” made significant contributions to recovery of Peninsular bighorn and for that we are grateful.
Desert Bighorn Council Meeting
Bighorn Institute biologists attended the 55th meeting of the Desert Bighorn Council in St. George, UT in late April. Meetings are now biennial so it’s a great time to get together with other wildlife biologists and managers to get caught up on the status of desert bighorn across the western United States and Mexico and current bighorn issues. The meeting was most informative as well as a nice opportunity to renew partnerships and friendships.
Water Source Clean-Up
Since the sheep aren’t yet reliant on drinking water (they can go months in the winter without drinking), we took the opportunity earlier in the month to remove invasive vegetation from a man-made water source near Rancho Mirage. Overgrown vegetation can provide an ambush site for predators. This water source is now ready for bighorn use, which won’t be long before the heat sets in. (Pictured: before removing vegetation - left; after removing vegetation - right)
Member Hike Hiatus
We’ve had a great season of Member Hikes and were most successful in seeing sheep and forming friendships! With the weather warming up, we will go on a summer hiatus for our Member Hikes until the fall. Keep an eye on our monthly updates for more information!