Bighorn Barrier Progress in La Quinta - Spring 2017

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 three golf courses in La Quinta (SilverRock, PGA West and The Quarry) 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 has been tied up with environmental review and resistance. Unfortunately, the sheep have suffered with the lack of protection from the urban areas in La Quinta and 2016 was a tough year.

In May 2016, five lambs died from upper respiratory disease at SilverRock and PGA West. This was the second year in a row that this group of sheep had lambs die due to illness. Bighorn congregate in abnormally large groups in these urban settings facilitating disease transmission so when one lamb gets sick, they usually all get sick. Necropsy results found that these lambs had pneumonia as well as copper deficiencies (likely from their ingestion of chemicals on the golf courses), which can lead to a lack of fitness and make them susceptible to illness. Sadly, we are starting to see sick lambs again this year.

Sick lambs haven’t been the only issue with the sheep in La Quinta this past year. Sheep strayed into the streets multiple times going as far as three miles away from the nearest mountain, as recently as this past March. Law enforcement has been necessary many times to keep motorists safe. Another bighorn hazard is the Coachella Canal (pictured) that runs along PGA West. At least three bighorn fell into the canal over the past year, two of which were lambs just this March. Fortunately, all of the animals were rescued or made it out safely. Since 2012, there have been 12 known bighorn deat