In early June, we saw a 3 week old lamb that had been born in mid-May. This little one certainly stuck out among the larger 4 and 5 month old lambs in the group, but she looked healthy and, of course, adorable. She was born to an identifiable unmarked ewe that we haven’t seen with a lamb before so it was exciting to see she had given birth, albeit late. We’re hopeful that this ewe will stay with radio-collared sheep so we can keep track of this lamb and see if she survives.
Bighorn Sheep Update
We’re halfway through the year, believe it or not, so thought we’d give an update on the local herds. The good news is, most of the lambs are still alive in all three herds (San Jacinto’s near Palm Springs, northern Santa Rosa’s near Rancho Mirage/Palm Desert and central Santa Rosa’s near La Quinta). That said, we’re now entering the toughest time of the year for lamb survival (summer) so time will tell how they fare. A number of lambs that use the La Quinta golf courses are showing signs of upper respiratory illness so we’ll be watching them closely. Adult bighorn mortalities have been minimal so far with one each in the San Jacinto and northern Santa Rosa Mountains. There have been four known bighorn mortalities in the central Santa Rosa’s and more sheep than ever are now using the La Quinta golf courses. Around 50 sheep now regularly use the golf courses so the fence can’t come soon enough, although the final Environmental Impact Report still has not been released and the fence can’t start until then. Lambing season has wrapped up for the year and the rut, or breeding season, is just around the corner. So, the halfway point isn’t looking too bad, but summer is surely a challenge, even to these hardy desert dwellers!
Guzzlers, or man-made water sources, are a necessity in areas like the northern Santa Rosa Mountains, especially during the summer. Since there are no longer reliable year-round water sources available for the bighorn sheep and other wildlife, these drinkers play a vital role in their survival. The Institute helps maintain 8 man-made water sources in the mountains surrounding Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. Peninsular bighorn can go months without drinking water in the winter and up to 3 days without drinking in over 100 degree temperatures. The guzzlers aren’t used as much during fall and winter, but can be used daily during summer. We make sure all of the guzzlers are working properly and clear out overgrown vegetation so the bighorn’s vision is not blocked while they drink. Predators often hide in overgrown vegetation in an attempt to ambush bighorn around water sources.
Rattlesnake in Ram Enclosure
In early June, there was a Red Diamond Rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber) in the ram enclosure. We immediately removed and relocated the docile snake, which is the first rattlesnake we’ve seen in the feed pen this year. While we are not concerned to find snakes, venomous or harmless, on our 300 acres of land, we are concerned when a rattlesnake is found in the feed pen or captive herd enclosures. In 2007, a 4 month old lamb in the captive herd was bitten by a rattlesnake on its face and died. However, this is a very rare event and most adult bighorn can survive a rattlesnake bite, depending on the bite location and the amount of venom injected. We carefully observed the captive herd following the incident and all of them look fine.
Are You a Member?
Did you know that Bighorn Institute is a privately-funded nonprofit and we receive no state or federal funding? We have released over 125 captive-reared bighorn into the wild over the past 35 years, kept 2 local bighorn herds from disappearing and monitored the local herds daily, all with private dollars. We also provide vital data to the wildlife agencies to help with the management of the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep. We rely on the generosity of our members; memberships start at just $25 and are completely tax-deductible. Thank you for your support!
computer server - $700 – we are revamping our office computer system with an external server for file safety
office computer - $500 – to replace an old, refurbished computer
road drag - $300 – this drag will help us maintain our dirt driveway and cart path to the pens
new golf cart seat - $300 – we use golf carts for captive herd maintenance, but the sun is damaging to the seats
LED office lights - $240 – we’re converting our florescent lights to LED’s saves energy & money
trail cameras (4) - $120 each –help monitor the bighorn sheep
water tank sprayer $100 – for use when we drag our dirt roads