While we realize much is up in the air regarding social gatherings and such, the dates are saved at Stone Eagle Golf Club for our fall fundraiser party and golf tournament on Sunday and Monday, November 15th and 16th. If COVID-19 clears up significantly by then, we hope to safely see your beautiful faces (although likely many fewer of you with a smaller gathering). If not, stay tuned for other options, but for now, we’ll hope for the best!
Waterhole Count Results
In early July, Bighorn Institute with the help of a group of dedicated volunteers braved the summer heat for two full days of counting sheep in the northern Santa Rosa Mountains for our annual waterhole count. Temperatures reached 108 degrees each day so it was nice and hot and sheep were seen at each of the water sources. Bighorn sheep can go up to three days without drinking water in 100+ degree heat so the optimal conditions for waterhole counts are typically mid-summer when it’s nice and hot. Now for the numbers, we counted a total of 62 bighorn sheep, including 9 lambs, but only saw a few rams. Overall, it was very successful, but the glaring issue was the lack of mature rams. Two years ago, we only saw a few rams, despite 117 degree temperatures. The rams have started coming out of the backcountry now for the rut so we may conduct our count in early August next year. Thanks to all of our hardy volunteers, without which, we couldn’t do the count! (Picture: Sheep drink from one of the water sources)
The rut, or breeding season, has begun and will extend through November for Peninsular bighorn. Rams are actively searching for ewes to breed and will travel miles to find them. In fact, we had an exciting documentation in late July of a ram that usually resides in the San Jacinto Mountains by Palm Springs all the way over in the northern Santa Rosa Mountains (NSRM) near Palm Desert, which is around 12 miles as the crow flies. We haven’t seen this ram in the NSRM before. He was with other ewes and rams so it’s neat to know that herd movement is happening, which helps ensure genetic diversity for maintaining a healthy bighorn population. (Picture: The ram from the SJM - far right - in the NSRM)
It’s been an interesting, albeit late lambing season in the northern Santa Rosa Mountains (NSRM). Many of these ewes gave birth to lambs in the fall of 2019 so we’ve been anxious to see how many would give birth again in 2020. The answer: 15 (that we know of)…so far. It’s always possible a few more may still give birth, but we feel most have been born and can still account for over half of them. Two of the fall 2019 lambs are alive as well. Most of the spring lambs are just a couple of months old so we’ll see if they survive the summer; we’ll keep our fingers crossed. As for the other parts of our study area, there are still a number of lambs alive in the central Santa Rosa Mountains near La Quinta; however, many of them on the golf courses have shown signs of illness. We have not seen lambs since early June in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs. It’s possible some are still out there. If you’re out hiking and see lambs in this range, please let us know and if you have photos, all the better. (Picture: A ewe and her spring 2020 lamb)
When you’re hiking up a mountain and pause to photograph one of the only waterfalls found in our local desert (Tahquitz Falls), sometimes the wildlife finds you. We probably couldn’t get this good of a picture of a hummingbird in flight if we tried, but if one photobombs you, there you go! We didn’t even know it happened until reviewing photos that day. Ah wildlife, you’re just so amazing!
While most of us are doing the bulk of our shopping online these days, did you know you can earn money for the sheep by shopping at Amazon? Just log into your Amazon account at smile.amazon.com and choose Bighorn Institute as your charity of choice. We’ll get 0.5% of every purchase you make and from now on, just shop at smile.amazon.com. It’s an easy way to make a difference; thanks for your support!
Do you have a copy of Silverfish Press’ book on Bighorn Institute’s 37-year history in working with Peninsular bighorn sheep in the Coachella Valley? Titled SHEEP ON THE BRINK, the book provides an engaging look at the factors that put this iconic animal on the federal Endangered Species list in 1998. Today the numbers are somewhat higher but sheep remain imperiled. Filled with unusual facts and heretofore unpublished imagery, SHEEP ON THE BRINK makes for a good read for anyone interested in this remarkable animal. All proceeds benefit the Institute. Contact 760-346-7334 to get your copy for $20.
Golf Cart– we use electric carts to get around our 300 acre property to minimize disturbance to the sheep
Field receiver - $1,000 – allows us to track the radio-collared bighorn sheep
Gift cards: Amazon, Staples, gas cards (Shell, Mobile, Chevron, Tower Mart)