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August 2020

Spring Lamb Update

As you may recall, the northern Santa Rosa bighorn herd near Palm Desert/Rancho Mirage had a late spring lambing season due to many ewes giving birth in the fall of 2019. We’re happy to report that nearly a dozen spring lambs are still scampering around the hillsides. The lambs are now 2-3 months old and look good, but the toughest time for a bighorn is between 2-4 months of age when they’re building their own immune system. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that they’ll make it. Meanwhile, we’re still not seeing lambs in the San Jacinto’s near Palm Springs, but there are at least a couple dozen lambs around the golf courses of La Quinta in the central Santa Rosa herd. Hopefully, we’ll soon be over the summer heat hump and cooler, easier days lie ahead for us all.


The rut, or breeding season, is in full swing now and the rams are roaming the hills looking for ewes to breed. In fact, we had two different rams on our property at the end of August as they passed through the range. Rams will travel miles in search of ewes to breed and can lose 25% of their body weight during this time. When hooked up with a group of ewes, rams will nudge ewes to urinate and then smell their urine doing a “lip curl” to sense if she’s in estrous and receptive to being bred. Often other rams are in the same group doing the same thing and this is when bighorn battles can take place with head-butting for dominance and breeding rights. It can be an exciting sight to behold watching the rams during the rut. Fortunately, they don’t duel to the death with most battles ending in minor injuries. That said, the rams are very focused so if you’re in the area of rutting rams, steer clear.

Another Drowning

In early August, another adult ram drowned and was found in Lake Cahuilla so there have now been 34 urban-related deaths in La Quinta since 2012, of which 15 have drowned. We’re told the fence in La Quinta will begin construction in the fall, but it’s been pushed back repeatedly for various reasons, the latest being the summer heat, so we’ll see. Unfortunately, endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep continue to succumb to preventable, urban-related deaths.

Desert Bighorn Council Meeting

The 2021 biennial Desert Bighorn Council Meeting will take place April 6-9 in Marfa, TX, but the Council recently decided that the meeting will be virtual. While this isn’t their first choice for a conference format, it will allow others to attend that wouldn’t otherwise be able to travel or don’t feel safe traveling so there’s a bright side. In fact, because we care for the captive herd of bighorn every day, at least one staff member always has to stay behind so this way, we can all participate. We’ll post more information as we get it for those interested in registering to “attend” the meeting.

“New” Golf Cart

Bighorn Institute is on 300 acres of land just south of Palm Desert and we use electric golf carts to get around, especially to care for the captive herd. These carts minimize noise disturbance to the sheep when we supplemental feed them, clean pens or check on them during the day. We usually buy old golf carts cheap and put them through the wringer on our washboard, dirt roads. Then, it’s a constant battle to out-maneuver rodents who like to chew the wires so we’ve been through a few carts over the years. We’ve had a golf cart on our “wish list” for a few months. We’re thrilled to have recently received a generous donation of a gently used golf cart, which is now our best cart and greatly appreciated. If you have a golf cart you’d like to donate in the future, please keep us in mind. You’ll certainly be helping us and the sheep out and your donation is tax-deductible.

Log Your Sheep Sightings

If you’re one of the brave, early morning hikers still out this summer, can you let us know if you see sheep? You can log your sheep sightings for free in Bighorn Institute’s iNaturalist project accessible via phone or computer. Your sightings can help us keep track of the Peninsular bighorn sheep, their lambs and overall health of the herds. We’re particularly interested in lamb sightings in the mountains near Palm Springs. For instructions on using iNaturalist app, visit our website:


Need a unique gift or just want to support the sheep? You can Adopt-a-Bighorn. Lambs are $100 and a ewe or ram is $150 each. Adoptions include a certificate, a 4x6 color photograph of your sheep, a bighorn sheep fact sheet, a year’s subscription to our e-newsletter, and a year’s membership with the Institute. All adoptions are 100% tax-deductible! Visit our website to adopt-a-bighorn:

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