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December 2023

The End of an Era

For the past 38 years, there have been captive-reared bighorn sheep released from Bighorn Institute in the northern Santa Rosa Mountains near Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage.  This month, we lost the last of these sheep at a ripe old age of 14 years and now only captive-reared offspring remain.  Thirteen years of this ewe’s life were spent in the wild and what a fruitful life it was.   She had two double-lambing events, meaning she gave birth twice in the same calendar year (spring and fall), which is incredibly rare and unknown to have occurred elsewhere.  She also gave birth to one of just two sets of twins we’ve ever documented in the wild.  Unfortunately, her collar failed at the end so we don’t know what happened to her, but she certainly had an incredible impact on the recovery of this species and will be missed.

*The last captive-reared ewe in the wild

When the Well Goes Dry

Our well that provides water to the captive herd broke in mid-November and for the past month, we’ve been hauling water out for the animals.  Turns out, there are only a couple of well repair companies in the desert.  To further complicate the issue, our well isn’t easy to get to since it’s in the middle of the desert and we don’t have developed roads on our property.  It required a four-wheel drive truck, three days of repairs and $14,600 later, we finally have running water again at the pens!  The well is 40 years old and amazingly has only required repairs a few times during that period.  This time, they were significant with a new 85 gallon tank, new pump, pipes, the works.  We’re thrilled to have running water again at the pens, but this expense wasn’t in our budget so if you feel inclined, we could use some pennies for the well.

Member Hike

Unfortunately, we had to cancel this months’ Member Hike since our well was being repaired that day, but we’re ready to go! Our January Member Hike will be Friday, January 12th and we would love for you to join us. Space is limited, no dogs, and you must RSVP for this first come first served hike. To sign up or for more information, please call us at 760-346-7334 or email us at

The Rut Ends

The rut, or breeding season, typically lasts from July – November for Peninsular bighorn sheep so it has technically come to a close, but we’re still seeing rams rutting on ewes.  All of the ewes should be pregnant already, but with the current green-up, the sheep are staying together more than usual.  Soon the males will go off in their bachelor groups and the females into their nursery groups after they give birth.  Until then, the ewes have to put up with the rams’ antics as the rams chase them around.  Sometimes things aren’t so very different from our world.

'Ram Hit on Highway 74

We nearly made it through the year without any sheep hit on Highway 74, but unfortunately, early this month a ram was hit and killed.  We were saddened to learn that this was an unmarked ram we had been seeing regularly; he had a chunk out of one horn so was easily identified.  However, the driver was OK and the ram died instantly; a small consolation. We have documented a total of 43 bighorn sheep hit on Highway 74 over the past 16 years.  This collision took place mid-day so please drive safely and watch for sheep. 

Year-End Gift

It’s not too late to make an end-of-the-year contribution!  You can donate online at or mail us a check as long as it’s post-marked by December 31st.  Bighorn Institute is privately-funded and so every donation counts! All donations go towards our conservation efforts for Peninsular bighorn sheep.  Thank you!


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