We Got a Jeep!
We’re thrilled to finally let you know that we have a new field vehicle, a 2022 Jeep Wrangler Sport! After two vehicles were sold out from under us, when this one came in, we were too skeptical to be excited until we actually had the car in-hand. Seeing was believing in this case. Now we can access the 4-wheel drive areas of the range allowing us to better track the sheep in the backcountry. We’re so grateful to everyone that donated to our Matching Funds Campaign; this would not have been possible without you!
My First Time Counting Sheep
by BI Conservation Assistant, Justice Finnell
This year was my first time participating in Bighorn Institute’s annual waterhole count, and as a whole, I would say my experience was great. We set out on Wednesday, July 20th and Thursday, July 21st to our respective locations across the northern Santa Rosa Mountains. On Wednesday, my group unfortunately had to wait several hours before our first sheep sighting; however, that made it all the more exciting. A ewe and her lamb came in to drink for about five minutes before heading back out of view, but it was still thrilling. Aside from the sheep, there was loads of other wildlife to take in, which made the time spent waiting around far more enjoyable and easier to relax given the temperatures, which reached 109 degrees. We saw a number of different types of birds including a beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk that came and went frequently. There were also quite a few lizards running around, one even running into one of our shade structures. On Thursday, I was at a different location, and fortunately saw more sheep than the day before without having to wait as long. Within an hour, we had our first ram come in, and after drinking he browsed in view for a good 10 minutes. Then a few hours later, a lamb came over a hill directly in front of us and watched us before heading off. We later saw a ewe that was his dam. Seeing a few sheep throughout the day definitely offered hopefulness and excitement for more sightings. While dealing with the heat was tough at times, overall, the count ended up being a lot of fun and I hope to be able to help again next year.
Waterhole Count Results
The Institute and our team of amazing volunteers successfully conducted our annual waterhole count at the end of July in the northern Santa Rosa Mountains (NSRM). Conditions were optimal for sheep being thirsty with high humidity and temperatures reaching 110°. Desert bighorn can go up to three days in over 100° temperatures without drinking water, which is why we do the count in the heat of summer. We saw a total of 54 of sheep, 13 of which were lambs, including a new one at just 3 weeks old! This number is down about 10% from last year. Thanks again to our hardy volunteers who helped make the waterhole count a success!
At the end of July, a ram wandered 1 ½ miles away from the mountains in Palm Springs into a neighborhood off of Vista Chino, a very busy, four-lane road. It’s unknown how he ended up so far away, but in the past, well-meaning motorists have tried to haze sheep back to the mountains and inadvertently pushed them in the wrong direction. Regardless, we’re grateful to the Palm Springs police, Animal Control, The Living Desert veterinary staff, CA Fish and Wildlife and BI volunteer, Scott Collins, for helping to get the animal tranquilized and safely back up into the mountains where he belongs. Unfortunately, as this endangered population of Peninsular bighorn has increased in numbers, there have been more urban issues, which is something the wildlife agencies will need to address as they manage this majestic species into the future.
*Ram in Palm Springs neighborhood by Scott Collins
Rut Is Underway
The rut is underway and there were plenty of rams chasing ewes during the recent waterhole count. The rut, or breeding season, for Peninsular bighorn sheep typically extends from August through November here in the desert. Rams will travel miles searching for ewes to breed and can lose up to 25% of their body weight. There are many different rutting behaviors, but the most nerve-racking to watch is when the rams chase the ewes relentlessly along perilous slopes. You find yourself holding your breath for fear of a false step, but these are amazingly agile animals. Here’s a short video of a ram in the rut.
BI Resale Store Items Needed
Have small, high-quality items you’d like to donate to Bighorn Institute’s Resale Store at Antique Galleries of Palm Springs? You get a tax donation, they sell it and we get the proceeds! But, we’re talking the good stuff, not the clutter in your garage destined for good will. Things we could use include: jewelry, coins, bullion, pen sets, small clocks and watches, crystal, camera equipment, statuary and decorative items, antiques and collectibles, etc. You can take your items directly to Antique Galleries of Palm Springs (505 E. Industrial Place, just south of downtown off Sunny Dunes) and ask for Mike or Thomas. If you can’t take your items in, give us a call and we can help collect them 760-346-7334. Thank you!