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September 2023

Annual Party and Golf Classic

Our fall fundraiser is quickly approaching and will take place Sunday and Monday, November 19th and 20th at Stone Eagle Golf Club! Invitations will be mailed by mid-October so check your mailbox and plan to join us! This is Bighorn Institute’s primary fundraiser and supports our much-needed research and conservation efforts for the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep.









La Quinta Fence and Guzzler Update

Fence construction in La Quinta around PGA West will finally resume in October. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) stopped construction during lambing season (January – June) so lambs weren’t disturbed, but 10 lambs are known to have died on or near the golf course and Lake Cahuilla during this time. Two of these lambs drowned along with a yearling ram, deaths that could have been prevented with a fence. Construction didn’t resume immediately after lambing season due to the hot weather so they’re starting in October and hope to finish by the end of December. The Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC) had to allot over $750k more for the fencing contract with all of the delays and related price increases. The wildlife agencies and CVCC are working on a herding plan to get the sheep off of the golf course once the fence is finally completed.


A water source must be provided in La Quinta prior to the fence completion so the wildlife agencies are working on that as well. We’ve been told CDFW is paying for the guzzler to be installed, which should be done by the end of December.

Ewe Mortality

In late September, an unmarked ewe was found dead in a backyard in Bighorn Golf Club from unknown causes. Interestingly, this was on the east side of the club, opposite of where bighorn sheep have been frequenting the golf course for the past several years using it as an artificial food and water source. The sheep are becoming habituated there and obviously, this is not a good situation that will only get worse as time goes on, as we’ve seen in La Quinta. We have recommended a fence to the wildlife agencies and Bighorn Golf Club leadership, but so far, there is no plan for such.



Rain, Rain and More Midges?

Early this month, we received almost an inch of rain bringing our annual total up to 7.5 inches; the most rain that we’ve received at the Institute since 2019! With wetter conditions incredible things happen in the desert: lots of lush vegetation, flowers bloom unexpectedly, sphinx moth caterpillars are wandering around and more. However, with wetter conditions, disease can spread more easily among the bighorn sheep, predators can hide in overgrown vegetation and ambush other animals, there’s an increase in humidity and BUGS. Not just mosquitoes, which carry a host of diseases dangerous to humans, but now we’re dealing with pesky biting midges (in the fly family, Ceratopogonidae), more commonly known as no-see-ums. The past two years we’ve had an influx in no-see-ums in summer and if you’re out walking or hiking and stop for a few minutes, you’re inundated with the biting buggers. Their bite leaves a painful, itchy welt and while they’re merely a nuisance to people, they can transmit Bluetongue virus to bighorn sheep. Symptoms can include ulcers, sores, painful hooves, lameness and reproductive problems. Affected animals can have swelling of the tongue (“bluetongue”) which can cause breathing difficulties. We haven’t seen any evidence of this in our local herds so far this year, but will be on the lookout.


Palm Springs Ram Movement

Last month we wrote about a collared ram that normally resides in Palm Springs, but spent the month of August in the northern Santa Rosa Mountains around the hills of Rancho Mirage. This ram has continued moving east and we most recently saw him in the mountains adjacent to Hwy 74 in Palm Desert with other sheep. We’re continuing to track him to see how long he stays in this area and when he goes back to his “normal range.”


School Presentation

In early September, we gave a bighorn presentation to all three second grade classes at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School in Indio. There were around 80 kids in the group and all were very attentive and asked good questions. It’s always fun training up the conservationists of tomorrow! If you’d like a bighorn sheep presentation for your group, give us a call at 760-346-7334 or email us at bi@bighorninstitute.org; we’d love to come talk to you!



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