VOLUNTEERS BRAVED HEAT TO COUNT BIGHORN SHEEP

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By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy Anza Borrego Foundation

July 26, 2018 (Borrego Springs) — With temperatures over 100 degrees, 79 volunteered fanned out for the annual Peninsular Bighorn Sheep count at 19 sites in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park from June 29 to July 1st.   A total of 225 sheep were counted, up from 207 in 2017, but last year had the lowest in five years, down from 296 in 2014.

The good news is that more young yearling sheep were spotted this year, though the number of lambs was down, as was the lambs to ewes ratio, an indication that more lives may not have survived through the spring.  Lack of rain—scarcely an inch – this year no doubt caused struggles for local wildlife including the hardy bighorn sheep.

The Borrego Sun reports that one waterhole at Rattlesnake Canyon ran dry last year, perhaps due to seismic shifts; no sheep were spotted there last year, but 35 were found in the vicinity this time.

The sheep appeared healthy, according to Dr. Ester Rubin, research branch chief at Arizona Game and Fish Department, who participated in the count. Volunteers brought back water samples from each site, that will be tested to assess the quality of drinking water sustaining the bighorn sheep.