Tag Archives: bighorn sheep

Sportsmen’s Dollars Support Research on Desert Bighorn Sheep

Thanks to California’s big game hunters, wildlife biologists studying Desert Bighorn Sheep will have new technology and tools to help them study deadly diseases that affect these icons of the desert.

In 2013, Desert Bighorn sheep populations in the Mojave Desert near Old Dad Peak suffered a die-off. In an effort to learn more about the spread of disease and survival, scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Mojave National Preserve and Oregon State University launched an ongoing joint study of adult sheep. They have captured and radio-collared about 150 adults to date, but important data about lamb mortality is still missing.

Now, in the third year of the study, a grant will enable researchers to collect the data that will unlock the mystery. Beginning this winter, scientists will capture and radio collar bighorn ewes. As they are captured, ultrasounds will be conducted, and ewes that are found to be pregnant will be implanted with special vaginal implant transmitters, the purchase of which will be funded by the $190,000 grant. When the lamb is subsequently born, the transmitter will be pushed out and send an alert signal. Project researchers can then go to the birth site and put a miniature radio transmitter on the lamb.

If the lamb subsequently dies, a mortality signal will be transmitted and the body will be recovered by researchers quickly enough to pinpoint the cause of death. This real-time information gathering technique will hopefully provide answers to the mystery behind unexplained bighorn mortality — why the 2013 disease outbreak was so widespread, what factors contributed to the spread of the disease and what management efforts can be instituted to help prevent future outbreaks.

Spearheaded by the nonprofit California Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation and Oregon State University, the study will greatly benefit from the addition of the new technology, made possible by the purchase of big game tags by California hunters.  It is one of many project funded by the Big Game Grants Program, which allots about $800,000 each year to support studies such as this one.

Joint projects are particularly critical to fund, because they help target wildlife management issues which are often beyond the normal scope of CDFW manpower, expertise or financing.

“Funds in the Big Game Grants Program support a wide range of wildlife studies and projects,” said Craig Stowers, CDFW Big Game Program Manager. “We have a responsibility to see that the funding generated by hunters goes toward preserving wildlife populations. This sheep study is a great example of how hunters play a role in solving complicated and challenging research needs.”

This new phase of study is hoped to produce critical information unavailable until now.

“The desert environment is harsh and expansive. Until now, it’s been almost impossible to find and collect dead lambs in a timely manner, which is necessary in order to determine the cause of mortality,” said Daniella Dekelaita, a doctoral student and researcher at Oregon State University. “We know there have been significant lamb losses in some herds and this will give us accurate and timely information on what was the cause.”

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Media Contacts:
Regina Abella, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3728

Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Volunteers Needed for Bighorn Sheep Survey

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) are seeking volunteers to assist biologists with a bighorn sheep survey in Southern California on March 5 and 6. Volunteers will be needed on Saturday evening and all day Sunday.sheep 3

No survey experience is necessary to participate but volunteers must attend an orientation on Saturday, March 5, at 6 p.m. at the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 701 N. Anita Ave., Arcadia.

Volunteers will hike to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains early Sunday morning to count and record bighorn sheep. Volunteer groups will be led by a representative from CDFW, USFS or SCBS. Participants must be at least 16 years old and capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain, although most survey routes are longer. In general, hikes will not be along trails and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes and/or bush-whacking through chaparral.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.sheep 2

For volunteers who wish to camp, complimentary campsites will be available on a first come, first served basis at the Applewhite Campground in Lytle Creek the nights of March 4 and March 5.

Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979. The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California. The bighorn population declined over 80 percent through the 1980s, but appears to be on the increase with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.

To volunteer, please sign up online at www.sangabrielbighorn.org. If you do not have access to the Internet, you may call either (909) 627-1613 or (909) 584-9012 to receive a volunteer packet.

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Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
John Miller, USFS Communications, (909) 382-2788
Norm Lopez, SCBS, (805) 431-2824

Volunteers Needed for Bighorn Sheep Survey

Three agencies working to survey bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains are seeking volunteers to assist in the annual sheep count.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep are seeking individuals to assist biologists March 1-2, 2014 (Saturday evening and all day Sunday).

No survey experience is necessary to participate but volunteers must attend a mandatory orientation on Saturday, March 1 at 6 p.m. at the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Arcadia.

Volunteers will hike to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains early Sunday morning to count and record bighorn sheep. Volunteer groups will be led by a representative from either CDFW, USFS or the Society. Participants must be at least 16 years old and capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain, although some survey routes are longer. In general, hikes will not be along trails and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes and/or bush-whacking through chaparral.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.

For volunteers who wish to camp, complimentary campsites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Applewhite Campground in Lytle Creek on the night of March 1, 2014.

Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979. The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California. The bighorn population declined more than 80 percent through the 1980s but appears to be on the increase with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.

Please sign up online at http://www.sangabrielbighorn.org/San_Gabriel_Bighorn_Sheep_Home.html . If you do not have access to the internet, you may call either (909) 627-1613 or (909) 584-9012 to receive a volunteer packet.

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
John Miller, USFS Communications, (909) 382-2788
Norm Lopez, Society for Conservation (805) 431-2824

A bighorn sheep ram on a hill overlooking desert
Bighorn sheep

Scientists Search for Clues to Disease Outbreak in Bighorn Sheep

A National Park Service employee who was inspecting wildlife guzzlers found four desert bighorn dead on Old Dad Mountain, 15 miles southeast of Baker, California, during the week of May 20. The employee also observed other sick animals that appeared to be weak and unsteady with labored breathing. Laboratory   analysis of blood and tissue samples taken from one animal indicated that it had pneumonia. This disease may be acquired in desert bighorn populations from domestic sheep or goats and is usually fatal to bighorn.

Biologists from the National Park Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife are conducting a field survey to determine the scope of this wildlife disease outbreak. Using volunteers from the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep and the Sierra Club to expand their capacity, biologists are visiting springs and guzzlers where bighorn congregate on Old Dad Mountain and in nearby areas to determine the extent and seriousness of the problem.

“While we do not yet know the full extent of this disease event, we are taking this situation seriously. Bighorn sheep are highly susceptible to pneumonia,” said Ben Gonzales, Senior Wildlife Veterinarian with CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory.

Scientists believe there are 200 to 300 desert bighorn in this particular population.

“The herd of desert bighorn sheep in the Old Dad Mountain area is one of the largest native populations in the Mojave Desert,” said Mojave National Preserve Superintendent Stephanie Dubois. “Scientists from the National Park Service and  California Department of Fish and Wildlife and working together to learn all they can about this disease outbreak so that we can do everything possible to reduce its impact.”

Media Contacts:
Mike Taugher, CDFW Communications, (916) 591-0140
Linda Slater, National Park Service, (760) 252-6122

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CDFW Creates First Bighorn Sheep Herd in 25 Years

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), along with volunteers from around the state, has established a new herd of federally endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.

“This is the first reintroduction effort of a new herd of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep since 1988,” said Tom Stephenson, CDFW bighorn recovery program leader.

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Historically, Sierra bighorn were abundant throughout the Sierra Nevada; however, by the 1970s, only two herds remained. Disease spread by domestic sheep and unregulated commercial hunting are believed to have caused their demise.

“Many endangered species remain on the brink of extinction with poor prospects for recovery after they receive federal protection,” said Stephenson. “Through our conservation efforts, we have a unique opportunity to reach recovery goals for an alpine specialist that is native only to California.”

During the week of March 25, 2013 10 female and four male bighorn sheep were captured from two of the largest existing herds in the Sierra Nevada and reintroduced to the vacant herd unit of Olancha Peak at the southern end of the range in Inyo County.  Six additional females were moved to two small northern herds, Convict Creek and Mount Gibbs, for augmentation of those herds.

Following this recent effort, there are now 10 herds of Sierra bighorn between Owens Lake and Mono Lake. Three additional herds are needed to meet recovery goals. The population currently numbers around 500 animals and is up considerably from a low of just over 100 animals.

A video news story is available at http://youtu.be/5KOMCxxTL6U

Note: High-resolution photos and video are available for use at ftp://ftp.dfg.ca.gov/oceo

Media Contacts:
Tom Stephenson, CDFW Wildlife Supervisor, (760) 873-4305
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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