October 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm #889MikeKeymaster
Bighorn deaths concern scientists
(more toxic lichens, maybe?)
The sudden deaths of five endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep have
scientists concerned there might be a major die-off that could wipe
out the fragile, rebounding population.
Some of the sheep appeared healthy just days before they died in the
past two weeks. At least two died from bacterial pneumonia the cause
of the last major die-off of Peninsular bighorn sheep and the cause
of the other three deaths hasn’t been determined.
Compounding fears that a die-off looms is the disappearance and
presumed death of all but six of 25 lambs born this year in the
northern Santa Rosa Mountains.
The sheep, who numbered around 1,200 in the 1970s, had declined to
about 280 by 1996. They rebounded after they were designated an
endangered species in 1998, and their numbers are now up to about
“You don’t usually have healthy- looking animals fall over. The big
crisis is that five have fallen over dead,’ said Jim DeForge,
director of the nonprofit research organization Bighorn Institute.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spokeswoman Jane Hendron said there is
concern about the Peninsular deaths: “But at the same time we don’t
want to speculate or jump to any conclusions about whether these are
isolated deaths or part of a bigger trend.’
Peninsular bighorn sheep roam the desert mountain slopes, canyons and
washes from the Palm Springs area south into Baja California. Their
life span is 12 to 14 years.
The five carcasses were discovered in the San Jacinto and northern
Santa Rosa Mountains above the Coachella Valley by institute
researchers, who use radio collars to monitor about 30 of the wild
sheep. Four of the dead wore collars.
The first death was noticed July 28 and the most recent was found
“It’s a cause of extreme concern, because the animal hasn’t reached
recovery levels,’ local Sierra Club chapter conservation chair Joan
Taylor told The Press-Enterprise.
Peninsulars are among five races of bighorn sheep found in the United
States. Three kinds live in California and Peninsular and Nelson
bighorns are usually referred to as desert bighorns, the institute
Nelsons populate the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, along
with the deserts of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, but don’t
mix with southern range Peninsulars.
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