Lace up your hiking shoes for local bighorn sheep, SoCal. Three agencies are working together to survey the population in the San Gabriel Mountains and they are looking for volunteers to assist biologists in the annual bighorn sheep survey February 26-27
No survey experience is necessary but vols (ages 16 and older) are asked to attend a mandatory orientation on February 25 to learn the basics of sheep peeping and meet fellow wildlife lovers and organizations responsible for the count: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS). The actual hiking and counting takes place on February 26 and 27, 2017.
All in all, the survey has been conducted since 1979 with citizens tackling the terrain in numerous locations – some easily accessible, others requiring more hard-core hikers, boulder hoppers and bush whackers.
Bighorn sheep that has prime views of Azusa, Rancho Cucamonga, Duarte and other eastern San Gabriel suburbs with different herds roaming the landscape including the San Jacinto Mountains, Anza Borrega, etc.
At one time, sheep numbers in the San Gabriels were estimated about 740 in the 1980, but a big crash happened between 1986-1993 which brought the herd to a mere 100 or so. One explanation for the decline was since vegetation was so thick in the mountains, the sheep had a hard time moving around let alone reproduce and care for young. The fire of 2003 cleared much of that vegetation and with that new growth, higher numbers of sheep.
So, far the bighorn population has increased every year and has been holding steady at about 400+ sheep.
There is always a concern domesticated sheep infecting wild sheep which can decimate a herd. Bighorns have died from pneumonia – it’s believed the sheep caught the disease when a feral angora goat came in contact with the herd.
The SCBS assists the sheep in the hot summer months by refilling big game drinkers (think of them as man-made watering holes) which benefits not just the bighorns but numerous other thirsty critters.
To sign up to participate in this year’s Bighorn Sheep Survey, click here.