|Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) are strong, majestic animals who climb and forage
among mountain rocks. Their numbers became alarmingly low because they are prized
by hunters. The subspecies called Sierra Nevada Bighorn is endangered in California
and have been placed on the list of endangered species.
Along with over hunting, their numbers were reduced by a degradation of their
habitat through development such as road-building and recreational activities.
Diseases they catch from domesticated sheep, who also roam their habitat have
contributed to a reduction in their numbers.
Domestic dogs and mountain lions also prey on bighorn sheep and the fact that they
live in fragmented populations, leaves them more open to disease.
Bighorn sheep are found in sub-alpine habitats, canyons & caves, deserts, forests
grasslands and & woodlands. They also love rivers, streams and meadows to roam in
and drink their fill of water.
Their large horns are one of the most prized trophies in North America. Very few
permits to hunt desert bighorn in the California Deserts are issued. These go for
$40,000 to $75,000 at auction. Trophy hunters hope that as desert bighorn
numbers grow in the area, opportunities to hunt them will as well.
Big horn sheep use their horns for fighting. They prefer to run in groups of 5-80
animals and they are migratory, moving as grass and plant material becomes scarce.
The also move between winter and summer areas.
The lack of water in the dry deserts of California has limited available desert
habitats. There are many isolated populations which are inbreeding and becoming more
susceptible to disease. The subspecies called O. C. californiana is particularly low in
numbers and is on the endangered list. This subspecies is found in the treeless parts
of the desert near cliffs. If a predator or human approaches, they will scamper up
the cliffs to safety.
Wolf, G. Endangered Species. 2004.
Sartore, J. Rare: Portraits of America's Endangered Species. 2010.
Steinhart, P. California's Wild Heritage: Threatened and Endangered Animals in the
Golden State. 1990.