Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Essay, Research Paper
Peninsular Bighorn Sheep The Peninsular Bighorn Sheep has always been a treasured symbol of the California Desert. We see these animals depicted everywhere as the magnificently large and muscular creatures they are. Local resorts emboss their image on signs and pamphlets as a way to convince others of the beauty found here in the desert. But soon, the once bountiful sheep found here might disappear completely if something is not done to prevent their extinction. This includes not only the local peninsular bighorn sheep but most subspecies of desert bighorn Sheep. The causes: disease, food scarcity, over hunting and more recently people and development. First, I would like to explain briefly the many categories of wild sheep. In North America, we have the Thinhorn sheep and the Bighorn sheep, and from these we have several subspecies. My Focus will be on the bighorn sheep (ovis canadensis) or rather a subspecies of it. Deriving from the bighorn sheep is the Rocky Mountain Bighorn and the Desert Bighorn. The name “Desert Bighorn Sheep” is used to describe the bighorn inhabiting hot and dry desert mountain ranges were there is sparse vegetation and water. The desert bighorn that occupy the Peninsular Ranges of southeast California from Palm Springs to the Mexican border is a subspecies called Peninsular Bighorn (O.c. cremnobates). Peninsular bighorn sheep are admired by many, yet these sublime desert creatures are now threatened with eventual extinction. In 1998, the Fish and Wild Life Services reported that the United States population of peninsular bighorn had declined seventy-six percent between 1971 and 1997, leaving just a total of 280 individuals. Federal Register advised that the continuing decline of the Peninsular bighorn sheep can be attributed to a combination of factors, including: (1) the effects of disease; (2) low recruitment; (3) habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation; (4) and, more recently, high rates of predation coinciding with low population numbers (Vol. 65, no. 129, p 41407). The big horn sheep are extremely sensitive to disease and germs. Livestock such as cattle or sheep have played a major role in distributing new viruses to bighorn sheep sometimes killing off entire herds. It was in the mid 1800 s when settlers first started arriving bringing with them new strings of bacteria, that the bighorn sheep population began declining. A case of pink eye was responsible for killing over 50 percent of sheep in Yellowstone National Park when it caused them to lose their sight. Simple things like pneumonia and runny noses can have major effects on them.
Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation are also factors considered responsible for endangering the bighorn sheep. Loss of habitat and degradation is what happens when humans infringe on sheep habitat. The main reason for the decline of the bighorn is man. Bighorn sheep respond badly to human presence by changing their behavior patterns in order to avoid contact. Jim De Forge, the executive director of the Bighorn Institute, says this reduce the number of bighorn sheep by decreasing habitat, causing bighorn sheep to reduce or terminate their use of prime habitat, stop migration, or split from large herds into smaller herds. This causes isolation or fragmentation of herds, which then leads to inbreeding and weaker sheep s (qtd. in Marcum). In the Coachella Valley, some developers are pressing for another golf course near the peninsular bighorn habitat. Diana Marcum aptly describes the situation when she says efforts to ensure the species survival are butting heads with another desert passion: golf (Marcum). There are 91 golf courses in the Coachella Valley and 95 bighorn sheep. Clearly something must be done! In the meantime the Bighorn Institute, Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Fish and Game Department have combined several approaches in their effort to save the Peninsular Bighorn. Rangers, along with trained volunteers venture out each winter and try to get an accurate count of all remaining big horns and take in sick babies and try to nurse them back to health. They are also fencing the animals off from human populations and creating more watering holes or Guzzlers. Guzzlers are 100 square feet of plastic, which catch rainwater, then feed that water, through tubes, to water tanks for the bighorns to guzzle. All over the world, millions of animals from thousands of species are in danger. As humans interfere with the environment, the habitats animals live in are destroyed, and the air and water that they need is polluted. Day by day, people require even more space, food, etc., and all these demands put a squeeze on earth s resources, including its wildlife. The biggest problem for wildlife today is that people destroy and change natural landscapes and animals lose places that they need to live in.