Wheeler Herd Unit Survey February 2016

Results from the Wheeler Herd Unit survey are in - a total of 86 bighorn were counted including 41 adult ewes, 4 yearling ewes, 3 unclassified ewes (48 total ewes), 6 yearling rams, 17 lambs, and 1 unclassified bighorn.   Fourteen adult rams were also observed; 7 of those were classified as two-year olds. Much gratitude to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program for the population count!

Photo by Dale Matson

Photo by Dale Matson

Photo by Dale Matson

Photo by Dale Matson

Olancha Peak Herd Unit Count

The February 2016 count of endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep at the Olancha Peak (southernmost) herd unit revealed 16 Sierra Nevada bighorns! Counted were 1 ram, 7 ewes, 3 yearling females, 1 yearling male and 4 lambs. We hope there are more hiding back in the canyons. Thanks to California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the update.

Sierra Bighorn Field Trips

The California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation will hold their first field trip of 2016 to observe Sierra bighorn in their winter habitat. This trip will take place on Saturday, January 30th. We will meet at 9 a.m. at the CDFW office parking lot in Cottonwood Plaza, 787 N. Main St. Suite 220, Bishop CA. Please wear sturdy boots and bring sunscreen, snacks, water, and binoculars if you have your own. Space is limited; please email asksnbs@wildlife.ca.gov or call (760) 873-3260 for reservations, directions, or more details!

We also plan to host a field trip in February, date TBD. Please let me know if you would like to join—space is limited and these fill up fast! Also note that the CDFW office has moved to the Cottonwood Plaza.

Reintroduction of Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep to Yosemite, March 2015

Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are the rarest mountain sheep in North America. After the population dropped to around 100 animals in 1995, this unique sub-species was listed as an endangered species. In the spring of 2015, these charismatic animals were released into the heart of Yosemite for the first time in over 100 years. View Yosemite Nature Notes Episode 27, a video produced by Steven M. Bumgardner, that covers the reintroduction

Olancha Peak Herd

The Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program implemented the first successful reintroduction of a new herd of Sierra bighorn since 1988! The new herd, centered at Olancha Peak, contains ten ewes and four rams.

“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.

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.