December 20, 2005

Desert bighorn ewes may be farmed out

Victorville Daily Press

BARSTOW — Fifteen ewes from a thriving herd of desert bighorn sheep in Mojave National Preserve may be moved to rebuild a dwindling herd 100 miles away in the China Lakes Naval Air Weapons Station area near Ridgecrest.

"We have a healthy population of bighorns in the preserve, but the herd at China Lake is small and consists of only 17 rams and two ewes," Old Dad Mountain preserve spokesman James Woolsey said.

California's Department of Fish and Game said the preserve's bighorn population numbers about 250. The department proposes capturing up to 15 ewes in the Old Dad Mountain area for relocation to Eagle Crags, to correct the imbalance between rams and ewes, officials said.

"If that ratio is as low as our data now suggests, we need to reverse the trend," said Vern Bleich, senior environmental scientist and project manager.

In August, the sudden deaths of five endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep sparked worries among scientists that there might be a major die-off that could wipe out the bighorn population near Palm Springs.

In the Victor Valley, bighorn populations appear to be doing well, according to recent reports. A population of 30 to 50 bighorns lives in the mountains above Lucerne Valley.

Bighorns also live in the upper San Gabriel Mountains near Wrightwood.