The Southern California desert's major water bodies are drying up as a result of the protracted drought, impacting the hydration and vegetation of the Bighorns. The scarcity of water-bound locations is limiting the movement not just to find water but to mate as well, which is opening doors to inbreeding depression. A new initiative seeks to remedy this potential threat against the Desert bighorn population.
The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep is setting up 90 permanent watersheds and watering holes for bighorn sheep and other wildlife in key areas spanning eastern Riverside, San Bernardino, and Inyo counties. According to a Palm Springs-based ecologist and author, James Cornett, installing artificial water sources is taking advantage of every opportunity possible to help the fading Desert Bighorn population.
The Project Areas
The Mojave Desert in eastern San Bernardino County will host up to 58 rain catchers, 21 across Inyo County, and 11 in the Chuckwalla Valley region of Riverside County. Each site will have one or two underground storage tanks that can hold up to 2,300 gallons of water. The budget for installation and maintenance per station is estimated at $40,000. The SCBS will also install rain catchers to expand the range of dependable water sources available. The project’s main challenges will be to set up and maintain the water systems, provide bighorn sheep with safe access in distant desert places through helicopters, and train volunteers to ensure safe operations without disturbing the local flora and fauna.
The initiative is not a band-aid remedy to solve the current problem caused by the ongoing drought, but rather a long-term solution to protect animals. Today, only around 10% of the Desert Bighorns that were present before Western civilization remains. The proposal aims to safeguard the bighorn sheep population in Southern California for the long run.
The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep has negotiated a $140 per year and 10-year lease on state lands to place these stations and will be driving the initiative in collaboration with The California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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