Bighorn sheep come too close for comfort

bighorn vid

PALM DESERT, Calif. - In just one week, animal control rescued a bighorn sheep from a canal at PGA West in La Quinta. Days later, a small herd of sheep were spotted on Avenue 52, also in La Quinta.

Jim DeForge and Aimee Byard of the Bighorn Institute in Palm Desert said although the bighorns can be an exciting sight, seeing them this close is not good. 

"You don't normally have them in a herd of 20 nose to nose like that and when you have that you have disease concerns because if one animal is sick that disease can spread very quickly nose to nose contact," said Byard.

"It's an unfortunate thing for the sheep as well as the community because it leads to the demise of the sheep usually," added DeForge.

Bighorn sheep are an endangered species -- not meant to graze golf courses and roam the road.

"I think it's important to realize that the sheep don't need the golf courses," said Byard. "They are adapted to live in this harsh desert environment. They have all the food and water they need in the mountains. Yes, it's a horrible drought but they will survive and this is survival of the fittest."

But, they may not survive if they can't get the bighorn sheep back up in the mountains and off local golf courses and streets. According to Byard, there needs to be a fence built eight feet high along the mountain foothills in La Quinta to keep them out of the golf courses from SilverRock down to The Quarry.

The city of La Quinta and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission have two years to build a barrier to keep the sheep off the golf courses and in their natural habitat. 

However, DeForge says two years may not be soon enough. 

"Unfortunately, two years we could have a lot of deaths from that and hopefully no humans involved in this because they cross streets in front of people now and it has become a dangerous situation," he concluded.

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