Desert Bighorn Sheep at Valley of Fire State Park

12/01/2012 Update: On a trip to Valley of Fire State Park with visiting company we encountered a small herd of six Desert Bighorn Sheep (Fig. 01), just outside the park’s western entrance. Though average herd size is 8-10, this was the first time I have seen a herd this large out in the wild for quite a while (Fig. 02). Ironically, just this past week we encountered four hunters leaving the Buffington Pockets area in the Muddy Mountains about five miles south of here that had just ‘bagged’ a rather large Bighorn Sheep. I was surprised to learn that the state issues a limited number of hunting tags for Desert Bighorn Sheep each spring.
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03/22/2012 Trip Notes: Today I made a pass through the Valley of Fire State Park on a hiking expedition to the Buffington Pockets with the rock-hounds from the Henderson Heritage Park’s Senior Facility. Just after we entered the park from its western entrance, we came upon a lone, emaciated Bighorn Sheep (Fig. 03) that looked to be on the verge of starvation. As these can be such beautiful animals, it was really sad to find one in such poor condition. From his condition, it was obvious that he had suffered more than one winter in the park with a lack of adequate food and water. Bighorn sheep graze on grasses and browse shrubs, particularly in fall and winter, and seek minerals at natural salt licks. The bottom two images (Figs. 04 & 05) show him munching on the remains of some rather dead and dried up roadside vegetation, a very sparse diet for such a large animal. In talking with some of the park rangers at the visitor center, they were well aware of him and noted that he has been a park "regular" for many years.