Category Archives: Bighorns

Social Distancing Can Save Wild Sheep

“Social-distancing” is a term most hope disappears from the lexicon soon. While the concept of keeping a safe distance during the COVID-19 pandemic is wisdom, losing the connection to others is challenging for humanity. For wild sheep, social-distancing is essential.

Domestic sheep and goats can transmit a form of pneumonia to bighorn and thinhorn sheep that is devastating to herds. It is so devastating that more than two million that existed at the time of Lewis & Clark’s expedition declined to around 25,000 by the early 1900s.

“Wildlife agencies and conservation groups have done a remarkable job of bringing them back to around the 150-175,000 range, but there is still a major problem with exposure to domestic sheep. Die-offs are occurring in pockets right now in states like Oregon and Utah,” said Chester Moore, an award-winning wildlife journalist and founder of Higher Calling Wildlife.

Higher Calling Wildlife seeks to raise awareness of mountain and forest wildlife conservation. It also mentors young people dealing with critical illness and traumatic loss to use media for conservation purposes.

One of those young people is Reannah Hollaway, who, through the program and the generosity of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, got to take part in a desert bighorn capture and relocation in 2019.

“I have cystic fibrosis, which affects the lungs, and have had to take special precautions during COVID-19. This gives me a unique understanding of the need for keeping wild sheep and domestic sheep apart. This kind of social-distancing can save bighorns,” she said.

Reannah Hollaway helps put a tracking collar on a desert bighorn at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area courtesy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Higher Calling Wildlife.

Hollaway is a student at Texas Tech and studying to work in the field of wildlife management.

She chose this degree after a wildlife encounter through Higher Calling Wildlife’s mothership, Wild Wishes. This outreach grants wildlife encounters to young people with a critical illness or the loss of a parent or sibling.

To raise awareness of the need for sheep social distancing, Higher Calling WIldlife has begun the Sheep Scrapbook project, which seeks photos taken of wild sheep throughout North America.

Anyone who submits a wild sheep photo to chester@chestermoore.com gets a Sheep Scrapbook Project collector’s coin and a Higher Calling Wildlife decal. Pictures are posted in a gallery at highercallingwildlife.com.

“It’s our way to get people of all backgrounds to think about wild sheep, and the response has been tremendous,” Moore said.

“We’re hoping that when people focus their cameras on sheep, whether in one of our national parks or a hunting or fishing expedition, they can take time to realize these animals are facing a real problem with pneumonia. It’s time all of us who love wild sheep do more to support organizations and agencies searching for ways to keep wild sheep social-distanced from their domestic cousins.”

“Sheep Week” Set The Bar HIgh

As the Wild Sheep Foundation’s (WSF) virtual “Sheep Week: The Experience” ends, I am in awe.

Having just watched an Arizona desert bighorn tag sell for $315,000, many other record tag bids and a week that took digital conservation communication to a new level, hope is alive and well.

That hope is that despite incredible setbacks due to COVID-19 that purpose and innovation can serve as a model for how future challenges can be met in a digital platform.

Everyone, myself included, hopes there will be an in-person “Sheep Show” in Reno, NV next year but if the pandemic continues, WSF officials have proven something impactful can still happen.

While total fundraising results were not available at the time of this writing, it should be anywhere between $4-5 million for the purpose of putting and keep wild sheep on the mountain.

And that of course is extremely important but there’s something else here.

And that is connection.

Among the numerous Zoom meetings, seminars, chat rooms and a very interactive vendor’s expo hall, sheep and mountain hunters from around the world were able to do business, get educated and make friends.

Officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department capture and move sheep at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Translocations are at the hart of sheep recovery. (Photo by Chester Moore)

As a wildlife journalist, I spent much of my time communicating with state and regional biologists and various WSF chapters and state sheep conservation groups.

With the desire to bring the latest in sheep coverage here and via our other media platforms it was great to connect with the people on the ground doing the work and getting the inside story of what’s happneing with wild sheep in North America.

While we humans are battling a pandemic, wild sheep have been contending with one since domestic sheep were brought out West in the 1800s. Pneumonia that is minimally impactful to domestic sheep is devastating to wild sheep and has had an impact at some level everywhere from Canada to Mexico.

Lambs like this Rocky Mountain bighorn lamb from New Mexico are especially susceptible to pneumonia. In fact, once a mother it exposed, most lambs don’t make this long. This is a six month-old lamb. (Photo by Chester Moore)

Conservationists like those involved with WSF and in the state, tribal, and provincial wildlife agencies have taken up the cause. Through population transplants, habitat and domestic sheep grazing management have brought the numbers up to about six-fold from their all-time low of 25,000.

But the problems that impacted sheep in the 1800s are still there and without conservation efforts of sheep hunters there would be little hope for these truly majestic animals.

It will be exciting to see the fundraising tally that will help so many states and provinces manage their wild sheep.

But in my opinion, an equally powerful victory was keeping the mountain hunting community connected and expanding the reach of WSF’s vision.

Sheep and mountain hunters sometimes crave time alone in the outdoors but need to stay connected to other like-minded individuals. (Photo by Demi Schlageter)

For the first time, the organization has topped 10,000 members, showing that “Sheep Week” was an experience that many found appealing.

That’s a very good thing because many challenges lie ahead for our beloved rams, ewes, and lambs.

“Sheep Week” shined the bright light of hope on them and set the proverbial bar for digital conservation interaction far above the tree line-into sheep country.

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

Wild Sheep Pandemic Spreads

Pneumonia has spread into the Northeast Oregon bighorn sheep herd.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) have determined that the same strain of bacterial pneumonia that caused a die-off in the Lookout Mountain bighorn sheep herd in early 2020 has spread to the Burnt River herd.

The author photographed this bighorn at 12,000 feet in an area where grazing is restricted but these sheep don’t stay here all the time. Moving into grazing areas is highly dangerous. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

ODFW officials reported this is the first-time bacterial pneumonia (caused by the organism Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae) has been identified in the Burnt River herd. 

While I-84 normally separates the herds, bighorn sheep have been known to try to cross the highway. The Lookout Mountain herd ranges north of I-84 and west of Brownlee Reservoir, about 10 miles from the Burnt River Canyon herd, which is south of I-84.

Most concerning of all is that all lambs in the Lookout Mountain herd have died although adult mortality has tapered off.

This latest spread of pneumonia in wild sheep which is caused by exposure to domestic sheep is why I believe the least covered wildilfe tragedy (at the national level) in America is this pandemic.

Exposure to domestic sheep can be deadly for wild sheep.

And it is a pandemic-at least at the level of existing in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

It is what killed nearly two million wild sheep in the 1800s and continues today.

Local news coverage and hunting-based conservation groups are the only ones to touch this topic. When is the last time you saw something about this on a major wildlife television network?

Since wild sheep are managed by many different state, provincial and tribal agencies, few are aware of the myriad outbreaks of pneumonia happening right now.

Even in the Internet age, it can be challenging to know what’s happening in the Yukon for example when you live in Texas.

Alaska’s Dall sheep population has long been seen as bulletproof so to speak due to vast contiguous habitat and strict management.

In 2018 officials however, found bacterial pneumonia in four Dall sheep within a sample of 136 and in two of 39 mountain goats.

Dall sheep have been found with deadly pathogens in Alaska. Although most are in remote areas some do come into contact with domestic sheep.

“The Dall sheep testing positive for M. ovi were all in Game Management Unit 13A; all were taken by hunters and appeared healthy. The mountain goats were live captured and released in Southeast and on the Kenai Peninsula and showed no sign of illness; only samples from goats on the Kenai tested positive,” according to officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“Our initial research has confirmed M. ovi in a small number of Dall sheep and mountain goats in relatively isolated areas of the state,” said Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale.

There have been no reported die-offs but the finding is concerning, especially when you look at what has happened recently in Oregon.

We will continue coverage of the sheep pandemic and also show recovery efforts that have taken sheep numbers far above where they were by their all-time low early in the 20th century.

It’s an important issue and in our corner of the world it will remain at the top of the priority list.

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

Sheep Week Is A Worthy Investment

“Sheep Week” is coming Jan. 11-16.

The Wild Sheep Foundation’s (WSF) annual “Sheep Show” in Reno, NV was cancelled due to COVID-19 like every other sporting expo this winter.

So, instead of throwing in the towel, they came up with what should be the most extensive and unique online wildlife event ever and they’re calling it “The Experience”.

For $50, attendees get access to a week’s worth of live seminars, giveaways, auctions and film premieres along with cutting-edge web-based interaction with vendors from the mountain hunting and conservation community.

Plus, the bulk of this will be archived and accessible for attendees into February.

I was fortunate to attend my first “Sheep Show” last year and was looking forward to the 2021 edition. As a wildlife journalist with a deep interest in wild sheep, I was blown away by the quality of the event, the funds WSF raised for conservation and the generosity of the people involved.

The author checking out a cool Dall sheep mount at the Sheep Show in Reno, NV last year.

I’m signed up and ready for next week and recommend anyone interested in getting involved with wild sheep conservation do the same. The funds will benefit WSF’s goal of “Putting and Keeping Wild Sheep On the Mountain” and that alone makes it a worthy investment.

Wild sheep conservation awareness is a cornerstone of what we do here at Higher Calling Wildlife and we are excited to see what “Sheep Week” brings to the table.

You can learn more and sign up at www.sheepweek.org.

Wild sheep are special creatures that need more help and attention than any other game animals in America, chiefly due to disastrous interactions with domestic sheep that carry a pathogen absolutely fatal to their wild cousins.

Photo by Chester Moore

If you’d like to get involved helping the cause, give “Sheep Week” a try and consider joining The Wild Sheep Foundation.

I have no delusions that I will ever be able to afford to hunt a bighorn or thinhorn, unless I win an auction or drawing. But I have a profound love of these animals for their God-given beauty and majesty unparalleled in North American wildlife.

Sheep conservation is not just for the well-to-do. It’s for anyone who wants to step up to the plate and help. “Sheep Week” is a great starting point.

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

A Tribute To Fallen Sheep Conservationists

While conducting aerial surveys for desert bighorn sheep in West Texas on Saturday, Aug. 8, three Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) employees died in a helicopter crash on TPWD’s Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in Brewster County.

TPWD reported the victims include Wildlife Biologist Dewey Stockbridge, Fish and Wildlife Technician Brandon White, and State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Bob Dittmar.

Photo by Chester Moore.

The pilot, a private contractor, survived the crash and was transported to El Paso for further treatment.

“No words can begin to express the depth of sadness we feel for the loss of our colleagues in this tragic accident,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director.

“These men were consummate professionals, deeply liked and highly regarded by their peers and partners alike for the immense passion, dedication, and expertise they brought to their important work in wildlife management and veterinary medicine.  Wildlife conservation in Texas lost three of its finest as they so honorably and dutifully carried out their calling to help survey, monitor and protect the bighorns of their beloved west Texas mountains.  We will miss Dewey, Brandon, and Dr. Bob deeply and dearly.  All of us at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department send our deepest condolences and sympathies to the Stockbridge, White, and Dittmar families in the wake of this devastating tragedy and continue to pray for the health and recovery of the pilot.”

In a heartfelt statement on the tragedy, the Texas Bighorn Society released the following statement.

We are deeply saddened after hearing about the tragic and unexpected loss of Wildlife Biologist Dewey Stockbridge, State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Bob Dittmar, and Fish and Wildlife Technician Brandon White on Saturday in the Brewster County helicopter accident.  These three respected Texas Parks and Wildlife employees have dedicated their life to desert bighorn and wildlife conservation.  Their commitment and expertise have given us the knowledge we need to succeed in restoring desert bighorn sheep in Texas.  We will always be grateful to these men for their hard work and sacrifice, and we give our sincerest condolences to their families. 

Make no mistake these three men were conservationists in the truest sense of the word. Wild sheep require a higher level of management than any other game species in North America and what they did for these great animals will help ensure viable populations in the future.

Of the three, I only briefly knew Stockbridge who was knowledgable, generous and passionate about the topic of sheep conservation and all wildlife management, especially at Elephant Mountain WMA which he oversaw.

Photo by Chester Moore.

Wild sheep are special animals and the people who work toward their conservation are special people. These men and women work in some of the most inhospitable environments in America and put in countless hours in extreme heat, extreme cold and at extreme elevations.

They are worthy of our respect and in this tragic case, worthy of memorial as an example of deeply committed conservationists.

Our prayers here at Higher Calling Wildlife are with their families, co-workers and the extended family of wildlife conservationists in the Trans-Pecos of Texas and beyond who were impacted by their dedication.

These men helped Texas’ rarest and most regal game animal, the desert bighorn sheep reclaim and sustain habitat lost during much of the 20th century.

Their death saddens us but the actions of their very dedicated lives should serve as inspiration.

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

COVID-19 And The Wild Sheep Decline: An Interesting Parallel

The impact of COVID-19, the coronavirus on humanity, is nothing short of historic.

While the death toll has not and hopefully will not reach the levels of the Spanish flu of 1918, the potential is there, and the grip it has on government, commerce, and private citizens is unprecedented.

That’s why I can’t help but make parallels between COVID-19 and the near-catastrophic decline of wild sheep of the 1800s.

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The author photographed this bighorn at 12,000 feet in an area where grazing is restricted but these sheep don’t stay here all the time. Moving into grazing areas is a highly dangerous proposition. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

When Lewis & Clark set out on their epic expedition, there were around two million wild sheep in North America. By 1900, there were fewer than 25,000 according to some estimates.

And while it would be easy to blame it on unregulated hunting and market killing which no doubt had some impact, by far the biggest killer was pneumonia.

Coming from domestic sheep, it hit wild herds as they co-mingled in the valleys and mountains during the westward expansion of European settlement. Millions of sheep died, and if it were not for conscientious hunters and fish and game departments around the nation, there would likely be no wild sheep left today.

Listen to Chester Moore discuss this issue and give some inspiration on wild sheep conservation at his new podcast “Higher Calling”.

It’s a story few have heard outside of wild sheep hunting and biologist circles, but now is the time.

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Notice the mountains in the background of this sheep lot. Have wild sheep mingled with herds in this area? (Public Domain Photo)

The decline of wild sheep is second only to the government-sponsored bison slaughter in the depth of impact on a species in North America.

Humans are now quarantined, and in effect, bighorns are in many areas.

In 2016, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) officials killed six bighorns because backpackers saw them co-mingling with domestic sheep. The bacterial form of pneumonia can be brought back to the herd and transmitted to lambs.

“When you have the lambs dying, it’s hard to build a population,” said CPW spokesman Joe Lewandowski in The Durango Herald.

“As wildlife managers, we look at populations, not individual animals. In this case, we know an individual animal could spread the disease to the larger herd, and then we have a bigger problem.”

This is not an uncommon practice in wild sheep management.

While translocations, strict herd management, and grazing restrictions have brought sheep numbers continent-wide into the 150-175,000 range, pneumonia is still the most significant threat. Still, there are no specials on Animal Planet or Nat Geo Wild or any other mainstream media outlets. This pandemic has been going on with wild sheep for 150 years, and only the hunting community, fish and game agencies, and biologists seem to care.

The focus should now be on saving people and the economies of the world, but there is space to teach a valuable lesson on wildlife conservation. There has never been a point in recent history where this particular story of wild sheep has such a great chance to touch the hearts of millions of wildlife enthusiasts.

During the downtime from work and school, people are looking for things to occupy their time and inspired, informative media on some of the beautiful animals in North America can help fill some of that void.

That is what this post is all about. I’m doing my best to let people know that when the dust settles on COVID-19 (and me and my family are praying daily that will happen soon), sheep will still have their own pandemic to face.

Concerned conservationists have done a remarkable job building herds throughout North America, but these conservationists are aging quickly, and new blood needs to step up to the plate.

Maybe something good that can come out of this tragedy is that some young person is motivated to get involved with sheep conservation. Perhaps being isolated, afraid of mingling with others and under the potential threat of death itself because of an unseen force will inspire action.

Sheep, of course, have no way to conceptualize these things, but they don’t need to when caring conservationists are in place in fish and game departments, conservation groups, and halls of the legislature.

COVID-19 may be momentarily stealing our freedoms, but it can’t rob the wild and enduring spirit of those thoughtful enough to make a bold stand for bighorns and their thinhorn cousins.

That force is as majestic as the sheep themselves.

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

COVID-19, Wild Sheep & Chester’s New Podcast

Join The Wildlife Journalist® and award-wining conservationist Chester Moore as he discusses the connection between what we are experiencing in this pandemic setting and what nearly wiped out wild sheep in America in the 1800s.

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

Wildlife Journalist Honored For Bighorn Writings

Wildlife journalist Chester Moore has been honored for his writings on bighorn sheep hunting and conservation.

He won first place for the “Outdoors Column ” category in the Texas Outdoor Writers Association Excellence in Craft awards for his bighorn sheep story entitled “New Life For New Mexico’s Bighorns”. The story appeared at Higher Calling and in the Wild Sheep Foundation’s Mountain Minutes newsletter.

Moore at home with his two “Excellence In Craft” awards.

He also received a second place award in the “Feature” category for his “Desert Homecoming” story in Sports Afield that detailed the comeback of Texas’ desert bighorn herd. 

“I’ve been doing a lot on wild sheep, trying to get the word out on their conservation needs and the absolute triumph that hunter-based conservation has been for all wild sheep in North America. It’s a real honor to be recognized for these writings.”

Moore is a staunch supporter of sheep and mountain wildlife conservation is a member of The Wild Sheep Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society as well as the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance. He is also a member of The Houston Safari Club Foundation and National Wild Turkey Federation.

Additionally, in January at the National Wild Turkey Federation-Texas state convention Moore was awarded the “Advocatus Magni” award for his work as an advocate for wild turkey conservation.

Chester won the “Advocatus Magni Award” from the National Wild Turkey Federation for his work as an advocate of wild turkey conservation.

“This is such a tremendous honor,” Moore said.

“Wild turkeys are a passion of mine and I believe if we get turkey conservation right all forest species will benefit. Even wild sheep benefit from certain turkey enhancement projects like controlled burning. To get an award like this is truly inspiring.”

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

TX Bighorn Capture Inspires

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA)—The chuffing sound of helicopter blades sounded faintly in the distance.

As a crowd of biologists and technicians from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), Tech Tech, and Sul Ross University, among others, looked upward, the helicopter appeared.

Flying above the 6,2000-foot peak of Elephant Mountain in this remote area of Brewster County, it looked blurry at first.

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A pair of bighorns is safely brought to the ground as the sun rises over Elephant Mountain in Brewster County, TX. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

But upon approach, details became apparent, and so did it’s cargo.

Two desert bighorn sheep blindfolded and secured in safety gear hung from the helicopter and were soon gently placed on the ground.

After detachment, the ground crew quickly moved the sheep to tables to thoroughly examine them.

They gave the sheep everything from fecal examinations to blood tests and took tiny ear clippings for DNA records.

“I can’t believe I’m getting to see all of this,” said Reannah Hollaway, a first-year wildlife student at Texas Tech.

Reannah is part of our Wild Wishes® program that grants wildlife encounters to youth struggling with critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling.

As a high school senior, Reannah’s initial wish was to encounter sea turtles. But while attending her first school of choice in 2018, she reflected on her wish experience and decided to go into the conservation field.

In fall 2019, she transferred to Texas Tech and now dreams of working on behalf of wildlife.

When TPWD”s Project Leader of Trans Pecos WMAs, Mark Garrett, approached her with a GPS collar in hand, she wasn’t quite sure what was happening.

But as officials brought in a big ram, she realized she was getting to put collar it.

“This will give us much information on its movements and allow us a better understanding of what these sheep are doing after we move them to Black Gap Wildlife WMA,” Garrett said.

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Reannah fits a radio collar on a desert bighorn ram. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

After overcoming a few understandable nerves, Hollaway enthusiastically fitted the collar and watched as the crew moved the ram into a transport trailer.

In the course of the next few hours, she took ear clippings and helped take a blood sample from several ewes.

Desert bighorn sheep restoration in Texas in many ways centers on Elephant Mountain WMA. Donated to TPWD in 1986 for sheep propagation, it has been highly productive for desert bighorns, and when the area reaches carrying capacity, TPWD officials move part of the herd to other locations that could use a population boost.

These efforts supported by groups like the Texas Bighorn Society, Wild Sheep Foundation, and Dallas Safari Club have seen bighorns reach a population of around 1,500 in the Trans Pecos.

And after years of importing sheep from states like Nevada, TPWD offcials are now able to use Texas sheep to stock available habitat.

These ewes are tagged, collared and ready for release at Black Gap WMA. (Photo by Reannah Hollaway)

“It’s exciting to see how so many people have rallied around the bighorn program, and we are always excited to be able to take sheep from one place to another to expand their range in the Trans Pecos,” said Froylan Hernandez Texas desert bighorn program leader.

While scanning the area for photo opportunities, I noticed Reannah looking into one of the transport trailers.

“He’s beautiful, and his number is 8,” she said, referring to the identifying ear tag.

“I think I’ll name him Brian. He looks like a Brian.”

IMG_9475
“Brian” the bighorn-aka No. 8 is trailered and ready to be released at Black Gap WMA. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

The young lady looked at the gorgeous ram in awe, and in her eyes, I could see the same wonder that has kept me enthused about wildlife since I was a little boy.

When business is slow, assignments are challenging, and real-life issues settle in, these moments are what keeps someone who works with wildlife motivated.

As me, my wife Lisa and daughter Faith made the eight-hour trek from Alpine to the Houston area to bring Reannah home; the happenings of the day dominated the conversation.

The sheep were beautiful.

The people were kind and gracious.

The helicopter operation was incredible to witness.

And Reannah getting to take part in this process was unforgettable and inspired a young lady to move forward in her studies and life with enthusiasm.

Ancient pictographs created by first nations people like the Jornada Mogollon of Texas and Fremont Culture of Utah adorn rock walls and caves in the desert Southwest.

sheep-petros-thru-binoculars
Bighorn images inscribed on rocks in Utah by the Fremont culture. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

Among these rock paintings are striking images of bighorn rams.

It is not clear whether these first nations people hunted sheep, but their reverence was evident.

Today desert bighorns still inspire.

Whether it is wildlife journalists like myself, wildlife biologists, hunters, landowners, or an aspiring student like Reannah, these animals leave an imprint on the human spirit.

Their mere presences move us to make the world a better place for sheep and other wildlife.

Chester Moore

The Wildlife Of Elephant Mountain

Last week I had the incredible privilege of visiting Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) south of Alpine, TX.

Benny Benavidez with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) escorted me to the top of Elephant Mountain on a quest to photograph desert bighorn sheep along with mule deer and other wildlife for a series of articles.

There will be a major magazine feature coming soon specifically about the bighorns of Elephant Mountain WMA. I will provide details here upon publication. You can check out my story “Desert Homecoming” about the Texas desert bighorn restoration program in the Nov./Dec. edition of Sports Afield.

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Until then enjoy the above video and a few of the photos I took on this inspirational trip.

This place embodies wildlife conservation and is the epicenter of Texas’ desert bighorn sheep restoration.

big mule deer doe
A desert mule deer doe showed no fear as we drove up the mountain. Be on the lookout for a special report on Texas mule deer coming soon here at Higher Calling. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

young mule deer buck
We saw numerous young mule deer bucks on and around the mountain. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

javelina
This javelina (collared peccary) was super shy but I managed to at least get this photo. These animals are one of the most unique animals in Texas and common in the Trans Pecos. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

rams on elephant mountain
This was what the trip was all about. I managed to get numerous photos of this herd of bighorns. This herd of one big ram, a bunch of ewes and a few lambs is about half of what the entire Texas population was in 1976. Texas now has around 1,500 bighorns which is a great tribute to the hard work of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and groups like the Texas Bighorn Society and The Wild Sheep Foundation. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Again, I will have a major magazine feature on Elephant Mountain in the coming months and will post details here. I will also have more from this trip before year’s end.

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Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.