Tag Archives: desert bighorn sheep

The Epic American Drought And Wildlife

What’s happening across the Western United States is frightening.

As a wildlife conservationist, seeing the words “significant drought” over 1/3 of the Mountain West is beyond concerning. “Significant” is the designation above extreme.

It’s like the Spinal Tap amplifier that goes to 11 instead of 10.

Most of the rest of that region is in extreme drought with everything else in some level of drought conditions even after a monsoon season that provided rain to some areas in southern New Mexico and Arizona.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife has been dropping water to guzzlers in the desert to ensure desert bighorn sheep have water. We covered that here.

Without it, many of these sheep and other wildlife would die.

(Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

Now wildlife officials in Utah are looking to drop water in guzzlers at Antelope Island State Park in Utah’s Great Salt Lake as fresh water sources in the higher elevations preferred by the sheep are drying up.

Arizona, one of the nation’s driest states, has been hauling water during droughts for years will haul more than three million gallons in 2021. There saguaro cactus is beginning to die-off which will have a ripple effect on wildlife.

This drought is reflected in big way in wildfires.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 4,384,403 acres have burned so far in 2021. That’s compared to 2,919,926 acres in 2020 and we still have a couple of months of fire season.

A wildfire in New Mexico. (Photo US Forest Service)

We’re even starting to see some health issues with wildlife. An example is in Washington where 38 deer in Washington have tested positive for deadly blue-tongue. That state has been one of the hardest hit, especially in the area of temperature.

Some will argue, these are natural cycles and wildlife will just have to deal with it.

That’s a lame way of looking at things.

The wildscapes of our nation are anything but natural. We have dammed rivers, cut off travel corridors, restricted natural fire which makes healthier forest and breeds these super fires that are blazing right now and developed many of the best riparian areas.

That means we have a responsibility to aid wildlife when things we can’t control like temperature make a negative impact.

At the Wild Sheep Foundation’s (WSF) 13th Chapter and Affiliate (C&A) Summit in Lewistown, Idaho (June 25 & 26), a hat was passed to raise money to bring water to drought-stressed desert bighorn sheep herds in southern Nevada. 

A mature desert bighorn ram visiting a guzzler in southern Nevada. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

By the end of the C&A Summit according to WSF’s Keith Balfourd, eighty-two thousand dollars was raised.

This figure is now up to an incredible $182,000 from generous WSF chapters, affiliates, and individual WSF members.

That is difference-making money in the drought stricken Nevada desert and shows the kind of efforts we will have to make if this drought persists.

Forecasts shows this drought continuing until at least late fall.

We will continue our coverage and let you know where you can help in this situation.

In the meantime, let’s pray for rain and creative strategies to help wildlife in a trying time.

Chester Moore

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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.)

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.