Tag Archives: wild sheep foundation

Water Drops Saving Nevada’s Desert Bighorns

Nevada is a facing an intense drought.

Southern Nevada in particular is in the grips of one of the worst droughts in decades, along with much of the Western United States.

While researching the drought for a series of articles on about its impact on wildlife, I noticed something.

The area I photographed this beautiful desert bighorn in Jan. 2020 for our Sheep Scrapbook Project was facing some of the worse conditions. Having a love for that part of the world, I dug deeper.

A desert bighorn ram (with an ear tag) photographed by the author in Nevada in 2020.

What I found out is the drought conditions are so bad in fact, officials with the Nevada Department of Wildlife are dropping water from helicopters to “guzzlers” set in the desert for bighorns and other wildlife.

Guzzlers collect water from rain and concentrate it in a water trough for animals to use during particularly arid conditions.

The following are my questions about the project and answers from Doug Nielsen, Public Affairs/Conservation Education Supervisor with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

A herd of bighorns at a guzzler. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

(Chester Moore) How much water was brought to the guzzlers?

(Doug Nielsen) Between June 2 and July 14, the department hauled 71,846 gallons of water to 20 different water developments or guzzlers. Most of those are in the extreme Southern Nevada area, but a couple are near Tonopah in the Central part of the state.  In 2020, that number was 167,000 gallons and it was distributed among 30 guzzlers.

How was the water put into the individual guzzlers?

Basically, the water is ferried by helicopters using a Bambi Bucket like those used to fight wildland fires. The helicopter pilot dips the bucket into a portable water storage tank and then flies the water into the remotely located guzzler. At the guzzler, the pilot drops the water into a fol-da-tank and from there it is pumped into the storage tank of the guzzler. In past years the water was dropped onto an apron, but this new method saves water and is much more efficient.

A water drop at a guzzler in the southern Nevada desert. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

How many sheep in the area could potentially be impacted?

The hardest hit area at the time was the Muddy Mountain-Black Mountain complex. Between the two ranges there are approximately 900 sheep, the largest concentration of sheep in the state.

A big desert bighorn ram visits a guzzler. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

How does this drought compare to the 1996 drought there and the ones in 01-02 timeframe?

I spoke with Pat Cummings, field biologist in the Southern Region, and he said the two years of severe back-to-back drought are far worse than that of 1996. We had no monsoonal weather flow in 2019 or 2020, and any other rain storms were almost nonexistent. Though we had some monsoonal moisture in July, he said it is premature to consider Southern Nevada as being out of the drought. Some recharge of the water developments and springs has taken place, but there are still areas of significant concern. Those include the Hiko, Specter, Bare and McCullough mountain ranges.

In 2020 we went 240 days without measurable precipitation. So far in 2021, we have had only 13 days with rain and 2.8 inches of rain.

(Thanks to Doug for providing us with the great information and photos.)

This is the U.S. Drought Monitor’s drought map as of Aug. 12. You can see most of the West is in extreme drought. The dark red portions are considered “significant drought” which is above the extreme phase. Get full details here.

This is truly a monumental conservation effort and if the drought in Nevada continues, more water drops will certainly be necessary. Desert bighorns can drink up to a gallon a day and then you factor in other wildlife’s water demands and you can see the tremendous problem drought is causing in the wild lands of the American west.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife is doing all they can to conserve wild sheep under these challenging conditions as are other states facing similar scenarios.

We can do our part by supporting groups that offer support like The Wild Sheep Foundation and Nevada Bighorns Unlimited who help support sheep through funding, research and manpower efforts that aid state, federal and tribal agencies.

These are special animals and during this trying time all of who have a heart for them need to do our part to ensure their survival in all areas.

Chester Moore

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.

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.