Bighorn Sheep (Ovis Canadensis nelsoni) are native to the desert slopes of San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial Counties in southern California. They eat a wide variety of native desert plants, including cacti, and prefer open, rugged desert habitats. Big Horn Sheep are good climbers and have excellent vision to keep them on the lookout for predators like mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and golden eagles. Male Bighorn Sheep are called “rams” while females are called “ewes”.
California State law has protected the Bighorn Sheep since 1971. In 1998 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed it as an endangered population. Threats to the Bighorn Sheep include habitat loss, drought, human impacts, and mountain lion predation.
Did you know? They can tolerate the extreme temperatures of the desert and can last two to three days without a drink of water.
When you visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, be on the lookout for the Bighorn Sheep traversing the rocky hillsides above or the alluvial fans and sandy washes below.
PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Field, SDNHM