Just another day of biking in Borrego Springs

I can’t help but brag about today’s sighting of Pennisular Bighorn Sheep. We have a herd of about 20,very healthy bighorn sheep that come down from the highlands in order to graze on the De Anza Golf Course. It becomes harder to find good grazing after the long dry summer months, and it isn’t until they literally run out of food, that they are forced to cautiously head down in search of something to eat and this forces them to come into contact with humans. There are several mature ewes or females that lead the way and they seem so wise and calm and have collars on their necks for tracking. The males, or rams, follow behind with their heads held low and heavy from varying degrees of horn size and curvature and some of the younger males rear up and collide with each other in play. The young males are the most mischievous and seem itching for a fight. You can tell it is difficult to keep the young males in line. We heard the collision of two such juveniles playfully ram each other while prancing down the trail, and the impact they made was loud and reverberated throughout the canyon walls.  The young lambs are the last to come down off the mountain and they look like they have never seen a human before and are frightened and stare wth intensity. It is rutting season right now so the big males will fight for the right to breed and it is the stronger, older males that have access to the females. One particularly big horned ram followed the collared ewes and snaked his head back and forth and nipped at the females just like a stallion horse behaves. We were on our bikes and had separated the herd in half with the big males and older females on one side of the road and the young on the other side. We stopped our bikes and waited for most to cross and when it looked like the herd was going to panick and go back up the hillside, we biked as fast as we could without making eye contact, through the split herd while one brave and calm ewe kept an eye on us and the yong ones. It is so amazing to watch these wild animals navigate the desert flora and manage to do so and thrive. This  herd looks very healthy and I am proud to live among them. I know there are clashes between the sheep and the country club dwellers and hope that compromise is the goal. The sheep were here long before we were and it is our water features and grass on the golf course that entices them to come into contact with us. We provide something green to eat when the scorching summer has dried out all the grasses and shrubs. Our golf course gives them a last chance location to graze before the autumn rains start again and they head back up to the higher elevations. At any rate, it was a good day for a bike ride, and a better day for the sheep. It rained inland today and I hope the rains come soon for the desert and all it’s flora and fauna…

The dominant ram is snaking his head toward the collared ewe… The ram’s horn is broken on his right side from battle!

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