Rutting Season for the Big Horns

A couple of mornings ago, while finishing up the last leg of our 24-mile bike ride, Michael and I paused to allow 2 bighorn rams cross the road and onto the De Anza Golf Course. At the end of the summer, and because the sheep have run out of foliage and water, they are forced to come into contact with humans and graze on the green in the morning hours. There is a herd of at least 30 now and the rams that are not part of the main group, head down separately and are much more aggressive. Instead of crossing the road, this particular ram marched over to Michael with a glare in his eyes, and if I hadn’t intervened with a hiss to startle him, he would have charged. Michael wanted to know why it took me so long? He was clipped in and had nowhere to turn. They were less than 7 ft apart and the ram wasn’t showing any signs of being shy. I was debating on what to do and thought that a noise was better than a visual. So I hissed like I would with a horse, and he flinched and took off at a trot while butting the other ram in frustration. It is rutting season and hormones are raging. We continued home with Michael telling me he could hear him breathing! They deserve our respect.

When I am posting on my blog in the wee hours of dawn, Callie is by my side and her attempts to distract me from my writing- WORK!

Peninsular Bighorn Sheep

In my last post concerning the tarantula, I casually mentioned that I was hoping my sister Gayle and I would be able to see the bighorn sheep while she visited me in Anza-Borrego for my 62nd birthday. We went on a bike ride this morning, and what should we see, but a herd of 30 or more crossing onto the De Anza Golf Course!

First, the dominant collared female descends down from the mountainside and stops in the middle of the road to check for danger. She looks back and forth with her ears twitching and eyes darting and seem so wise and knowledgeable. When it is determined that all is safe, the lambs and yearlings follow down cautiously. When the ram fondly named “Bob” comes up from behind, he can’t help but be noticed as he shows off his magnificent head of horns. He has one horn that has been broken off at the tip and this plus his size and age distinguishes him from the other rams. His head of horns looks so heavy and burdensome, that he barely holds his head up. He is also seen doing what is called “snaking” which is an aggressive stance that is meant to drive the herd forward. He looks menacing and very powerful, and the young males and lambs keep a wide birth. The ewe just stood there and let him nuzzle her for awhile before moving on slowly. She has seen it all before and seemed almost bored with his advances. After he checked her out thoroughly, he stuck his tongue out and sniffed the air while promptly peeing. She had quite an amorous effect on him and it took him awhile before he followed her over to the green grass.

Another ram that was not as mature as the first ram, but big never the less, came down with a solitary ewe shortly afterward, and they deliberately ignored one other as they slowly crossed without mishap. Later, my sister witnessed them walk past each other and then hit horns loudly with sideways, glancing blows off the head. There were some play acting and ramming of heads, but nothing serious took place. It will soon be the rutting season, as this is November, but for now, it didn’t look like much energy was put into it.

How fortunate for us, that we were to be able to see the entire herd move across the street safely and settle down to graze on the golf course at the bottom of the hillside. The golf course is not a good place for these native, desert animals to graze, but it sure filled me with pride and wonder to see them survive in such a hostile environment. They only come down from the mountains when they absolutely have to, and only because their natural foliage has run out. I am pleased beyond words to have seen them today and to acknowledge that the herd has grown in numbers from last year. This is a good sign that the bighorn sheep in this area are once again stable! It is unfathomable to me why trophy hunters would want to decapitate one of these magnificent rams just for their horns!