If you’re lucky, you will soon be able to see not just birds, snakes, lizards, coyote, javelina, and deer but also bighorn sheep when you visit Catalina State Park. If this happens, it will be due not so much to luck of course as to the hard work and dedication of many people including the folks at the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. They are working together on a multi-year project to reintroduce bighorn sheep into the Santa Catalina Mountains. The goal of the current project is to have a population of 110 bighorn sheep in these mountains at the end of a three-year period.
Although bighorn sheep have historically been a part of the Santa Catalina ecosystem, it’s been almost 20 years since they were last seen in the area. Their population died out slowly because of expanding urbanization, increased recreational use of the area by hikers and others, and changes in the environment due to wildfire suppression.
For a number of reasons, experts now think this is a good time to reintroduce bighorn sheep to the Santa Catalina Mountains. They have been encouraged by plans to construct wildlife crossings across Oracle Road linking the Catalina and Tortolita Mountains. Another important factor is the requirement at Catalina State Park and other recreational areas that dogs be leashed at all times. This is important because bighorn sheep view dogs as predators.
This is just one of many interesting things you can learn about bighorn sheep if you attend Arizona State Parks volunteer Richard Boyer’s “Bighorn Basics” talk at the Park. “Park visitors love Richard’s talk. There is a lot of interest in bighorn sheep – and in this project in particular. It’s very exciting to think that we might soon see bighorn sheep at Catalina State Park,” says Park Manager Steve Haas.
For the days and times of Richard’s Bighorn Basics talk, visit the Park’s website at azstateparks.com/Parks/CATA/. You will find more information and can make a gift to financially support the bighorn sheep project at the ADBSS website at www.adbss.org.