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CONSERVE & PROTECT

CONSERVE & PROTECT

DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP

LEADERS IN CONSERVATION

Utah’s 1st Bighorn Sheep Nursery Herd

Skyrider takes another step to preserve wildlife in the West.

Skyrider Wilderness Ranch is located just outside of Tabiona, Utah, and its pinon forests and rocky bluffs are home to thriving populations of native animals and fragile ecosystems. The ranch is also home to the D. Gary Young Wildlife Sanctuary, a conservation easement donated to The Nature Conservancy in 2019, which includes over 18 square miles of critical wildlife habitat and protected land areas which are the natural migration paths of both wild elk and deer populations.

Skyrider Ranch land, houses a unique high-fence area, previously used for domesticated elk.  For years, the Ranch has been a destination hunting outfitter. Wildlife enthusiasts have visited from around the globe to be part of the guided game hunts. Conservation has always been at the core of the Skyrider Ranch’s hunts, but now, conservation will move the ranch in a new direction as Utah’s first Desert Big Horn Sheep Nursery. In a first-of-its-kind partnership with the state of Utah and Nevada, the ranch has ended its hunting operation and converted the high-fence elk space to be a habitat for a nursery herd of Desert bighorn sheep, relocated from Nevada.

Conservationists throughout the west are searching for ways to support the Bighorn Sheep and create opportunities to improve the health and longevity of herd populations. Phil Crowther, Director of the Domesticated Elk program for the state of Utah, is one of the people seeking a long-term solution for bighorn sheep survival in the west. His thinking spurred the idea for the bighorn sheep project at the Skyrider Ranch. In this new approach, sheep will be moved from their current habitat, where they are potentially at risk for disease and death, to the protected location on Skyrider Ranch. Once the herd is healthy, sheep will be placed in weaker herds across the west to help improve overall health of the species.

Several features make the Skyrider Wilderness Ranch the ideal location for this endeavor. The ranch. The property plays a pivotal role to native wildlife, serving as a migratory corridor to the large herds of elk and deer that pass between winter and summer ranges, along with mountain lion, bear, and the struggling greater sage grouse population. With a model for conservation partnership already in place and a perfectly suited environment, the ranch is an ideal location for the location of the Nursery herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep.

The high-fence area the ranch has for its domestic elk is ideal for supporting the bighorn sheep herd; it will protect them from some of their greatest threats while allowing them to be protected in a natural habitat with the high cliffs and bluffs where their species can thrive.

Young Living CEO Mary Young and a team of Young Living farm managers decided that ending commercial hunting on the property to help preserve the bighorn sheep population is directly in line with the conservation efforts that founder D. Gary Young had in mind when he started the ranch many years ago.

Government and Young Living leaders alike hope this partnership serves as a model for other organizations. Commitment to conservation and protection of nature and wildlife are core to Young Living’s values,  they hope other business leaders can find ways to leverage property and resources in support of protecting wildlife, natural resources and ecosystems regardless of their operational goals.

LATIN NAMES (DESERT, PENINSULAR, SIERRA NEVADA, ROCKY MOUNTAIN)

Given the Latin name Ovis canadensis nelsoni, the Desert Bighorn is one of three living Bighorn sheep species and is also one of the smallest. Adult males can weigh over 200 pounds with up to 15 pounds held in each horn. Ewes weigh a little less at around 150-200 pounds with shorter horns characterized by only a slight curvature. Unlike ewes, horns borne by the rams can grow larger than three feet, curling close to the face with an outward flare. These horns on both males and females are used as tools for food and fighting.

The Desert Bighorn Sheep reside in areas of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and southern California, with a large population located in northern Mexico.

LIFESPAN

They can live 9-10 years on an opportunistic diet that adapts to the forage available during any given season. They’re favorite shrubs are sweetbush, catclaw, krameria and acacia.

SIZE

Desert Bighorn can stand 3-3 1/2 feet tall and are colored with a chestnut brown fur, much lighter than that of their cousins, the Rocky Bighorns. With sharp eyesight, sense of smell and remarkable hearing, the Desert Bighorn are equipped to escape harm from nearby predators like wolves, mountain lions and coyotes. Lambs (young bighorn) who are less than one year of age, have been known to be preyed upon by Eagles. It is during the lambs first year of life that their mothers teach them the home range in which they are safe and also behaviors that will protect them.

Forage/water competition with domestic livestock, Disease transmission from domestic livestock, herbicide/insecticides, climate change increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall are continuing to devastate bighorn sheep populations.

Range/Habitat

Desert bighorn sheep occur throughout the desert regions of the Southwest and Mexico.

Population

There are fewer than 70,000 bighorn sheep in North America. The Desert Bighorn Sheep population number about 1500.

Behavior

Bighorn sheep live in herds or bands of about 5 to 15 ewes, lambs, yearlings, and juveniles. Groups of males are much smaller, usually numbering two to five. In the winter, the ewe herds join to create bands of as many as 100 animals. In the fall, rams compete for ewes by having head-butting contests. They charge each other at speeds of more than 20 mph, their foreheads crashing with a crack that can be heard more than a mile away. Older rams exhibit considerable horn damage after a few years of these contests

Reproduction

Lambs are born with a soft, woolly, light-colored coats and small horn-buds. Within a day, a lamb can walk and climb as well as its mother. A lamb will stay with its mother for the first year of its life.

Mating Season: November and December

Gestation: 5-6 months

Offspring: 1 lamb

Diet

During the summer, bighorn forage on grasses or sedges, and in the desert regions, barrel cactus. During the winter bighorn feed more on woody plants, such as willow, sage and rabbit brush.

YOU CAN HELP

100% of your proceeds go to conserving & protecting the BIGHORN sheep.