The other day I was riding into work with some coworkers when we saw a bighorn sheep, casually walking on the side of the road as if he does it all the time!
I have lived all my life in Arizona and I've NEVER seen a bighorn sheep in the wild. I've only ever seen bighorn sheep at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum (which, if you've never been, you should definitely pay them a visit).
We were driving on Highway 86, near the base of Kitt Peak when we saw him. And although we were near the base of a mountain, I certainly didn't expect to see a bighorn wandering around in the desert.
We had been driving in a construction area and there were several vehicles in front of us with flashing lights, so we were of course, driving very slowly. There was no one behind us, so after only a second or two of wide-eyed deliberation, we decided to put the car in reverse to get a better look.
We didn't think we were going to see him again, but then he popped up again, although he was much further away.
I only managed one other decent photo while hanging out the side of my window.
A close up.
A close up of the close-up.
I found these charts on the Bureau of Land Management's Webpage:
|Class||Sex||Age in Years||Class||Sex||Age in Years|
I think our guy was in fact, a male, between the ages of 8 and 16!
I posted the photo on my Casa On And Off The Rez Facebook Page and it started a very interesting discussion.
#1. My husband shared a family story I had never heard before. He said his Dad hit one with his car once. The sheep fell to the ground, lay stunned for a few seconds, then got up, shook its head, then walked off. I told his Dad about the bighorn spotting the other day and he shared the same story. It put a dent in the car, but the sheep appeared to be fine!
#2. A friend of mine had seen the same sheep on that same morning and his first instinct was to hunt it down! I was surprised, because I tend to think of other animals as food, such as deer or rabbits, but I've never seen or even heard of a bighorn sheep outside of the Sonoran Desert Museum before, so the thought of eating one never popped in my mind.
#3. I sent the photos to my brother. He isn't on Facebook and the response I got from him keeps making me laugh. First of all, he was very interested because he had suspected there were bighorns on Kitt Peak, but he's never seen them. We went back and forth about bighorns for a while, then he told me that he's shot two in his lifetime. This was part of our conversation:
(I don't have his name saved under "Bro," I changed it for his privacy, because he's hyper about that sort of thing).
He gave me a recipe for Bighorn Sheep. Ha! As if I were going to go take a shotgun and chase it down.
Uh... need I remind you... I was on my way to work? I think bringing a dead bighorn sheep to an office building miiiiiight be frowned upon. Sorry dude, I guess I won't get to try that recipe anytime soon.
I did a google search for Bighorn Sheep on the Tohono O'odham Nation since I didn't really know a lot about them. I found some interesting information about them on the Arizona Game and Fish Department's website. Apparently, there are only 20 gaming licenses distributed per year for Bighorn Sheep.
Yes, my brother always gets the required permits for everything. In fact, last year he stood me up for a birthday party because he was "finally picked for the Elk Hunting lottery!" or something along those lines.
Also, I came across this proposal for wildlife crossings in that area. It's a surprisingly interesting report, but I don't know what the status of it is. Kitt Peak Wildlife Linkage Proposal As I mentioned earlier, we WERE driving in a construction zone, but I hadn't heard of them ACTUALLY implementing a wildlife crossing.
Bighorn Sheep have been on the Protected Species List, and there are MULTIPLE agencies that are dedicated to bighorn conservation. This page had a lot of interesting links, and I liked their name: Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society
Everyday since I first saw him, I've been keeping an eye out, hoping for lightening to strike twice. I don't think it's going to happen, but it was really a thrilling moment, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled anyway.
The desert is a beautiful and really, really, REALLY interesting place. We're so lucky to live where we do!