By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Darren Sefcik
May 28, 2021 (Borrego Springs) – For the past half-century, teams of volunteers have ventured into rugged terrain amid high heat to count bighorn sheep in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Last year, the count was partially curtailed due to COVID-19, but this year, the count is slated to occur July 1-4.
Back in 2019, the last full census, 273 sheep were observed. But in 2020, with some locations off-limits and counters limited to local residents, only 90 sheep were seen.
If you would like to volunteer, contact coordinator Michael Puzzo at ABSheepcount@Parks.ca.gov. You’ll need to fill out a reservation form and attend an orientation June 19 from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m. at the Steele/Burnand Desert Research Center, 401 Tilting T Drive in Borrego Springs.
The county is done in summer, when hot weather drives bighorn down to lower elevations for water, where they can be more easily observed.
Though last year marked the 50th year of counting sheep in Anza-Borrego, the anniversary will be officially recognized this year.
The count presents a rare opportunity for volunteers to view and photograph these elusive desert denizens, also aiding wildlife experts to assess populations of these endangered animals.
The community of Borrego Springs is named for bighorn, after the Spanish word “borrego” meaning sheep.