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Volunteers needed for bighorn sheep drinker installation on marine base


The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) needs volunteers to help with the installation of its ninth bighorn sheep drinker on the Twentynine Palms Marine Corp Base. The project will begin the evening of Thursday, Jan. 3, and continue at least through Saturday, Jan. 5, but might last to Sunday, Jan. 6.

“If you haven't participated in any of the other projects, this is a great experience to see the DoD’s stewardship of the land. Some limited areas are heavily impacted, but other areas -- like where we will be building -- have seen very little disturbance, probably even less than most BLM lands. Overall, I would say there is more protected land than disturbed land,” said Steve Marschke, president of SCBS.

This is a real opportunity to see a part of the Mojave Desert that is rarely seen by civilians, and do some good work in the process.

Volunteers must RSVP no later than Wednesday, Dec. 19 and provide some basic information for a base background check. No one will be allowed on the base without the proper paperwork. You can get more information from either Steve Marschke at or John and Linda Roy at

Most of the volunteers who do this work are hunters who are dedicated to bighorn sheep restoration, even in places where hunting is not allowed. There is no hunting allowed at the Twentynine Palms base, but this is the nine wildlife watering source they will install on the base. Marschke, however, noted that all volunteers are welcome -- even if you aren’t a hunter.

These water sources are critical to the maintenance and expansion of desert sheep populations in the Mojave. Between livestock diseases, long-term drought, ground water pumping, and human encroachment that eliminated habitat and historic water sites, desert sheep numbers declined to very low levels by the middle of the last century. But the addition of these man-made water catchments, storage tanks, and drinkers have led to a dramatic increase in sheep numbers over the past 40 years.

One of the most famous of these success stories in California is the Old Dad Mountain complex (now part of the Mojave National Preserve). Prior to the addition to man-made water sources in this area, bighorn sheep only moved through the region in transition to other areas. Today, it is one of the most robust herds of desert sheep in California and has been used as seed stock for captures and relocations to other mountain ranges where sheep disappeared. And all that happened simply because of the addition of permanent water.

Deer hunters must submit harvest

reports even if no deer was taken

California deer hunters have until January 31 to fill out a harvest report and return it to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The report must be completed whether or not you killed a deer during the 2018 season -- and even if you didn’t hunt.

This requirement has been in place since 2015, but beginning in 2016, the Department levied a penalty against hunters who did not file a harvest report. The fee was assessed before they could apply again for a tag.

The harvest report may be done by returning the bottom portion of the actual deer tag by mail, or it may be done on-line by going to the DFW’s Internet sales website ( The on-line process takes less than five minutes to complete.

Since the program has come on line, two things have happened. First, the number of hunters reporting has increased dramatically. For the 2017 season, fewer than 13,000 of over 180,000 tags went unreported. Second, the DFW has been able to improve the accuracy of its deer harvest data and better estimate population numbers in all of the deer zones, thanks to that improved reporting.

Christmas Bird Count

kicks off next Friday

The National Audubon's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the nation’s longest-running citizen science bird project, collecting a massive volume of data that is now used by scientist around the world.

Over a century’s worth of data has been collected since the project began in 1900, and thanks to the efforts of thousands of volunteers during the Christmas season. It has become a tradition for many families, friends, and communities, and it is seen as an essential “scientific project” conducted by -- well -- you and me. Many bird watchers simply report what they see in their backyards at feeders and in gardens, while others band together at wildlife areas, wetlands, city and county parks, and local lakes to tally the variety of birds they see in a defined area.

This year’s Audubon's 119th Christmas Bird Count will be conducted between the dates of Friday, December 14, 2018 through Saturday, January 5, 2019.

Never participated but would like to find out more? Audubon has a website filled with information on how to get involved, historic data, and photos provided over the years by those counting. Go to


Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.

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