Volunteers are needed for a major bighorn sheep drinker replacement



Volunteers are needed for a major work project to replace the Old Dad Bighorn Sheep Guzzler inside the Mojave National Preserve the weekend of Oct. 4-6. The project will replace three water tanks and the collection pipe that feed this critically important water source for the Old Dad herd of bighorn sheep.

Historically, this mountain range held few sheep because there were no permanent water sources, and only occasional wandering rams used the range. The Department of Fish and Wildlife added the Old Dad guzzler and others in the area that gave sheep permanent water sources in this rich habitat and it became one of the largest desert sheep herds in California, used in the past for capture and relocation efforts to restore other historic herds.

Old Dad Peak is a limestone mountain and stays cooler than surrounding mountain formations, making it an ideal lambing area. But until water sources were added, the range could not be used year-around.

The guzzler needs complete replacement if it is to continue to support this herd of sheep, and the project will take place two miles inside of wilderness that was created after the drinker was constructed. While no vehicles can drive to the site, all of the tanks and materials will be carried by helicopter to the location.

Volunteers will need to be able to hike the arduous two miles to the site with a 1,700-foot elevation gain up a steep, rugged canyon, and then plan on a full day of work at the site each day. All volunteers should also plan to carry their own lunch, snacks, and drinking water to the work site each day they help.

Coordinating the effort are the volunteers for the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, and the group’s Scott Gibson issued a second plea for more volunteers for this major effort early this week.

“We are still in need of more people to help,” said Gibson. “New tanks and piping have been staged at the National Park Service yard in Baker, and the helicopter is confirmed to arrive in camp on the Saturday, October 5th. We just need more help.”

Gibson said people interested in helping should call him at 909-210-0548 in the evenings or via e-mail at scottygibson@gmail.com.

The camp site and staging area is located 24 miles southeast of Baker just off Kelbaker Road. Most volunteers will be camping at the staging area, and there will be a caravan of four-wheel drive vehicles to the wilderness boundary where the hike to the work site will begin each day.

There are currently three 2000-gallong plastic tanks at the site and they are decades old and about the age where leaks and breakages start to occur. One of these tanks is already empty, and it will be removed first by the helicopter. The first of the new 3000-gallon tanks will be hauled in and set onto the footprint of the removed tank. Then the water in the two remaining old tanks will be pumped into the new tank. Those two tanks removed and the two new 3000-gallon tanks. A new four-inch pipe will be run from the collection dam (which will also have repairs, as needed) to the tanks. The old collection pipe was two-inches in diameter and not adequate to take advantage of monsoon rains in the summer, allowing much of the runoff to go down the desert canyon instead of into the tanks.

The DFW and national park service will have adequate tools helicoptered to the site to do all the work needed, so volunteers just need to wear appropriate clothing and boots and have gloves and sun protection. Volunteers with other questions, can contact Gibson.

Chronic Wasting Disease

deer sampling will expand

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has infected deer and elk herds around much of the West, but California’s deer and elk have remained disease free. To stay that way, the Califonia Department of Fish and Wildlife is increasing the scope of its monitoring and testing for 2019.

“While California has never had a report of CWD [in the state’s herds], increased testing is needed to establish with a high degree of certainty that there are no deer with CWD in California,” said Brandon Munk, a CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian. “Keeping this disease out of our state is a top priority, both for wildlife managers and for hunters.”

The DFW is redoubling its efforts this year and in the coming years after a CWD positive meat was found coming from out of state last year.

DFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory has set an ambitious goal to test 600 deer statewide during this year’s hunting seasons and increasing that number to 2,000 statewide in the upcoming years.

Continued hunter cooperation will be a key to achieving the CWD deer testing goals. DFW will set up check stations during the various deer seasons, and hunters will be asked to bring their deer in for the quick removal of a lymph node for testing. CWD testing of hunter-taken deer is voluntary, and no meat is taken.

Information about specific locations and times of operation of CWD check stations in each of the state’s deer zones and control hunt areas will appear on DFW’s website. Hunters can also contact regional DFW offices to get check station schedules. Some offices may also offer onsite deer testing.

Some professional meat processors and butchers throughout the state are also partnering with DFW to take samples from deer at the hunter’s request. Hunters who may be unable to visit a check station or DFW regional office for sampling are encouraged to ask their butcher ahead of time if sampling is available at the time of processing.

CWD is always fatal to deer and elk, and is an ongoing concern for hunters and managers throughout the country. Once CWD enters a herd, it is nearly impossible to eradicate. Although there are no known cases of CWD being transferred to humans, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends not consuming meat or organs from any animal that tests positive for CWD.


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

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