The Bighorn of Death Valley

The Bighorn of Death Valley

The Bighorn of Death Valley

The Bighorn of Death Valley


This study was begun inadvertently during our first visit to Death Valley in January, February, and March of 1950.

The Nelson bighorn was being featured in the National Park Service interpretive programs as "one of our most interesting mammals, that crosses from one mountain range to another in the vicinity of Badwater."

The complete absence of any further information about them aroused our interest to the extent that we spent 6 weeks of our time in an increasingly determined effort to see at least one of the elusive creatures if it was at all possible.

We gave up the search with the warm weather of April and decided to apply ourselves to the literature on the Nelson bighorn during the summer and thus acquaint ourselves with its habits and be prepared for a more intelligent search the next winter.

But we discovered that there was, practically speaking, no established body of literature on the species available anywhere. This heightened our interest to the extent that we spent a major part of the next two winters in a fruitless effort to learn something about the bighorn.

We could find no one who knew where to look for them, what they ate, when they had lambs, when the famous fights between rams took place, or anything of the phases of their life history. Such information would be expected to be common knowledge in an area which was a sanctuary for these animals and for all natural features of the desert.

Their behavior and whereabouts became such a mystery that we began to wonder if there were actually any of them left. The fact that during this entire period we had not talked to a single person who had seen a sheep in several years added considerable substance to this idea.

Finally, in March 1952, we found one Nelson bighorn ewe in Echo Canyon and were able to observe her for an hour as she climbed the canyon wall to the tip of the highest peak.

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