The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) are looking for volunteers to assist biologists with a bighorn sheep count in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties at the end of February (February 29 through March 1st). It’s the last weekend of the month, and the event will go on Saturday evening and all day Sunday.
As with most of these surveys, there is no experience necessary (although I’m going to go ahead and say you’ve got to be able to count…), and you’ll learn everything you need to know about how the count is conducted at a mandatory orientation that’ll be held Saturday, February 29. The orientation will take place at the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Arcadia. Space is limited and these volunteer spots go pretty quickly.
Volunteers will get in an early morning guided hiking opportunity on Sunday in the San Gabriel Mountains that will take you to one of the designated observation sites.
They say that participants must be “capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain.” While this is a good baseline, keep in mind that big horn sheep don’t live in easily accessible areas, and the last time I volunteered to count ‘em, the route was longer than a mile, not on a trail, and there was some boulder scrambling involved. Dress appropriately, as there is chaparral in the San Gabriels, and you’re going to be lucky enough to be led off-trail to some pretty scenic spots!
From the CDFW website:
“Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable, and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.”
In other words: wear good hiking shoes and dress warmly – it’s cold out there!
Historically, these surveys have been going on annually for 40 years – this is the 41st year! When they first started, it was estimated that there were around 740 sheep, making the San Gabriel population the largest in California. The population declined quite a bit in the 1980s. We’ve been seeing a resurgence over the past few years, with the most recent survey indicating that there are about 400 sheep out there to be counted.
You can volunteer online at www.sangabrielbighorn.org