Bighorn Institute's 6th annual Fling benefits endangered Coachella Valley sheep (2024)

Kathleen Bennett| Special to The Desert Sun

The evening of April 16 began at Stone Eagle Golf Club in Palm Desert with the arrival of guests who boarded Safari Jeeps to take them to the Aerie restaurant while enjoying views of the spectacular golf course. The climb is up a narrow, rocky trail with sharp curves and continuous climbing.

Upon arrival, the Jeeps ended on a flat promontory that opened onto a wide terrace. The twilight weather was picture perfect and wind-free, making for a marvelous setting for Bighorn Institute's 6th annual Spring Fling with 75 guests attending.

Guests enjoyed wine while bidding on silent auction items and purchasing raffle tickets. A delicious gourmet dinner prepared by Executive Chef Jon Tice featured a shaved sprout caesar salad, organic Jidori chicken breast accompanied with fresh vegetables, pancetta and roasted red bell chimichurri and for dessert a delicious New York cheesecake with strawberry compote.

As usual, institute board president Mike Rivkin was the event's emcee. Director of Operations and Biologist Aimee Byard gave guests a slideshow update on the work going on with the endangered Peninsular desert bighorn sheep at the institute.

Thirty-five collars are being monitored daily from Palm Springs to La Quinta. The population of sheep in the San Jacinto Mountains is approximately 80 adults and nine lambs. The Rancho Mirage herd numbers are approximately 130 adults and 30 lambs. In covering the three herds of bighorn between Palm Springs and La Quinta, Byard reported that populations of all three are currently healthy, and recent birth rates were generally encouraging.

Byard also noted one most welcome development, a fence in La Quinta separating sheep habitat from urban sprawl is finally in place after a ten-year struggle. More fencing is still required but this should do wonders in greatly reducing sheep mortality in that area.

Byard reported that the captive breeding and augmentation program had 140 lambs, released 127 sheep and kept two herds from disappearing. The institute studies habitat use, distribution, demographics, health, behavior, reproduction and lamb survival.

"What's next," Byard said, "is to continue outreach and education, conduct summer waterhole count and continue the push for La Quinta fence and guzzler." She ended with thanks to all who support their efforts.

Institute Director Jim DeForge extended his thanks to the Stone Eagle staff for their always superb preparation and meals and to Rob Blackburn, general manager, who was the host for the evening. Nods also went out to all the institute board members in attendance, including Rivkin, Randy Bynder, Danielle Cane, Sylvia Ender and Judy Sanders.

Both silent and live auctions were lively with Rivkin as auctioneer of the latter. All money raised will go to supporting the institute's 40-year long advocacy and scientific endeavors related to these remarkable animals.

The institute would like to thank the following sponsors for supporting its 6th annual Spring Fling. This year's title sponsor was Caston Inc., courtesy of James and Rebecca Malachowski. Event sponsors were Drs. Roland and Mindy Burbank, Danielle and Tom Cane, Jim and Aimee DeForge, Mike and Linda Rivkin, Kent and Dorothy Roberts and Judy Sanders. Doners were Jerry Bausman and Michelle Zoryan, Randy and Lynne Bynder, David and Kaye Cartnal, Greg Gehrich, Judith Laska, Dick and Sally Lippin, Steve and Claire Price, Grace and Dave Starkovich and Jackie Singer.

These sponsors and supporters, along with staff, shared several reasons to support their cause:

  • The organization is efficiently managed, and nearly 100% of every donation goes to helping sheep.
  • For a $25 donation you will be invited to member-only private hikes.
  • For $100 you can adopt an adorable bighorn lamb or for $150 adopt an ewe or ram. (Isn't this a wonderful gift idea for that someone special who has everything?)
  • You are passionate about our cause and love Bighorn sheep.

The staff would like to also thank everyone who supported Bighorn Institute's 6th annual Spring Fling and the great support shown for the sheep.

The splendid evening concluded by 7:15 pm, and guests slowly departed healthy, happy, well informed and feeling good about their contributions to saving the bighorn sheep.

Bighorn Institute is dedicated to the conservation of the world's wild sheep through research and education. To learn more, visit or call (760) 346-7334.

Kathleen Bennett is the founder/principal of Resort Marketing, an award-winning company based in Palm Springs with the experience and expertise to assist in achieving the dreams and goals of each client. Since establishing her firm 27 years ago, Bennett consults in the fields of hospitality, business and nonprofit organizations. She is on the executive committee for the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars and still finds time to volunteer in the community.

Bighorn Institute's 6th annual Fling benefits endangered Coachella Valley sheep (2024)


Bighorn Institute's 6th annual Fling benefits endangered Coachella Valley sheep? ›

Bighorn Institute's 6th annual Fling benefits endangered Coachella Valley sheep. The evening of April 16 began at Stone Eagle Golf Club in Palm Desert

Palm Desert
Palm Desert is a city in Riverside County, California, United States, in the Coachella Valley, approximately 14 miles (23 km) east of Palm Springs, 121 miles (195 km) northeast of San Diego and 122 miles (196 km) east of Los Angeles. The population was 51,163 at the 2020 census. › wiki › Palm_Desert,_California
with the arrival of guests who boarded Safari Jeeps to take them to the Aerie restaurant while enjoying views of the spectacular golf course.

Are bighorn sheep endangered? ›

Peninsular bighorn sheep are a natural part of southern California's heritage and are important culturally and economically. Recognition as a federally listed endangered species is a significant step toward the recovery of Peninsular bighorn sheep, but the struggle is not yet over.

Are desert bighorn sheep protected? ›

Conservation Status

Bighorn sheep in the Peninsular Ranges have been protected under California State law since 1971. The population declined from approximately 1,100 animals in the 1970s, to about 400 in 2000.

Where to see bighorn sheep in Palm Springs? ›

Other good hiking trails to catch a glimpse of the bighorn are the Bear Creek Oasis Trail in La Quinta Cove and the Bump and Grind trail in Palm Desert, as long as hikers are respectful of the sheep's needs. Felina Danalis of Palm Springs said she, too, has spotted the creatures along the Lyyken Trail.

Why are bighorn sheep important? ›

Crossing over the Bering land bridge from Siberia, bighorn sheep were sources of food, clothing, and tools for tribes in western mountainous regions, much as the bison were for Native American tribes in the Great West. Petroglyphs featuring bighorns are among the most common images across all western U.S. states.

Why are bighorn sheep endangered? ›

Major Threats

Disease from domestic sheep and goats, predation, inbreeding depression (low genetic diversity), and small population size (causing increased effects from weather, climate, avalanches, and other unpredictable natural events) threaten the recovery of Sierra bighorn sheep.

Are bighorn sheep endangered in California? ›

The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep was the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act in the 21st century, and in fact, listing should have happened much sooner. The species began its decline back in the mid-1800s, and by 1995 the total population numbered few more than 100 individuals.

How many bighorn sheep are left? ›

A. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, bighorn sheep in North America were estimated to number between 1.5 and 2 million, but today less than 70,000 remain.

How many bighorn sheep are left in California? ›

The population is now estimated at 360 sheep, a 40% decline from a year ago, according to Tom Stephenson, who heads the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program. That estimate includes new lambs that were born in the spring.

Are bighorn sheep rare? ›

But thanks to sprawl and agribusiness, both sheep and succulent are increasingly rare: Up to 2 million bighorns roamed North America at the turn of the 20th century, but now only 70,000 remain.

How many bighorn sheep are in Palm Springs? ›

First of all, the San Jacinto Mountain herd in the foothills of Palm Springs remains in good numbers. There are some 85 adult sheep in this group, split roughly 50/50 between males (rams) and females (ewes).

What state has the best bighorn sheep? ›

The new World's Record bighorn sheep was found on Montana's Wild Horse Island and is owned by the state.

What state has the most bighorn sheep? ›

Nevada has more sheep (of three species) than any other state in the contiguous U.S. For additional information on bighorn sheep numbers, visit the goHunt website.

What is killing bighorn sheep? ›

What causes pneumonia in bighorn sheep? Bighorn sheep are highly susceptible to respiratory disease. Pneumonia outbreaks contributed to the historical extinction of bighorn sheep in Washington and continue to take a toll on reintroduced populations.

Who eats big horn sheep? ›

Predators of bighorns are coyotes, eagles (feed on lambs), gray foxes, bobcats, and mountain lions. To bighorn sheep, domestic dogs look and smell like predators. Predation is not a primary cause of death for bighorns due to their escape terrain and the variety of wildlife these predators prey upon.

What is a female bighorn sheep called? ›

Males, called rams, have large horns that curl around their faces by eight years of age. These horns can weigh up to 30 pounds. Females, called ewes, have smaller horns that curve slightly to a sharp point within the first four years of life. Ewes and lambs stay together in herds.

Is bighorn sheep increasing or decreasing? ›

Sadly this beloved species still faces challenges. Whereas the North American bighorn population was estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000 before the 1800's, today approximately 80,000 remain—an important increase after steep declines left only a few thousand at the turn of the 20th century.

Can bighorn sheep be hunted? ›

The rule for bighorn sheep allocation is up to 15% of legal rams counted, meaning California must count seven legal rams (1/2 curl) to issue one permit. It may be hard to draw a sheep permit in California, but for those who are fortunate enough to draw, they will be in for a hunt-of-a-lifetime.

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