Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Mono Lake Committee Field Seminar On Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep 09/10-09/11 2016

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Mt. Gibbs Herd Unit

I had the opportunity and honor to attend the two day field seminar on the endangered Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep hosted by the Mono Lake Committee and promoted by the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation.

The $165.00 fee was a bargain and I told our instructor Dr. John Wehausen that I would have paid that much if we had only a one-day experience. We couldn’t locate any sheep on day two but had excellent hiking, good instruction and beautiful settings in Lundy Canyon and Virginia Lakes.

I believe it is safe to say that John Wehausen has contributed more to the successful reestablishment of the SNBS than any other person. He has been involved with the bighorn sheep for over 40 years and helped get the sheep included as an endangered species. It was Dr. Wehausen who identified the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep as a distinct subspecies of bighorn sheep with 250 sheep in three remaining herds in 1978. There were only 115 sheep remaining by 1995. In 1999 the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep were listed as endangered. Dr. Wehausen contributed to the recovery plan released in 2007. Since that time additional herd units have been established in their traditional Sierra Nevada range with about 600 sheep by 2014.

This was a rigorous field trip with fast paced hiking on and off trail at high altitude. The 15 or so participants received instruction in various locations along the trail with our highest ‘classroom’ on the southwest slope of Mt. Gibbs (above Mono Pass) at 11,000’. Dr. Wehausen had used radio collar telemetry to determine approximately where the sheep were and we climbed off trail to get a closer look. Having the opportunity to once again see the bighorn sheep (in this case about 11 ewes and lambs) was the best treatment for those of us who suffer from recurring “bighorn fever”.

As an advocate for the sheep, I can understand why the biggest impediment to support is that the sheep are essentially invisible. This is an important defense for them but being invisible is not helpful in raising awareness. Probably the single most helpful thing that can be done for the sheep is more individuals becoming aware of and knowledgeable about their existence. Increased awareness is one of the main goals of the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation.

The sheep seem to like living near beautiful views since the search for them includes exquisite scenery. It was good weather and an impressive group of supporters with whom to associate. Kudos to board member Dr. Virginia Chadwick in her usual role as expediter, Dr. Wehausen for his exhaustive knowledge about the sheep and their ecological niche and to Andrew Youssef from the Mono Lake Committee who accompanied us on the first day.

 Initial Session With Distinctions Made Between Sierra Nevada and Desert Bighorns
 Regrouping At Mono Pass Trailhead
 Instruction Along The Trail

 "Higher Education" (11,000')

 Summit Lake Mono Pass

Blue Lake (Virginia Lakes)
Lundy Lake Lundy Canyon
Evening Rain Over Mono Lake
Mono Basin Visitor's Center

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