On March 4th, members from the California Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers volunteered to survey wild sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains located just west of Los Angeles. The survey was hosted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and required a 3 hour orientation the day before regarding how to record, categorize and observe sheep in order to provide the agency with detailed information.
With nearly 100 volunteers showing up at the orientation, there were numerous location lookouts offered to observe sheep. These locations varied from parking lots to long, arduous hikes covering 2500ft in under 2 miles. Naturally, the majority of BHA members in attendance chose the latter for the chance to spot wild Desert Sheep within a day’s bike ride from downtown Los Angeles.
We gathered at the trailhead around 5am and started up the hill shortly after. Loaded with tripods, cameras, spotting scopes and various gear, the steep climb was great practice for the upcoming fall season. After nearly 2 hours of climbing, some which required hands to aid in balance, we crested the mountain top offering a 360 degree of the landscape that included Mount Baldy that stands at 4,193 feet above sea level.
Towards the end of our trip, right before we started to pack up, a volunteer spotted 5 ewes roughly 1 mile away through the spotting scope. The sheep were enjoying the short grasses and forbs that were growing in a rock scree below a mountain peak. As volunteers viewed the sheep through the optics, our CDFW representative recorded the necessary information to provide an accurate report of the day’s events. After snapping some pictures and videos of the first Desert Sheep many of us in the group have ever seen in California, let alone just outside of L.A., we packed up and started heading down the mountain content in knowing the long, steep climb was not in vain.
The CA BHA chapter is looking forward to volunteering next year and the CDFW has expressed interest in the chapter becoming more involved in opportunities like this in the future.