Endangered Bighorn Sheep In Ko-Pah – Jacumba, California - Atlas Obscura
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Jacumba, California

Endangered Bighorn Sheep In Ko-Pah

Catch a glimpse of the elusive Peninsular bighorns right off of the desert freeway. 

Just off of the roadway below the Anza Borrego Desert View Tower, these gravity-defying  creatures can be spotted nestling in the treacherous peaks of Anza-Borrego Park. 

After dipping to a drastic low of fewer than 300 due to disease, colonization and vulnerability to predators, the Peninsular bighorn sheep (also called desert bighorn sheep) have enjoyed a bit of a comeback thanks to conservation efforts. With current numbers hovering around the 1,000 mark, the majority of these rare, bold-headed creatures reside in the deserts of the Southwestern United States and Mexico. 

Despite their unforgiving environment, these nimble sheep have managed to adapt to the drastic temperature changes, their body temperatures fluctuating safely on a scale rare for most mammals. They can go weeks and sometimes months without water from any substantial sources, hydrating through their food or sips of fleeting rainwater pools in rocks. This adaptive strategy has allowed this resilient animal to inhabit places in the desert that its most fierce predators don’t dare linger; mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats would first have to brave the climate, and then, they’d have to catch them. 

Despite their remarkable adaption abilities, the desert bighorns would likely be another casualty of the animal kingdom were it not for the efforts of human conservationists. In 1939, President Roosevelt authorized two desert preserves, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, to protect the endangered species. 

With patience, quiet, and a pair of binoculars, if you pull off of the Kumeyaay Highway just below the Desert View Tower and peer up the sheer sides of the rugged desert landscape, you just might get a look at these rare beasts.