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Fauna Series No. 6








Life History





Fauna of the National Parks — No. 6
The Bighorn of Death Valley
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Figure 1.—This old ewe was the leader of the Badwater band. Her spreading horns, the right horn notched and crimped, and other distinguishing features of her companions, made possible the first uninterrupted month-long series of daily dawn-to-dark observations of a recognizable band of bighorn. This established the subsequent pattern of our research program.

park visitors
Figure 2.—We also carried on an extensive on-site interpretive program showing the bighorn to as many as 150 carloads of visitors per day during the band's 3-months overall use of the area.

Welles' camp
Figure 3.—At the end of each day we left the bighorn bedded down and moved whenever possible to higher elevations to escape the heat. Here, at 5,000 feet in the Cottonwood Mountains, the nights were comfortable for sleeping.

Welles' observing
Figure 4.—We returned to the lower elevations during the hot days where the only shade was what we made for ourselves.

Figure 5.—After 4 days, the Badwater band climbed to a gravel- and water-filled basin, or tinaja, where the animals drank. The wide horns of the three adults on the right are a family characteristic. The uniquely down-curved horns of Droopy, the adult to right of center, are unmistakable; the Old Leader is left of center.

Figure 6.—Droopy reappeared 3 years later at Keystone Canyon 5 miles south of Badwater. Her unique set of horns underscores the fact that "hornprints" are as valuable as fingerprints in the identification of individuals. Each year of growth adds a new segment at the base of the horn. Droopy is 8 years old here.

Figure 7.—The membership of bighorn bands does not remain constant, nor are the animals so gregarious that all are unhappy to be alone. For 38 days the Badwater band remained unchanged. But later it diminished from six to four, then one, as various individuals drifted away. The Old Leader seemed as contented alone as when leading the band.

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Last Modified: Thurs, May 16 2002 10:00:00 pm PDT

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