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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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Willow Creek
Figure 8.—At Willow Creek, in July 1955, the upper spring in the willows at right had not been used by bighorn for many years. In 1956 they beat trails through these willows and used the water at that place for one summer, but usually they prefer to water at more open spots further down the canyon.

Willow Creek
Figure 9.—Water flows intermittently down Willow Creek for 3 miles. Permanent water situated in rugged escape terrain has made this the home area for one of the region's largest concentrations of bighorn.

Figure 10.—On Paleomesa above Navel Spring, in December 1955, we watched a "band" form, first two, then five, seven, and finally eight. Their leader Old Mama (foreground), accepted us as a condition of the environment and fed closer as the days passed.

Big Wash
Figure 11.—Within a few days Old Mama led the band down off the mesa into the Big Wash and bedded them on the mesa over a mile from any "cliffy terrain" hitherto supposed necessary to the sense of security of all bighorn at bedding time.

Figure 12.—From Big Wash she led them on down to Deadman's Curve and back up Furnace Creek Wash. Bebbia juncea and Stephanomeria dominate both these washes, though not the mesa, and began immediately to assume a place of primary importance in the Death Valley bighorn diet.

bighorn crossing road
Figure 13.—By the 5th of January, 1956, Old Mama had not only induced the band to follow her across the highway, but they no longer paid any attention to the cars stopping and people pouring out to photograph them.

bighorn crossing road
Figure 14.—Finally on January 10, following Old Mama's example, the entire band stood stockstill in the middle of the highway, bringing all traffic to a halt. It should be emphasized that such tolerance with respect to humans is most unusual, and it developed in response to a unique leadership.

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