February 25, 2024

The desert bighorn sheep population at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas has rebounded by 12.7% in 2023, from 470 to 530. The ecosystem had faced sustained effects from drought and pneumonia. The surveys are conducted annually by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the U.S. Air Force. Although the population has been affected by declining food and water sources, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge sets the stage for growth and recovery. It is the largest U.S. wildlife refuge outside of Alaska and houses Nevada’s official state animal. The area’s remoteness and rugged mountains make the monitoring of bighorn sheep difficult. Water tanks have been set up in the refuge to assist the sheep during the drought. Although the sheep largely escape predators, it takes 2 to 3 years for females to mature for mating, and even longer for males. A summary of the survey also showed that the habitat is greener and observed an increase in the number of lambs, indicating new potential for the population’s growth and recovery. However, the long-term condition of the ecosystem as it is affected by Utah’s climate still remains uncertain. The U.S. Air Force concurs the wildlife refuge, and sporadically limits access due to their own use of the area.

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