The desert bighorn is found in the arid regions of the western and southwestern US and across the border in Mexico. Its scientific name is Ovis canadensis nelsoni. At one point there were seven or eight subspecies of O. canadensis, but now only three subspecies thanks to DNA testing. Hopefully I got that right and it may change tomorrow, so stay tuned.
It wasn’t that long ago that desert bighorns traveled from range to range. So think, the Watermans to the Santa Catalinas northwest of Tucson or vice versa, all the while traversing the desert in between. I remember back in the late 1970s a bighorn ram was spotted in the Rillito River and Wetmore Road where Tucson Mall now sits. The roaming of the deserts from range to range can’t happen anymore…homes, malls, golf courses make that impossible, so bighorns need to stay put. Behave yourself desert bighorns!
In many of its home ranges it was extirpated and reintroduced. The herds in the Galiuro Mountains where I used to see them fairly regularly were reintroduced or added to as early as the 1950s. The photo below is of the Galiuro Escarpment. What great rugged country to see desert bighorns! And sometimes I sit around a camp fire and drink beer with them and sing…or maybe that was a dream.
I have two books on my shelf about desert bighorns. The Desert Bighorn, It’s Life History, Ecology and Management. Edited by Gale Monson and Lowell Sumner, U of A Press 1980. A fascinating read on the ancient and modern history of the critters, coupled with wildlife management stories and reports. The other book is Counting Sheep, 20 Ways of Seeing Desert Bighorn, edited by Gary Nabhan, U of A Press 1993. The “20 Ways” are 20 different authors writing about desert bighorns. I suspect you’ll recognize many of the writers. Recommended.