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Desert Bighorn Sheep

The desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) is a subspecies of BigHorn Sheep. The Desert BigHorn Sheep lives in the desert Southwest regions of the Arizona, California and in the northern regions of Mexico. The characteristics and behavior of desert bighorn sheep generally follow those of other bighorn sheep, except for adaptation to the lack of water in the desert: bighorn sheep can go for extended periods of time without drinking water. Desert bighorn sheep are social, forming herds of 8 to 10 individuals. sometimes herds of size 100 are observed.

The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is located northeast of Yuma, Arizona in the in the southwestern part of Arizona. The refuge, established in 1939 to protect Desert BigHorn.

In 1936, the Arizona Boy Scouts mounted a state-wide campaign to save the Bighorn Sheep, leading to the creation of Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The Scouts first became interested in the sheep through the efforts of Major Fredrick Russell Burnham, the noted conservationist who has been called the “Father of Scouting.” Burnham observed that fewer than 150 of these sheep lived in the Arizona mountains. He called George F. Miller, then scout executive of the Boy Scout council headquartered in Phoenix, with a plan to save the sheep. Burnham put it this way:

I want you to save this majestic animal, not only because it is in danger of extinction, but of more importance, some day it might provide domestic sheep with a strain to save them from disaster at the hands of a yet unknown virus.[1]

Several other prominent Arizonans joined the movement and a “save the bighorns” poster contest was started in schools throughout the state. Burnham provided prizes and appeared in store windows from one end of Arizona to the other. The contest-winning bighorn emblem was made into neckerchief slides for the 10,000 Boy Scouts, and talks and dramatizations were given at school assemblies and on radio. The National Wildlife federation, the Izaack Walton League, and the Audubon  Society joined the effort.


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