Animal Control Rescues Endangered Bighorn From Canal

Peninsular bighorn ram climbs a rock face | Photo: Bill Gracey/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A federally Endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep that got stuck in a canal in the Coachella Valley city of La Quinta is back in the wild today, thanks to an assist from an animal control officer.

A security guard reported around 6 p.m. Sunday that the sheep was stuck in a canal near the Arnold Palmer course at the PGA West country club. The animal appeared lethargic and the guard could see hoof marks where the sheep had unsuccessfully attempted to pull himself out of the water, Riverside County Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said.

The animal control officer called to the scene grabbed one of the sheep's horns with his control stick, made sure he had secure footing, and pulled. Some golfers watched Stephens retrieve the sheep, and one woman taped the rescue. The animal appeared tired out, but otherwise OK, and quickly disappeared in some nearby bushes.

Listed as an Endangered Species in 1998, two years after the sheep's population fell to an all-time low of 280, the Peninsular bighorn's numbers have grown in the decades since. The sheep are still threatened by destruction of their desert mountain habitat by off-road vehicles, renewable energy projects, and housing and resort development.

With reporting by KCET