Oregon FNAWS
News - Leslie Gulch
Hands on Projects Report
Leslie Gulch Bighorn sheep have new fresh water source thanks to sportsmen's groups and regional agencies
Date:May 9, 2007
Contacts:Brandon Knapton, Vale BLM (541)-473-6286
 Scott Torland, Oregon Dept. Of Fish & Wildlife(541)-889-6975
 Gretchen Fitzgerald, Bureau of Reclamation (208)-383-2231
 Tom Peterson OR-FNAWS (503)-628-2352
 Mike Boethin OR-FNAWS (541)-280-0650
 Nick Berg OR-FNAWS (503)-755-2274
 Larry Jacobs OR-FNAWS (503)-590-4769
Leslie Gulch #1
Over 65 volunteers and agency employees from Oregon and Idaho donated the weekend of May 5 & 6 to install and repair "guzzlers" to provide water for California bighorn sheep in Leslie Gulch in southeastern Oregon.
Leslie Gulch has the most viewable bighorns in Oregon, if not the whole northwest. They're Oregon sheep, but most people driving the Leslie road hoping to see them are from the Boise-Nampa area.
This herd started in 1965 when seventeen (17) California bighorn sheep were reintroduced from Hart Mountain, Oregon. By 1992, there were over 300 bighorns. By 2000, however, they had mysteriously declined to around 100.
Monitoring by Oregon Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) then found the chief causes of decline were contaminated drinking water, cougar, and poaching.
When summer temperatures reach the scorching conditions found in this high dessert, blue green algae grows in water in the lower third of the Owyhee reservoir and small seeps used by the sheep. As the algae decays, it can release a toxin that is fatal to animals.
Leslie Gulch #2
In 2006, BLM, ODFW, and the Bureau of Reclamation came up with a remedy: create sources of fresh water on high ridges, accessible to the sheep but protected from wild horses and predators. Almost immediately, sportsmen, agencies, and the Owyhee and Gem Irrigation Districts leaped into action, installing two guzzlers as soon as BLM completed its environmental paperwork in May, 2006. The following October, another guzzler was installed with help from the Gem and Owyhee Irrigation Districts, who get their irrigation water from Owyhee Reservoir.
Leslie Gulch #3
Sheep started using the 2006 guzzlers almost immediately. As hoped, the water sources allowed sheep to use high, dry ridges during mid-summer. One of this year's volunteers saw thirteen bighorns trailing into one of the guzzlers installed last year.
This year, volunteers installed a new guzzler north of Leslie Gulch, fenced another guzzler to protect the sheep's water, and repaired a previously installed guzzler that wasn't holding water. Volunteers came from the Idaho and Oregon chapters of the Foundation for North American Bighorn Sheep (FNAWS), Snake River Sportsmen, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. BLM and Bureau of Reclamation employees worked with ODFW to make sure things ran smoothly for the volunteers, who had traveled from as far away as Coos Bay, Oregon to participate.
Bighorn sheep have been an important part of American life for thousands of years. In Indian culture, they are important animal spirits with strong powers. Tribal members helped with last weekend's guzzler work, continuing first nations' long relationship with bighorn sheep on the Owyhee River.
Leslie Gulch #4
Extending the spiritual link between humans and bighorn sheep that has existed for millennia, the newest Leslie guzzler was dedicated as a memorial to Mark Kind, an avid Oregon outdoorsman who died in July, 2006. A dozen of his relatives donated funds, traveled all the way from Mountaindale in western Oregon to Leslie Gulch, and then worked together on the guzzler dedicated to his memory. When the guzzler was finished, they placed a bronze plaque on a vista point with views across the beautiful Oregon desert.
For a second year, Terry King of Nampa gave permission for the base camp to be on his land. Having a good campsite close to the project sites has been essential to project success.
Installing a guzzler consists of hand digging 8 cubic yards of dirt, installing a water collection surface as big as the roof of a small house, burying an 1,800 gallon plastic holding tank and pipelines, and constructing a fence to protect it all. The end result: fresh drinking water for California bighorn sheep. Guzzlers are located on saddles and ridgelines so sheep don't have to travel through drainage bottoms to reach water, which reduces their exposure to predators and poachers.
Leslie Gulch #5
"It was a long hike to two of the projects, fortunately materials and many volunteers, including several kids, were flown up by the Bureau of Reclamation helicopter," said Gretchen Fitzgerald, Reclamation's project coordinator. "Around 20 people were so eager that they hiked up to where the work was."
Local sportsman Nick Berg summed up the experience: ""All & all, it was a great weekend! Everything was very well organized, the food was great, and a lot of work was completed."
Bighorn sheep are one of the most sought-after and prized big game trophies. "That's not why these sheep are important, though", said John Caywood, Idaho FNAWS board member. "It's real hard for people to draw a bighorn sheep tag, so most people, including these volunteers, will never get a chance to shoot one." he said, "The two most important things about bighorns are how excited people get when they see one and what they indicate about our environment. These noble animals are just like big canaries in a coal mine. If their environment is healthy, so is our human environment. We're doing what we can at a local level to protect our environment."
Affirming those sentiments, "Visitors to Owyhee Canyon Country are always delighted by bighorn sheep," noted ODFW Wildlife Habitat Biologist Scott Torland. "These guzzler projects make sure future generations have bighorns to see."
Leslie Gulch Update - Guzzler Project
This following is an update to the Leslie Gulch guzzler project that some of our folks worked at during the first part of May of this year. John was the Idaho-FNAWS member who skillfully built the first summary of the project and kindly shared it with all member organizations, that we sent out as a chapter press release!
Leslie Gulch Update
Photo's attached of some of 15 sheep around the new Leslie Gulch Guzzler on Mon. 5/28 -- just 3 weeks after it was installed. 9 head of BHS were siesta-ing on the rock 150 yd. south of the guzzler itself (right of guzzler in picture). The single ewe on the spire, north of guzzler, behaved like she had a lamb with her. Sheep definitely uses this site. This guzzler is almost too successful, as the sheep had used all but 1/2 inch water in bottom of drinker -- no good rains in first 3 weeks after construction. Sheep will have to go off to water from the reservoir without more rain -- hopefully reservoir water doesn't go bad. A full 1,800 gal. tank (other 3 guzzlers put in last year were full 3 weeks ago) might provide water for 1,800 sheep days, i.e. these 15 sheep for 120 days = 4 months (close to all summer). A couple of good thunderstorms would really help, but if BLM helicopter gets close, maybe it could dip some water up. Please forward this message to the family members who dedicated this wildlife improvement. The 9 head were bedded visible from the plaque before they moved off.
Thanks again!
John Caywoods (Idaho-FNAWS)
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