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The bighorn sheep at Hemenway Park, on the outskirts of Boulder City, have become a tourist attraction as carloads, and often tour vans full of visitors, can been seen at the park each day.

While a healthy distance between the animals and their admirers is stressed, since they are, after all, wild, that doesn’t stop many from getting a bit too close in order to get that social media photo.

Safety is one of many things that will be discussed by the Nevada Department of Wildlife as it hosts four informational gatherings at Hemenway Park from 9 a.m. to noon on July 7, 14, 21 and 28.

Lauren MacLeod, wildlife education coordinator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said the purpose of this outreach is to engage the community with the unique slice of wildlife that has nestled right on the edge of town.

“The Desert Bighorn Sheep is an iconic symbol of Nevada and our state mammal,” she said. “Over the last few decades, conservation efforts have been dedicated to restoring the bighorn sheep population after it faced a significant decline due to factors such as drought, habitat loss, and disease.”

“This outreach is intended to tell a bit of that story, but also serves as a way to share a mutual appreciation for these fascinating animals and give the chance for visitors to catch a closer glimpse of their behavior using a spotting scope and binoculars.”

They will also have a few ram/ewe horns at the table for visitors to learn about their structure and how they can be used to determine the age of a sheep.

Nearly a year ago, the city installed what was appropriately named the “Ram Cam” atop the restroom at Hemenway Park. From that vantage point, one can get an idea of whether or not the sheep are in the park. It was installed to help reduce the number of phone calls to the city and Boulder City Chamber of Commerce inquiring as to whether or not the sheep were out before venturing into Boulder City.

“The Ram Cam is a great chance for people, close and far, to observe the behavior of the herd at their convenience,” MacLeod said. “As with many things, the more we are exposed to something, the more interest we invest in it. The Ram Cam has placed these sheep in the spotlight, which is a great opportunity to introduce and increase interest in wildlife viewing and conservation, and in turn enhance wildlife management efforts.”

In terms of why bighorn sheep have captured the interest of so many, MacLeod said first and foremost, sightings of bighorn sheep are typically rare.

“Most occur in the remote desert and mountains, and even there – excellent camouflage allows sheep to fly under the radar undetected,” she said. “There are not many places that you can go where a bighorn sheep sighting is almost guaranteed at the right time of year – and especially not somewhere so urban.”

Akin to other desert wildlife, bighorn sheep are well-adapted to the harsh, dry climate here in the Mojave, she said. They are equipped to handle the extremes, but the Hemenway herd has found and locked in an opportunity for easier food, water, and shelter, so they’re going to take advantage.

MacLeod said that even though she does it for a living, it’s not just tourists who have become captivated by the bighorn sheep.

“I spend a lot of my free time enjoying the abundant outdoor recreation we have in the remote areas of our desert,” she said. “It might be a given, but I’m a huge fan of wildlife. That said, bighorn sheep rank high on my favorites list. I continue to be amazed by their adaptability and behavior in such a harsh environment. Their incredible maneuverability and grace navigating steep cliff faces is awe-inspiring. Catching a glimpse of their tall-standing silhouette along a ridge line or witnessing the social behaviors among a herd is always a special sight.”

Ron Eland is editor of the Boulder City Review. He can be reached at reland@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523.

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