The Bighorn Sheep of the Estrellas

More than any other, the bighorn sheep epidomize the Estrellas. In the eartly 18th Century, Spanish explorer reported seeing a pile of 100,000 horns at a Pima village (probably Sacaton, maybe Komalte). I kid you not, the journal says one hundred thousand horns, in a pile the towered over the huts of the Indians. That's a lot of antlers.


Alas, the bighorns are in trouble: urban encroachment, the last few years of drought, as well as the competition of non-native species (mostly cattle and the Wild horses) have conspired to bring the population down to less than a dozen, or maybe half of that. This is bad! Of all the worthy causes that I can think of, at the top of the list would be to save the bighorns of the Estrellas. Like the famous apes at Gilbraltar, an Estrellas range without the bighorn sheep would mean the end of an era, a horrific defeat of nature to the relentless growth of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.


At one time the bighorn inhabited all the Estrellas. As far as I can tell, now in the 21st century, the few remaining animals are restricted mostly to the back western side and southern portion of the range. They also at one time in the not to distant past could be found on the Monetezuma Plateau, the rugged area above and north of Montezuma Head. There is a note in the bottle at the old Spanish Mine where one visitor mentions seeing a billy just above the Old Stone House.




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