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Volunteers Needed for Desert Bighorn Sheep Survey in San Gabriel Mountains

Participants must take part in training Saturday March 3 for the survey on Sunday March 4, organizers said. The survey is conducted by the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep.

Volunteers are needed the first weekend of March for the annual bighorn sheep survey in the San Gabriel Mountains, west of the Cajon Pass, Forest Service officials announced Friday.

No survey experience is necessary but volunteers must attend a mandatory orientation at 6 p.m. Saturday March 3, at Verdemont Community Center and Library in San Bernardino, Forest Service officials said.

"Volunteers will then reconvene early Sunday morning, March 4, to hike with expert representatives to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains to count and record bighorn sheep," Forest Service officials said.

Participants must be 16 or older, and capable of hiking at least one mile on survey routes in rugged terrain.

"In general, hikes will not be along trails, and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes, and/or bush-whacking through chaparral," Forest Service officials said.

"We highly recommended volunteers bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather."

Complimentary campsites will be available to volunteers on a first-come, first-served basis at Applewhite Campground in Lytle Creek for the night of Saturday March 3.

The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, California Department of Fish and Game, and the Forest Service have conducted surveys for desert bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains annually since 1979.

The bighorn roam remote parts of the San Gabriels, in portions of the San Bernardino National Forest and the Angeles National Forest.

The range was once home to an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California, according to the Forest Service.

The bighorn population declined more than 80 percent through the 1980s but appears to be increasing in recent years, with annual survey estimates of about 400 animals.

To sign up for the survey online, visit www.sangabrielbighorn.org or call (626) 574-5287 or (909) 382-2870 to receive a volunteer packet.

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