The discovery of two bighorn sheep remains, found this fall in a vertical cave in the Fish Creek Range, Cave Canyon in Eureka County has the Nevada Department of Wildlife updating their historical records.
The two young ewe carcasses were found on the bottom surface of the ground, having fallen into the cave around 1955, as taken from several samples at the bottom of the cave which was carbon dated tested through Beta Analytic, a form of radiocarbon dating – a process used on organic material to determine the age of an object.
Beneath the two ewes, a mandible and carpal bone were excavated, approximately ten inches below the surface, which belong to either one or two not previously identified bighorn sheep, radiocarbon dating back to 1875.
The findings of these sheep have wildlife officials looking for answers as the Nevada Department of Wildlife has no documentation of native bighorn in the Fish Creek Range, a NDOW department activity report stated.
NDOW has enlisted the help of Dr. Marjorie Matocq in hopes of gathering further DNA on bighorn sheep for comparison with the “statewide genetics research project NDOW is funding.” Matocq teaches and conducts studies such as those done on the cave bighorn at the University of Nevada, Reno – Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station. Her research program focuses on a number of ecological and evolutionary questions. Besides her work on bighorn sheep, she has also worked on the pygmy rabbit, and Mohave ground squirrel.
The research conducted with native bighorn sheep within the Great Basin and northern Mojave desert of Nevada shows that most of these animals were eradicated by the early 1900’s. Today, with the help of NDOW and various groups throughout the state, three subspecies of the sheep now exist.