All my life, I’ve had an abiding affection for animals.  This affinity for four-legged friends expectedly extends to my beloved, beautiful bighorns.  When I was a little girl, driving around the Palm Springs Valley with Mother, I used to spy them grazing on the country club fairways—or wandering around the grounds of The Ritz.  They were such a visible, vibrant part of Rancho Mirage life until a million-dollar fence was built along Highway 111 to keep them out of harm’s way.  A 1975 vote by the City Council made the bighorn the official Rancho Mirage mammal mascot.

These mythic beings—a subspecies of the Wild Sheep of North America—are technically Peninsular Desert Bighorns, and were classified as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998, after it was discovered that their U.S. population had dwindled drastically from approximately 1200 to only 280.  A mere 21 resided in our own back yard in the Santa Rosa Mountains!

The Bighorn Institute—located a stone’s throw from Rancho Mirage in Palm Desert—is  a non-profit committed to the conservation of worldwide wild sheep via research and education.  Since 1985, the organization has released 98 bighorns into the Santa Rosa Mountains wild.  The local population keeps climbing slowly but surely, with two lambs—one male, one female—born within the Institute’s captive herd last spring.

So much do I care about these creatures that I’ve joined the Institute’s Adopt-a-Bighorn Program.  My $100 annual gift gets me an 8”x10” adoption certificate, a 4”x6” color photo of my lamb (ewe or ram adoption is $150), a bighorn sheep fact sheet, and a subscription to the Institute newsletter The Bighorn.  Visit www.bighorninstitute.org to become a proud papa or mama.

Big, beautiful—and rare.  Aren’t bighorns reminiscent of a Bentley?  No wonder they’re the spot-on symbol of Rancho Mirage!