A popular Joshua Tree park trail is now closed so that bighorn sheep can have easier access to water amid the state’s continuing drought conditions, park officials said.
The 49 Palms Trail was closed on June 1 and was expected to stay off limits until summer monsoon rains provide enough rainfall to make water more available to the animals, according to Joshua Tree National Park officials.
“The park is under extreme drought conditions and herds in the area are increasingly reliant on the oasis to survive the hot summer months,” park officials said.
The closure is meant to ensure that the sheep have undisturbed access to water at the Fortynine Palms Oasis.
Joshua Tree National Park is home to an estimated 100 to 200 bighorn sheep, according to park officials.
Desert bighorn prefer a habitat of steep, rocky terrain and typically get enough water from the grass they eat in the early spring.
At other times, they have to trek to springs and other areas with water at least every third day, sometimes braving narrow canyons where predators could be lying in wait.
Joshua Tree National Park is also home to a variety of different animals, including bobcats, coyotes and Southern mule deer.
Larger mammals, including mountain sheep, all tend to stay close to springs to be able to drink daily.
Park officials said wildlife biologists will be closely monitoring the situation with the water supply.