Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jug Handle Arch and Desert Big Horn Sheep

Jug Handle Arch is an easy to view large arch located 13 miles west along Potash Road, Highway 279, near Arches National Park in southeast Utah. It is visible from the road, positioned up in the sandstone cliffs overlooking the Colorado River.

There is a parking area just to the west of the arch and it is a short walk along the road or the railroad tracks to view the formation from either side. At the same level as the base of the arch and about 100 feet to the left there is a petroglyph panel. It is hard to spot from a distance. There is a rough trail going up that doesn’t look like it gets used very often.

It is possible to find an angle where both Jug Handle Arch and the petroglyph panel are in the same picture. Many petroglyph panels have spirals, this one appears to have three sets of concentric circles that look like targets and have drawn some shots. There is also a Moab Man like image.

While hiking up closer for pictures I had the good luck of startling a group of Desert Big Horn Sheep who spotted me with their keen eyesight and dashed up the cliff side and under the arch for safety.

From the safety of the cliffs they looked down on me with what appeared to be calm curiosity. There were at least six in the group, I think, one with large full ram horns, three females with smaller horns and two yearlings.
The Desert Bighorn Sheep are adapted to go longer periods without water, though this group has easy access to the Colorado River. They have unique padded hooves that aid them in bounding along these cliffs with ease. These sheep are able to lose of to 30 per cent of their body weight from dehydration and recover easily when they finally drink.

This ability gives them an advantage in evading their predators who can't take the heat. They are able to obtain sufficient water from the grasses and other vegetation that they eat. They particularly like Prickly Pear Cactus and other succulents.

In moving away from the arch, up the canyon, it appeared that the ram and one ewe were leading and a group of two ewes and the two yearlings were following, staying close together. The normal breeding season is July to December though breeding can vary due to environmental conditions. Lambs are usually born in late winter after six months gestation. This group was sighted on November 18, 2008.

The 1993 population estimate for Utah was 2200 to 2250 individuals with the trends increasing due to conservation efforts. Arizona, Nevada, and California have the highest populations and the total in the U.S. was estimated at about 19,000.

532497_120 x 90 Starting Salary $42k. Group 1