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Climate and Environment

Popular Joshua Tree Trail Is Closed So Bighorn Sheep Can Get To Water During Drought

A lone brown-greyish bighorn sheep is sitting atop a beige boulder,, with a blue cloudless sky hangng above.
The National Park Service says bighorn sheep populations are dwindling, with only 13.000 left in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.
(NPS / Glauco Puig-Santana
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Joshua Tree National Park rangers have closed the popular hiking trail that leads to the Fortynine Palms so bighorn sheep can get to one of the park’s few oases undisturbed.

Now 100 to 200 sheep will be able to access the water without the disturbance of humans.

The trail will open up again after summer monsoon rains fill up other water sources in the park.

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Joshua is especially dry right now, meaning less watering holes are being replenished.

The survival of the sheep is under threat as their population dwindles in the western US. The National Park Service says there are probably about 13,000 left in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.

The bighorn sheep aren't the only species threatened in the 800,000 acre national park. With hotter temperatures, the iconic Joshua Tree is also taking a hit. They’re drying up, sprouting less, and under threat of scorching fires sparked by warmer temperatures.

California has been in a prolonged drought for three years now, threatening the survival of the national park and many other natural ecosystems, as well as human water sources.

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