Iconic desert creature found shot near field sparks search for poacher, officials say

The discovery of a dead desert bighorn sheep near an Arizona field has set off a search for the poacher, wildlife officials said.

The male animal with curved horns was found shot and left to waste sometime around Jan. 13 near Gila Bend, about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, the Arizona Game & Fish Department said in a Feb. 9 news release.

Its carcass was found near South Enterprise Road, which is close to an agriculture field, officials said.

“There is no justifiable reason to poach an animal during a closed season and leave it to waste. Poachers are not hunters or sportsmen; they are criminals who are stealing from the residents of Arizona,” wildlife manager Travis Clarkson said in the release.

Clarkson said a hunter, an off-highway vehicle user or a field worker may have seen something when the animal was killed.

Anyone who reports information leading to an arrest will be rewarded $6,500.

An anonymous report can be made by calling the Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-352-0700. The case number to reference is OGT #24-000074.

A male desert bighorn sheep is pictured. These animals are found in southwestern parts of the U.S.
A male desert bighorn sheep is pictured. These animals are found in southwestern parts of the U.S.

What to know about desert bighorn sheep

Desert bighorn sheep have brown fur with white coloring under their belly, their muzzle and rump, according to the National Park Service said.

A male ram grows large curved horns while a female sheep has smaller horns. They are often found in steep and rocky terrain, like in mountains or along cliffs.

These animals are found in the Grand Canyon, the Mojave Desert, the Sonoran Desert as well as other southwestern parts of the country, including eastern California, Nevada and Utah.

There are about 13,000 desert bighorn sheep in the U.S.

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