Welcome to what will (hopefully) become a regular part of our blogging- book reviews! Our staff hopes to mix in reviews of books focusing on local interest topics with our blogs on events, exhibits, and other cool stuff happening out at the Desert Museum.
Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon
Mark C. Jorgensen, photographs by Jeff Young.
Sunbelt Publications, 2015
This new book offers a glimpse into the lives of the elusive desert bighorn sheep: their habits, their social lives, and their natural habitats. It is written for the general reader in a casual and engaging writing style that contains enormous amounts of fascinating information without feeling like a science lecture. I was particularly interested in the inclusions at the end of the book, where Jorgensen discusses sheep conservation and the current status of the sheep in the U.S. and Mexico in regions they traditionally call home. This included not only their current numbers, but conservation efforts, hunting restrictions, challenges they face- such as the inclusion of non-native plant species in their habitat, and successes like Arizona's highway overpasses, allowing sheep to successfully travel from one location to another without crossing highways. Mark Jorgensen, who has served as a state park ranger, resource ecologist, and superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in his 36-year career in California State Parks and has spent 5 decades studying desert bighorn sheep, is clearly dedicated to sharing his love for and understanding of these amazing animals.
The truly unique aspect of this book, however, are the incredible photographs taken by Jeff Young. Young has been an avid photographer for over 40 years and since 2008 has focused on desert bighorn sheep. There are over 200 photographs in the book, including rarely photographed behaviors such as the "taunting" and posturing of sheep before they battle. The photographs make you feel as if you are right there, hearing the clash of horns, or the scrape of rocks as a sheep makes a seemingly impossible headlong dive down a cliff. Some images, like one looking down at a ram balancing all four hooves on a small rocky peak, make you wonder not only how the sheep can do that- but how Jeff was able to take such an incredible shot! Action shots of jumping sheep show more clearly than words their amazing dexterity in seemingly impossible rocky landscapes. I was especially struck by images of the sheep in the red sandstone region of Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, where the red backgrounds seems to glow, highlighting the sheep instead of allowing them to blend in as they do in our local Sonoran Desert. And I defy anyone not to grin at images of newborn lambs exploring their new world.
Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon is the perfect book for nature lovers and photography lovers of all ages, and a must-have for those living in the regions the sheep continue to call home.