Joshua Tree National Park is temporarily closing a popular hiking trail to make it easier for bighorn sheep to get to water. The trail leads to Fortynine Palms Oasis, a spring surrounded by palm trees in the northern part of the park. “The park is under extreme drought conditions and herds in the area are increasingly reliant on the oasis spring to survive the hot summer months,” the park announced. Park wildlife biologists plan to monitor the situation during the closure, which is expected to remain in place until summer monsoon rains increase water availability in the park. Summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the park, which is home to an estimated 100 to 200 desert bighorns (Ovis canadensis nelsoni).
“Bighorns are very sensitive to disease, and research in Joshua Tree shows there has been a significant loss of water from springs and places where water seeps from the ground that has contributed to a significant loss of bighorn habitat,” the Associated Press reports.