Santa Cruz Sheep – Maybe a connection to Arizona

In the story of Lester Fuller, I mentioned, in 1937 sheep were shipped from Bellemont, near Flagstaff to Santa Barbara, loaded on ships and unloaded on the islands off the coast. These may be part of what became a feral population that were discussed in the article, “From Thriving to Striving,” by Jeannette Beranger in Out Here Magazine, Spring 2018 issue, a quarterly publication by Tractor Supply Company. The article states that the island of Santa Cruz was a “haven for sheep ranchers in the 19th and 20th centuries because no large carnivores prowled the island”. (page 50) The sheep developed characteristics which allowed them to be self-sufficient. The high lanolin content in their wool may have helped them to live in the moist conditions of high rains and fog. Their wool developed a “fine crimpy texture that more effectively insulated the animals against the heat and cold than other domestic sheep”. The article further states that they developed the ability to shed their wool, shearing was eliminated.

Santa-Cruz-EweLambThis picture is taken from the website

In 1978, the Nature Conservancy acquired the rights to the island and set out to protect the native plant and animal species ecosystem. Santa Cruz Island along with four other islands in the chain known as the Channel Islands became the Channel Islands National Park in 1980. With no predators on the islands, the feral sheep population grew. A survey completed in 1989 estimated that over 21,000 sheep lived on the island, but their days of living here were numbered. The eradication of the feral sheep began. But, someone was thinking at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and was able to save a small number of the Santa Cruz Island sheep. They convinced the Nature Conservancy that the sheep should be recognized as “a unique genetic resource for the species” ( . In 1988 the first of twelve lambs were rescued and placed with five breeders in California. More of the species were brought off the island in 1991. The article ended stating that the population of Santa Cruz Island sheep has grown to 200. What a shame that only so many of the animals were senseless killed because of a lack of understanding about the species. A family in Lewisberry, PA has taken some of the sheep on their farm to help insure their survival. It will be interesting to follow what happens with the Santa Cruz Island sheep.



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