Hunting, loss of food from livestock grazing and disease from domestic livestock have devastated bighorn sheep populations. While livestock is not as much of a threat as in the past, loss of habitat from development is an increasing threat. Normally, predators like mountain lions, wolves, bobcats, coyotes and golden eagles do not pose a threat to bighorn sheep. However, in areas where sheep populations are low, the death of a sheep from a natural predator can be a risk to the larger population.
Nearly one-third of California’s populations of desert bighorn sheep have died out in the past century. These losses have occurred primarily at lower elevations, where increases in temperature and decreases in precipitation have reduced the amount of vegetation available for foraging and the freshwater springs they depend on for water. More populations of desert bighorn sheep may be at risk as the southwestern climate continues to become hotter and dryer.