Elk NetworkRMEF Helps Create New Wildlife Water Sources in New Mexico

General | June 18, 2024

Central portions of New Mexico are bone-dry for stretches of the year and that’s challenging for elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and an array of other wildlife species.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with the Bureau of Land Management and other partners to supply funding for two new, life-sustaining water sources in the Sierra Ladrones, Polvadera and Chupadera Mountains.

The water system features a rainwater catchment four times larger than traditional setups that produce up to 5,000 gallons of precipitation collection and storage with 8-10 inches of average annual rain and snow. That is especially important because the system will keep up with expected wildlife use.

To allow access to water by smaller wildlife species and to mitigate the potential for drowning and death, the drinker has a built-in cement escape ramp. The new water development design also reduces annual and long-term maintenance needs and costs and provides for an overall more reliable and long-term water source down the road.

Crews used a helicopter to fly materials to the job site.

Elk are abundant in the area, but the wildlife drinker is also key for bighorn sheep. Since the release of desert bighorn sheep in 1998, the herd struggled to grow and increase in size, remaining at about 50-75. Since 2004 and more recently, a significant effort went into enhancing habitat through vegetative treatments and installing water developments. Since then, and more recently to 2018, the herd showed a drastic increase in numbers and started to move into and colonize other areas of suitable habitat. Due to the increase and the stabilization of the herd, there is now a huntable population.

View more photos in the BLM Facebook post.

(Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management)