Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Dave Harper

If you lose or find an animal in Placitas area, call the Animal Hotline at 867-6135. The Hotline is a nonprofit service run by Dave and January Harper to help reunite lost and found pets. Placing a Lost or Found in the Animal Hotline is a free service courtesy of the Signpost—we can sometimes even include a photo. Call Dave and January at 867-6135 or 263-2266 and leave a detailed message, or email the Animal Hotline at: (but call, too).


I’m lost! If you see me, call the Animal Hotline.

Cat: Male, brown Tabby. "Tiki" is neutered and micro-chipped. Lost August 23 near Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas. #4046 (See photo right

Cat: Black long-haired female has a little white below her chin and no tail. She is spayed and has no collar or chip. Lost August 29 near Montana Court in Placitas. #4047


Animal News


Lalo’s pet prints:

Lalo loves to receive your pet and animal photos to print in the Signpost.
Email them to “Lalo” at:
Or mail prints to: Signpost, P. O. Box 889 Placitas, NM 87043

The condo is rented for Winter.
—Photo by Gary Priester, Placitas

Lalo, This is “Taco Dog” in last year's Corrales Harvest Festival Pet Parade. This year Corrales Harvest Festival will be September 30 and October 1st. Come play with us! 
—Photo by Debbie Hammack, Corrales

Lalo! Look who’s napping on the Knights’ backporch again. Here kitty, kitty, kitty. 
—Photo by Bill Diven, Placitas

Valles Caldera hosts Elk Festival

~Kimberly DeVall

Valles Caldera National Preserve is home to one of the largest elk herds in New Mexico. Each fall, the sound of elk bugling in the mountains marks the start of their mating season—known as the ‘rut.’ To celebrate the upcoming elk rut and to learn about these fascinating creatures, the National Park Service will host the 9th Annual Jemez Mountains Elk Festival on September 30, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the preserve. This free, family-friendly festival will feature fun interactive activities and demonstrations. Wildlife experts also will be on hand to answer visitor questions about elk and other Jemez Mountains wildlife. Rangers will lead hikes and talks, showcasing the preserve’s history, geology, and biodiversity. For more information on the events and activities the Preserve offers, call 575-829-4100, option #3, or visit

The mighty bighorn

~Daryl Ratajczak, Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Forest Service

I stood motionless, afraid to even blink let alone breathe. His bulbous eye focused on the off-colored rock sitting before him. His 220-pound frame was sleek and well-defined but nothing compared to what it would be in a few months when he bulked up to begin defending his right to breed. The Rocky Mountain bighorn ram standing before me was already a fine specimen, but he was soon going to be a fierce competitor as well. Imagining the thunderous clap resounding from his mighty horns as he beat down his rivals, I had little doubt he would maintain his bloodline this coming breeding season.

So went my first encounter with New Mexico's largest wild sheep. You can imagine my surprise as I learned about this majestic animal and its struggle to maintain a foothold in the rocky and wild places it calls home. As an invited member to a bighorn sheep management meeting, my first priority was to gather as much information about the animal as possible. As a wildlife biologist, I have managed numerous species of big game animals, but this was going to be my first foray with bighorns, therefore, I was quite content letting the experts lead the discussion.

Much to my surprise, I learned that bighorn sheep were a staple in the diet of prehistoric peoples along sections of the Rio Grande gorge in Northern New Mexico. In fact, archaeological records indicate it was the second most hunted large animal behind only mule deer. Not anymore.

As recently as the early 1900s, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were completely extirpated from the state of New Mexico. Though they have made notable comebacks in certain areas, they are currently absent from almost half of their historic range. Not familiar with their history, I was eager to learn more and it didn’t take long before the conversation shifted to discussing the greatest threats to bighorns.

One of the sheep’s biggest struggles continues to be the altered and fragmented habitats that leave their populations isolated and prone to catastrophic events. High on their list of worries is being decimated by diseases that are not naturally known to their populations. Respiratory diseases, especially Pneumonia, are associated with most bighorn die-offs. The pneumonia causing bacteria most detrimental to them is an old-world strain in which the sheep have no natural defense, much like the diseases introduced to the New World centuries ago. Unfortunately, the end result is usually widespread die-off.

This tragic event usually occurs when wild sheep come in contact with domestic sheep or goats. All it takes is for one stray lovesick wild ram to come in contact with an infected domestic animal. When contact or even close proximity occurs, he can pick up the bacteria. If he then returns to the wild herd the entire flock can become infected and it usually spells disaster for the whole population. Although, it may not kill every animal, it may drop their numbers to a point which they can rarely recover. Sadly, it has happened all over the west and continues to this day.

Thanks to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, some newly established bighorn populations are gaining a foothold in areas that have been void of sheep for generations. Cochiti Canyon on the Santa Fe National Forest is one such place where the mighty rams once again roam. The recent fires from Las Conchas have left a smorgasbord of food for the sheep, while the sheer walls of the canyon provide escape cover for the sure-footed animals. The nearby Dome wilderness also provides sanctuary for the animals should they seek additional solitude and lest we forget Bandelier National Monument, which readily awaits the return of the majestic bighorn. Not surprisingly, a few stray animals having been recently spotted within the Monument.

These re-established populations however are still at risk. Feral goats and sheep sometimes wander the forest. One chance encounter with them could be disastrous to the entire wild herd. We need people to be vigilant. We need them to make sure their animals do not escape and to report any sightings of feral goats and sheep anywhere on the Jemez or Espanola districts of Santa Fe NF. The sheep’s existence on the forest depends on it. Without the help of the citizens of New Mexico and those that love all things wild, the thunderous clap of bighorn rams declaring their dominance may never again be heard by future generations. I, for one, want my child to see and hear this magnificent animal.

Please call New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at (888) 248-6866 to report feral domestic sheep or goats on the Santa Fe NF or to report bighorn sheep mingling with domestic animals.

Daryl Ratajczak is a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service and currently serving on a multi-agency Bighorn Sheep Working Group. Their mission is to help restore bighorns to their historic range within the Jemez Mountains and surrounding areas. This article was a drafted at the request of the working group.

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