MOHAVE POINT — Ignoring the clicking of cameras and periodic pats from tourists, the bighorn sheep known as Scarface goes about her business near the rim of the Grand Canyon.
The animal doesn't seem to mind all the people making a fuss over her — they're just a part of the area she calls home. Still, Scarface does get into some dangerous situations, especially when she ventures into the South Rim developed area.
Elaine Leslie, Grand Canyon National Park wildlife biologist, led an effort to relocate Scarface to the West Rim last October. Scarface had been frequenting he El Tovar-Grand Canyon Railway area and was in danger of getting hit by a train or car. It took her about a month to find her way back to the South Rim.
"She was back exactly 30 days after we relocated her," Leslie said. "She showed up at Canyon View (Information Plaza). The problem is this is her home ground, her home range."
The concerns with Scarface began in part to a human-wildlife interaction position not being funded last year when Scarface reappeared after a few years down in the Canyon. Therefore, consistent aversive conditioning techniques could not be applied. Finally, a wildlife immobilization and animal care class training at Grand Canyon relocated Scarface last fall.
"The problem is, to do a good relocation on her, we have to move her really far," Leslie said. "I'd have to figure we'd need to get her across the river and she'd have to be down there long enough (for the relocation to be successful)."
Scarface got her name after making her way into the Thunderbird Lodge and then in a panic, exited through a plate-glass window. The ewe is 3 to 4 years old and appears to be a bighorn sheep orphaned in 1997. Leslie said she looked at her markings and they match the markings of the female orphan that wandered around in the village for about three months in ’97.
"She was habituated from an early, young age," Leslie said. "The problem was she went into the residential area in the middle of the summer, and people and pools of water out."
Residents who have certain habits with their pets can cause problems with the wildlife. Leaving pet food and water outside, for example, can get animals such as the young bighorn sheep used to finding resources in the developed areas.
The wildlife staff was successful in getting the bighorn sheep over the rim after those three months. She stayed down there for a few years before resurfacing last spring and early summer. She's been a common sight ever since.