Writer’s Block: Res­cued

When a pack of coy­otes at­tacks a de­fence­less calf, this brave jog­ger takes ac­tion

Our Canada - - News - By Jean Humphreys, Kam­loops, B. C.

Lit­tle did this jog­ger know that a rou­tine run would turn into a res­cue mis­sion!

It was one of those very windy April days, so, in­stead of bik­ing as I had planned, I de­cided that some walk­ing and jog­ging would be a bet­ter op­tion. From here in Kam­loops, the scenic East Shuswap Road along the South Thomp­son River is a great place to walk or ride, as it runs along silt bluffs, grass­lands and fields. I drove out as far as the in­ter­pre­tive pullout lo­cated near the river, and parked across from the ex­panse of fields, which pre­vi­ously be­longed to the Harper Ranch.

As I started my walk, I no­ticed a herd of cat­tle in the fields; some had young calves with them. As I walked briskly along next to the river, which was sparkling in the sun­shine, I saw a coy­ote roam­ing around a good distance away.

I had a good work­out and turned around just be­yond a cat­tle guard, about three kilo­me­tres from where I started. Lovely yel­low cur­rant bushes were in bloom and the air was filled with their spicy, clove-like scent. In­spired by this beauty, I started back, but I was coping with a head­wind and didn’t stop to watch for bighorn sheep on the slopes of the moun­tain, where they like to hang out.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to the car, I re­laxed for a few min­utes, us­ing my binoc­u­lars to scan the slopes of the moun­tain­side for sheep. I didn’t see any. The rams were nowhere in sight and as for the ewes, since it was lamb­ing sea­son they were likely shel­ter­ing from the wind up in the rocks on the east side. Mean­while, the cat­tle in the big field were slowly mov­ing west­ward to­wards the creek, which comes down from Harper Moun­tain.

A small, dark shape across the field and be­low Sheep Hill caught my eye; there was some­thing un­usual about it. I raised my binoc­u­lars again to have a look. What was this? I was hor­ri­fied to see a small, rust-coloured calf, a good distance away from the herd, be­ing at­tacked by three coy­otes! They had him down and were pulling at his nose and face.

Gal­va­nized into ac­tion, I started the car. Blow­ing the horn, I sped down the road for about half a kilo­me­tre, slammed on the brakes and leaped out, grab­bing my hik­ing stick as I went. Rush­ing across the road, I scram­bled over the fence and tore across the field yelling and wav­ing my stick. I was so pumped up I wasn’t even wor­ried about deal­ing with three coy­otes; I’d han­dle them when I got there. My main thought was to res­cue that lit­tle calf. As I ran, I could see out of the cor­ner of my eye that the herd had turned and were start­ing back to­wards where the calf lay.

The three coy­otes took off when they saw me com­ing, but it seemed like ages be­fore I reached the small, red­dish-brown calf. He wasn’t very old— just a baby. He started bawl­ing when I got close. His eyes were wild and there was blood on his nose and drip­ping off his tongue. He was ter­ri­fied! I could prac­ti­cally smell his fear. As I started to reach out to help him up, he scram­bled to his feet on his own.

That was a relief—i was fright­ened to think he might have been ham­strung. I pet­ted him and he fol­lowed me for a few steps, but then turned and broke into a wob­bling run down­hill away from me.

Ob­vi­ously, he was some­what dis­ori­ented, as well as hurt and in shock. Glanc­ing side­ways, I dis­cov­ered that the herd was a few hun­dred me­tres away; they had come closer to see what all the ruckus was about. They started to move to­wards the re­treat­ing calf. The thought crossed my mind that range cat­tle can be very ag­gres­sive to­wards in­trud­ers, and I had no idea which cow was the calf’s mother. But I was so busy try­ing to get that calf headed to­wards them that I re­ally didn’t dwell on those thoughts. I just wanted him safe.

Run­ning af­ter the calf, I man­aged to get in front of him, and, zigzag­ging as he dodged back and forth, I tried to get him turned to­wards the herd. Would I suc­ceed? Fi­nally, I got him fac­ing in the right di­rec­tion and he ran to­wards the first group of cows.

Stop­ping to catch my breath, I watched as the calf ran through the group; they all checked him out as he passed by. Fi­nally slow­ing down, he joined up with a black cow with a splash of white on her face. Then they all started slowly back to­wards the creek, with the calf safely in the mid­dle of the herd.

With a sense of relief, I thought about how, in spite of how tough those range cows can be, they made no ag­gres­sive moves in my di­rec­tion at all. Strange how the calf was left all by him­self, but he was prob­a­bly nap­ping and his mom was a first­timer, new to rais­ing a calf. When the herd started to move to­wards the creek, she was most likely un­aware that he hadn’t fol­lowed along and didn’t re­al­ize the dan­ger of po­ten­tial preda­tors.

I stayed around for quite awhile in case those coy­otes came back. My hus­band, an ex­pe­ri­enced out­doors­man, later told me that coy­otes are plen­ti­ful in that area, as the bighorn sheep have their young nearby. The coy­otes make every at­tempt to nab one of the new­born lambs. He said that’s why the ewes stay up in the rocky ar­eas and hide their lambs when they’re very small.

For­tu­nately, the coy­otes didn’t re­turn and when I fi­nally left for home, the lit­tle calf was sleep­ing next to his mom with the rest of the herd re­lax­ing nearby.

I never did find out who owned the cat­tle. On sub­se­quent bik­ing and hik­ing trips out that way, I al­ways checked on how the calf was do­ing. Be­cause the herd moved around a fair bit, it was chal­leng­ing to spot him and his mom some­times, es­pe­cially if they were ly­ing down in places where the grass was long, or graz­ing where they were partly hid­den by shrubs or sage­brush. For­tu­nately, be­cause of his rusty-red colour­ing with a wee bit of white on his front, I was usu­ally able to spot the calf and was pleased to see he was grow­ing and thriv­ing. I was just so happy I had been able to save his life that day.

JEAN HUMPHREYS Jean has lived in Bri­tish Columbia all her life, presently re­sid­ing in Kam­loops. Sadly, she lost her hus­band ear­lier this year. Jean re­cently re­tired from work­ing for the li­brary sys­tem on the ref­er­ence/ in­for­ma­tion desk. Her hob­bies include hik­ing, bik­ing, camp­ing, watch­ing wildlife and birds, and writ­ing. She has writ­ten ar­ti­cles for var­i­ous news­pa­pers and had a col­lege es­say pub­lished in the B.c.his­tor­i­cal News. Jean is also con­cerned about the en­vi­ron­ment and preser­va­tion of wild spa­ces. She is ex­cited about hav­ing her story pub­lished in Our Canada!

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