Writer’s Block: Rescued
When a pack of coyotes attacks a defenceless calf, this brave jogger takes action
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!