While calving, our cows are well aware of the recent influx of bears, displaced in part by the 150,000 acre Rough Fire in Kings Canyon, but primarily due to the drought and the lack of anything to eat at the higher elevations. Furthermore, there’s not much here to eat either, as only one in three or four hundred oak trees has any acorns and the percentage of oak trees that have died because of the lack of rainfall the past four years continues to increase and probably approaches 40% now. The remainder have lost most of their leaves, but there’s bear sign everywhere we go.
On Monday on my way to pump water at the Paregien Ranch, I found the mothers of these two calves high in Ridenhour Canyon, taking turns going to water while the other babysat. Though I didn’t see the calves on the way up, I knew the cows had been sucked. When I came down a few hours later, I found the cows and calves had moved to the top of a ridge. Both were well hidden and only a day or so old.
Most cows sort themselves before calving, as the ones close to calving begin running together apart from the bunch as they prepare their nurseries ahead of time. We’ve lost calves to bears in the past, but usually those of first-calf mothers. Older cows, or cows together, can bluff most bears, but with so little to eat in the middle of calving there are no guarantees. Bears will eat anything, and older bears unable to rummage for food begin to acquire a taste for veal.
Yesterday, on my way up to work on a trough, I found the same two cows together higher yet in the pasture, making their steep round trip to water to close to a mile. Once again, I didn’t see the two calves until I came off the mountain.