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High Sierra Cow Anxiety in Upper Clarks Fork Canyon


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By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 06 August 2015

Moved to Mountain Safety Forum

Close Encounter of the Cow Kind

As I was hiking down the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus on the unmaintained Tahoe to Yosemite Trail I picked up the enchanting sound of softly clanging cow bells bouncing off the rocky canyon walls until absorbed by the forest.

I figured I'd meet some cows. The narrow canyon certainly makes "our" shared route along the visible bits of route along the unmaintained trail the best solution for both grazing stock and passing backpackers to reach our respective goals. It's cozy. No problem. I like cows.

My goal is always to get past cows with as little trouble as possible. I've dealt with cows many times before, and always gotten myself through quickly, sometimes employing sweet talk, and other times threatening a re-branding if cow-cooperation is found lacking.

I will go freeking cowboy on their huge cow asses.

I see little reason to take shit from cows. Except that they are huge land mammals deserving huge amounts of respect. Respect is mutual or non-existant.
This time I got through as quickly as usual, but with a whole bunch of problems, a serious threat of rebranding employed,  and a seriously anxious cow giving me shit, which triggered a spark of human ingenuity and humor to resolve the situation nicely.

 I'm in real trouble if I can't out think and outwit a freeking cow.

I approached the cows as openly as possible, as not to scare them, to get them to move away from the trail together. As I approached and passed a huge brown cow she failed to move with her two black calves, who unfortunately ran down my trail in front of me as I passed mom.

This split mom from her calves, which instantly had her moving towards me, rather than running with the calves. Son of a Gun! An aggressive cow. Great.

 My wisdom lay in understanding their relationship, which sparked the unease and aggression. 

Seeing her anxious aggression I instantly told her that I would eat her for dinner if she continued any aggression. My tone alone stopped her. I also eyed the nearest tree sufficient to play "ring around the rosey," if  a pissed-off cow began chasing me, which would also allow me to beat her with my stick as she chased me around.

I will get my shots in.

I react with aggression when an animal steps towards me in aggression, and I am planning on winning from the first step. Animals sense that quite clearly. Mom stepped back, detered by my aggression while being pushed forward by her maternal feelings.

I also instantly sensed, and I understood that her aggressin was caused by the fact that those black devils that ran down the trail in front of me were her calfs, and I was standing between her and her imperative for life. I knew that.

Rebuffing mom with my predatory presentation, I moved down the trail, hoping to pass the calves, allow them to rejoin their mother, and difuse the situation. No such luck. The frigging calves ran before me down the trail, making a moooing racket.

This caused mom cow, trotting down the trail shadowing me from behind,  to freak out, and pursue me down the trail again, baying like a hound from a narrowing distance. She was really unhappy with me hiking down the trail between me and her calves, running her babies down the mountain, and was working up her nerve to rush me.
I knew this.
So, I said to myself, "shit, I gotta end this," and moved quickly to turn a bend in the trail beyond mom's sight. I quickly broke into a  trot down the trail around the corner, then broke off-trail to my Left, quickly hiding behind a tree. Mom shortly came trotting around the corner, snorting like a bull, but with the caution of a cow.

The mother cow trotted exactly to the spot I stepped off the trail, and stopped right there.

She simultaniously began snorting and moving her head from side to side. She knew something was up, that I had left the trail. Damn Human, I could hear her think!  Damn Cow, I though.
This was my moment. I was going to answer the question about who was the hunter and who was being hunted. Well, herded...

I sprang from behind my tree with my best, "I'm having steak for dinner" banshee yell and charged the totally freaked out cow from behind, and she predictably screamed, "MOO!," and ran like hell down the trail, with her two calves shortly joining her in a nice family run.

I had a good laugh, with mom and calves united in front of me. That was still a problem, but not as bad as being wedged between the cow family.

Big Mama and her two black calves joined the rest of the herd, who I was now driving as a herd down the trail in front of me. That was a hell of a lot better than splitting the cows from the calves!

 I was an ass-backwards parade leader. I was not too worried. I correctly figured the cows would break off the trail where they found enough room to move off the trail as a collective, which is what they did.

They all mooed at me as I passed by. Some mooed warnings at the others, the others mooed dissatisfaction with me, and the calves were mooing because everyone else was mooing.
Huge Brown mom and her two black calves were nowhere to be seen. I figure they had gotten as far away from me, out to the far perimeter of their group as possible.

I actually took videos of Big Brown Ma Cow and her two black calves making a hell of a cow-concert of dissatisfaction with me, but I don't know if I will ever put this up online.

Another Cow-Related Story:
I'm not a Cow: The Great Al Roundup

This is a very serious safety issue, so I have moved this story to the Mountain Safety Forum.

I've dug up some bovine safety information to encourage having plans, a proper approach, observation and engagement with our environment and its potential hazards to get through in one piece. 

How Not to Get Killed by a Cow,
Discover, Feb 2, 2016

Although I do not agree with all of the advice from About Sports, below, specifically the "keep your eyes down," and to be completely passive. I believe in direct communication of my presense, and I click and talk sweetly, unless I detect aggressive behavior.

At that point I typically, but not always, deter it with aggression, It depends on the specific situation. Aggression typically disperses the offender(s), yet it must be deployed with care only as finally necessary, and I always have a backup plans and options running around in my head... if my charge is stood against, withstood, and broken.

But the bottom line is I always have the, "going cowboy" on their asses option. Full Attack. Nine out of ten times everything but an acclimated bear will turn tail and run, if they think you are dead serious. 

My last analysis requires I go out with stick in hand, moving forward. Unless dropping pack and climbing tree works better!

 How to Survive an Aggressive Cow Attack,
About Sports.

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