If you hop on Interstate 10 and head east for a couple hours, you'll find yourself at the Sand to Snow National Monument. It's a longtime destination for nature lovers that's also become home to herds of gigantic, wild cattle that are now wreaking havoc on the environment.
Jack Thompson's been spotting these feral cattle for a number of years now. He's the Desert Regional Director of the Wildlands Conservancy. He joined Take Two to explain the problem.
The origin of SoCal's feral cattle
There's been ranching in this area historically for many decades and the terrain is very steep and rugged, so it's not unfeasible that these cattle went astray and have been difficult to round up. And with that happening, they multiply.
Roaming free is a problem
Cattle are such big animals, and they have such a big appetite, so they'll be drawn to areas where there's water. And where there's water, there's sensitive habitat, so they'll cause damage. That's a problem for land managers to care take the land. Areas you can see these cattle moving in have been deeply impacted. Clear streams are now polluted from the cattle's droppings.
Impact on other wildlife
One of the big concerns is that these cattle will be interacting in the same space as the big horn sheep in this area and will pass their diseases on to them.
What's being done to manage feral cattle
Land managing agencies that have the cows on their land are doing an investigation to find out where the animals are, how many there are and are talking to adjacent land owners to find out if their ongoing cattle operations may be related to these cows.
A humane solution
It's hard to say without all that information. Certain cowboys have looked at it and expressed dismay at the difficulty of rounding them up safely. They've been wild so long they can out-maneuver a person on a horse very easily.
Hikers have had some interaction with the cattle. They're so common on the popular hiking tails, one volunteer with the Pacific Coast Trail Assn. was nearly run down and gored by one of these feral cattle recently. You definitely want to keep your distance and give them a wide berth. Do not approach these animals at all.