A rescued baby cow from Meares Island is on the mend and has become a spokes-calf for her unique, beach dwelling, seaweed munching herd.
The female calf, dubbed Mooshu, is currently healing at the Alice Sanctuary near Calgary after being rescued by the Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network and treated for a congenital disorder that was causing her front hooves to be turned inwards.
Her free ranging, wild herd has long been a fixture on Meares Island and is monitored by members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation community of Opitsaht.
CARE co-founder James Rodgers told the Westerly News that the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation reached out to the network in April after noticing Mooshu’s inability to walk on her front hooves.
“We dispatched pretty darn quick because those cows, especially the calves, are at risk of predators like wolves,” Rodgers said. “I think we were on the boat within 30 minutes of getting the call.”
He said the CARE team located Mooshu and got to work trying to isolate her from the herd so she could be assessed.
“One of the folks with us was rolling fruit for the herd to kind of be distracted by and follow and once we got eyes on Mooshu we quickly determined she needed some serious vet care,” he said.
He explained that Mooshu was scooped up and transported in a dog kennel to Dr. Jeff Berry at the Tofino Vet Clinic who he said was “fantastic” and worked with CARE to create splints out of PVC pipe to correct Mooshu’s feet.
“This is a fairly critical point because cows, unlike some other animals like dogs, can’t survive on anything less than four legs,” Rodgers said. “A calf can make do and hop around just fine on less than four legs, but once they get up to that cow size, there’s just too much weight for those little legs, so getting her legs corrected as soon as possible was really important.”
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Rodgers said Mooshu spent the first few weeks of her recovery at CARE’s shelter in Tofino where she received daily physiotherapy and care from “some absolutely incredible local volunteers.”
“I don’t know that Tofino and Ucluelet have gone through that much whole milk in history,” he said. “We were bottle feeding her constantly.”
The calf was then transferred from CARE’s shelter to the Alice Sanctuary, a non-profit vegan farm near Calgary, Alberta.
“At the shelter, it became a little problematic with the wolves around getting a little too interested in a baby cow out here, so we made the decision to transfer her to a sanctuary,” Rodgers said, adding the facility is also better equipped and is home to other cows that can “be with her and teach her how to be a little cow.”
With Mooshu on the mend, Rodgers is hoping to use her success story to drum up support for her herd that’s long chomped along the beaches of Meares Island.
“They’re a free roaming population. They have a unique DNA given that they’ve been an isolated herd for so long and because they eat seaweed as part of their diet,” he said.
CARE is currently working with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to build a shelter facility to give the Meares Island herd a dry place to retreat to during inclement weather and to make it possible to isolate one in need of medical attention.
“We do monitor the well being of all the cows there as much as we can with a free roaming population on a fairly sizable island but, when there is a medical situation, dealing with that is very problematic,” he said. “We’re not talking about your regular cow situation where they’re somewhat used to humans and being corralled and contained. They are free spirits that are rarely directed to do anything…We’re not looking to change that dynamic at all. This is just to add some resources so we can ensure their ongoing well being and the safety of those trying to help them.”
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He added that the next cow in need of assistance is an adult female named Rosie who is at risk as one of her horns is curling back into her skull.
Rodgers said the treatment for Rosie’s condition is fairly straightforward, but is made complicated without the ability to isolate Rosie from the herd.
“In order to assess that, one needs to have a way to sort of contain the animal…Rosie is the next in line that needs some attention and without this shelter in place, her options are quite limited,” he said. “We’re talking 1,000-plus pounds here and they are quick and just even a quick movement of their head could cause some serious damage.”
He said the proposed facility is expected to cost around $25,000 in materials and would be built by volunteers.
Anyone looking to help out is encouraged to visit CARE’s website at www.carenetwork.ca where they can purchase a high resolution digital photo of Mooshu with 100 per cent of the proceeds going towards building the new facility for her herd.
“It really is a great opportunity for her to highlight the needs of her herd,” Rodgers said. “Her vet costs and all that were all covered by CARE, so that’s all taken care of. What we really need now is to get this shelter in place for the good of the herd going forward so that we can hopefully avoid these sorts of situations in the future.”
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