Listen to this article Emergency Hay Drops Provided For Stranded Cows In Snowy Northern California
In Northern California, ranchers are facing an unprecedented challenge due to record snowfall. For Robert Puga, a rancher in Trinity County, his cattle were stranded and starving in the snow for weeks. He had never seen anything like this before. “We’ve never seen record snow like this, ever. And we’re losing cattle left and right,” Puga said.
The Unprecedented Snowfall
Northern California is not accustomed to heavy snowfall, and the recent wave of snow has been unparalleled. The spring is usually calving season, with plenty of grass to feed the newborns. However, this year, the grass has been buried by up to seven feet of snow on some ranches. With the lack of food, cattle are in danger of starvation.
Operation Hay Drop
As a result of the dire situation, State, federal, and local officials from neighboring Humboldt County put together an emergency rescue operation to airdrop stranded cattle bales of hay. Dubbed “Operation Hay Drop,” the mission covered about 2,500 head of cattle over several miles. The operation was coordinated by Humboldt County Supervisor Michelle Bushnell, who was also a cattle rancher herself. Bushnell explained that lots of cows in the area were going hungry due to the snow burying any potential feed. When she realized that some ranchers couldn’t even reach their cattle for over a week, she knew she had to do something.
The Idea for a Helicopter Rescue
A longtime Humboldt County rancher, John Rice, had shared with Bushnell that when the area faced a similar storm in 1989, they called in the Coast Guard to drop hay from helicopters to stranded cows. With that in mind, Bushnell proposed the idea of a helicopter rescue for starving cows. She brought the idea to Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal, who took it to the Coast Guard. By midday Sunday, March 5, “Operation Hay Drop”was in full swing.
The Success of the Operation
The operation was a success, with hundreds of bales of hay dropped to stranded cattle across the region. Ranchers like Puga were grateful for the help, as they were able to keep their cattle alive until the snow melted and the grass could grow again. “I’m just glad we have people like them that are willing to step up and help out when times get tough,” Puga said.