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Monday, September 12, 2011

Yak Roundup

Our closest neighbor to the north, David, has a herd of yaks, interesting, shaggy creatures with scary, curvy, pointy horns. Their soft cashmere-like yarn is $27 a skein and their meat is about $30 a pound. They are valuable creatures.

David's yaks went AWOL a month and a half ago.  His place is like ours, with a steep cliff to the east, and that's how those Tibetan bovines traveled, straight up. It took a month to find them, but he and Ernest (everyone's helper around here) rounded them up with difficulty and they were back at David's ranch. Bonus: 2 new yak babies were born while the herd was on the run. They were home for 5 days and disappeared again.

Some wood cutters on a nearby ranch spotted the yaks here and there and gave David a call. With their black humpy stature, the yaks looked kind of like bears when they were in the pines, making the wood cutters a little jumpy. David asked us if we wanted to help find the escapees, so this is where the photo essay starts.

We started at the ranch where the yaks were spotted, about 1500 acres of beautiful meadows, steep canyons, pine forests, and lakes. Benjamin, the ranch manager and a beekeeping friend of mine, let us in and the guys morphed into bloodhounds.

They were tracking for yak poop and hoofprints. Sometimes they worked as a crew and other times they separated. We walked down canyons and up canyons, through pine forests and amazingly, cactus patches interspersed with ferns. What a place!

The guys saw yak sign, but no yaks. Small yak hoofprints were all over the place, but that was about it, so we got into the truck and took a drive around more of the ranch, but no luck.

Mole (pronounced MOLE-ay) is David's Labrador retriever who came along to help. The weather was drizzly, so wet Mole ran alongside the truck, happy to be outside and hunting.

No luck with finding the yaks at this place, so we said goodbye and thanks to Benjamin and piled into David's truck for a ride to the other side of the mountains to the east, near the community of Ojo Feliz (Happy Eye?) That's where the yaks were found the last time, so it was worth a try.

The guys broke out the binoculars and took turns glassing the hillsides to see if they could see, to see if they could see... Since the ranch was 20 square miles, that was a lot of looking.
Tom, David and Ernest

Way off in the distance first Tom and then Ernest spotted the yaks almost to the base of those far trees on the hillside.

Without binoculars they looked like little black and white dots.

So David got on the phone to call Jimmy, the ranch manager, to ask if he would let us in the locked gate to round up the yaks.

 Small world department: Jimmy's mother taught my Corona, California teacher friend, Shela. Shela grew up in Cimarron, NM.

Jimmy offered to help, so we drove as far as we could go and the guys got out.  I drove David's truck down to a corral we had passed on the way up.

I moseyed around and poked into some abandoned, mouse dropping strewn ranch houses, but not for long. The radio crackled and I heard Ernest say, "Bridget, close that gate so they don't get out!" I already had closed the gate, so there, Ernest.

And sure enough, the yaks were getting close, fast, the guys running behind them.  I parked the truck to partially block off any escape from the corral gate. Tom had the camera, and in between running to keep up with the yaks, he took some photos. Click on the photos for a closer look.

This one is of the herd, with Lily, a hand raised, domesticated yak, bringing up the rear.

Here are Ernest and Lily:

Jimmy used his truck to help move the yaks down to the corral.

I positioned myself to the side of the gate so the yaks would go in. I held my arms out and moved back and forth like a basketball guard so the yaks would rethink coming my way. David, Tom and Ernest took up strategic posts to move the yaks toward the corral. Lots of running was involved.

You can't see him, but there was one new yak baby, a white one with black spots. I think he was between the two on the right.

Lily stepped outside the corral for a minute and then wanted back inside.
 So all went well and the yaks were trailered back home again. For how long, we don't know. I suspect they like having their babies up in the pines where they feel safe from predators. Who knows? They're yaks!  If it happens again, the yakboys are on it!

1 comment:

  1. Yakboys better get a border collie, rounding up the herd would then be a piece of cake. I enjoy your blog, we live on 20 acres atop Rowe Mesa, so are "almost" neighbors.


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