Newborn calf in Opitsaht seen as a sure sign spring is here | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Newborn calf in Opitsaht seen as a sure sign spring is here

Opitsaht, BC

A calf was recently born to the feral herd of cattle that have roamed freely on Meares Island for more than a century.

According to resident Norman Thomas, the calf was born on April 3, behind his house, located at the back side of the village of Opitsaht.

“My boys (in early 20s) saw it being born yesterday and they were worried that dogs or something would get after it when the mother wandered off,” Thomas told Ha-Shilth-Sa.

Tla-o-qui-aht residents say that the missionaries of Christie Indian Residential School brought the cattle in during the early 1900s. But farming never took hold for the children that attended the school at Kakawis or for the residents of Opitsaht.

Now feral, the herd roams a forest trail between Kakawis and Opitsaht freely. They have adapted to life on the west coast, grazing on the lush lawns of Opitsaht and Kakawis. They are also known to head to the beach at low tide to munch on eel grass.

They are not formally cared for, but people sometimes feed them fruit when they come to the village. One calf with a congenital deformity in its leg was rescued from the herd in 2021.

Still, it’s a treat for locals to see newborn calves being born in their village in the spring.

The calf born this week was left alone in Thomas’s backyard. Believing that the mother would come back, the family let them be. But the elder Thomas found the calf laying on the frosty grass behind his house on the morning of April 4, alone and cold.

“The mother wasn’t there yesterday, and I worried that it wouldn’t come back,” said Thomas.

He wrapped the newborn in a comforter and prepared a bottle of fresh milk and warm water.

“I don’t have much and didn’t know what to give it,” said Thomas.

He said the calf appears to be a male and its mother comes back now and then, but doesn’t stay with the newborn.

“She kicked it away, once,” said Thomas.

He said a little boy came along and told him he should call the hospital.

The calf took some of the milk after Thomas modified the baby bottle. It could be heard braying loudly while Thomas was on the phone with Ha-Shilth-Sa.

Thomas contacted the CARE Network, an animal rescue society based in Tofino.

“They said they would send someone to look at him,” said Thomas, but nobody had showed up in Opitsaht by that afternoon.

For now, the newborn calf found a sunny patch of grass to lay down on as it calls out to its mother.

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