Coyotes & Cows

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 was another splendid day on the Estero Americano.

Starting to Clear 5:25:16

The coastal low clouds spread quite far inland overnight and did not clear along the coast until a little past noon. I got a late start which often results in having to struggle upwind to make it out to the ocean. Luckily, the first four miles of the trip out to the coast were paddled under an overcast sky and in very light westerly winds.

Song birds along the shore on both sides sang loudly, brightening my mood.

Sparrow? 5:25:16

The sun came out just as I approached the beach. By then, I had seen many of the regular denizens of the Estero: cormorants, American White Pelicans, Great Egrets, deer, Red Tailed Hawks, and many Turkey Vultures. I was beginning to feel a little disappointed that I had not seen any unusual animals when I rounded the the last bend before the beach and saw….

Coyote 5:25:16

This Coyote! Last Tuesday, I had seen a coyote as well. This one was on the Sonoma County bank of the Estero and a couple of miles further west of the individual I saw last week. It also appeared to be a larger animal.

Alone at the Beach 5:25:16

Soon I was on the beach enjoying a can of kipper snacks and a thermos of black tea and looking for whales. I saw no whales, but a southbound sailboat passed by a mile or so offshore.

Sailboat 5:25:16

By 1:00 a pleasant breeze came up out the the west.

Sailing Home 5:25:16

I was glad to have my sail along. A refreshing breeze blew me back to Valley Ford.

Deer 5:25:16

Near the end, I furled the sail and paddled. I passed a deer browsing in a wooded spot near the dairy.

Most of the cattle and dairy ranchers allow their livestock direct access to the Estero’s waters.

Cows 5:25:16

This is nice for the cattle. I’m sure they like to get their feet wet and walk in the mud.

But they don’t just come down for drinks. They also urinate and defecate in it. The Estero’s waters, held back by the sandbar at the beach, gradually get more and more funky as California’s dry spring, summer and fall months go by. These waters probably won’t flush until next winter.

Cows Urinating 5:25:16

I’ve talked with Santa Rosa City biologist Denise Cadman about this problem in the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa. She told me that many area ranchers are reluctant to make changes to traditional practices. They don’t welcome outsider’s ideas about how to manage their ranches.

But progress is being made. The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District has a Estero Americano Dairy Enhancement Program underway.

In June 2010 they published a Nutrient Management Planning Guidance for Small Coastal Dairies, a document running more than 60 pages.

Back in March I toured an exemplary dairy on the Estero, just upstream from the navigable parts of the Estero in Valley Ford, the 1500 acre Leveroni-Moody Dairy, a Clover Organic Dairy. Steve Moody showed us the fencing he’s installed on his dairy to keep his cows away from the Estero’s waters.

Because of his efforts to improve the water quality in the Estero he’s earned loyal customers from this household.