CHINO HILLS (AP) — Hikers are meeting hoofers in a sprawling Southern California park where feral or stray cows have startled visitors and raised concerns about potentially dangerous confrontations with 2,000-pound bulls, authorities said.
In recent years, cattle have broken through fences in order to roam the grassy, oak-studded canyons of Chino Hills State Park on the borders of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune said.
Cowboys hired to lasso the invaders have had only limited success, and dozens remain hidden in the 14,000-acre park, the paper said.
Frank Turcaz, an experienced hiker, said he encountered a bull and 20 cows on a trail a few months ago.
"I started slapping my hiking stick and the calves and the females took off running, but the bull turned toward us. I had never encountered mean cows. When he finally retreated up the hill he never stopped looking at us," Turcaz said.
Ed Loritz said he saw a bull on a trail in February.
"This cow had this look in his eye like he was going to kill me. He weighs 2,000 pounds. I wasn't about to mess with him," Loritz said.
Loritz said he counted 15 head of cattle in one area.
"I am aware there is the potential for dangerous interaction between cattle and park visitors and I am doing everything I can," said Kelly Elliott, supervising ranger at Chino Hills State Park.
Some of the cows may come from neighboring ranches in a region where cattle have been raised for at least a century. They are attracted by the richer pastures of the protected parklands.
"It seems no matter how many fences are put up, there is really no stopping a cow if it is hungry," Elliott said. "In the park, the grass is literally greener."
However, Elliott said she believes some of the animals were born wild in the park, because they don't have tags.
Ranger Kim Sawyer said he spotted a bull while patrolling late last month.
"Some of them haven't been around humans a lot. Apparently this bull is very dangerous and very big," Schlotterbeck said.
The park has hired cowboys in recent years, who have removed about 20 cows. The wranglers aren't paid but can keep captured cows, which can be auctioned.
Elliott also said she has begun legal proceedings against cow owners and asked people to help identify wayward cows by sending photos of them.
Cows occasionally wander into other Southern California recreation areas but not in great numbers.
About 60 miles west of the park, a few cattle have strayed into the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, executive director Joseph Edmiston said.
"We have not had feral cows but if some cows come from their ranches, we call the people up and say 'Hey you have a week to go get them or we're having a barbecue,'" Edmiston said.