Who would have thought that beef cattle would be so important to the diet of the sandhill crane?
It's not that this bird likes to grill up a steak or swoop into Burger King for a meal.
Cattle help the cranes, wildlife experts said last week, by keeping grasses short enough for the fowl to find insects and other food on the ground.
"We have a lot of photographs of sandhill cranes and cattle grazing together," said Kim Forrest, manager of three West Side wildlife refuges where the bovines help groom the land.
She took part in a two-day event devoted to the idea that cattle and wildlife can coexist. It included a conference that drew more than 350 people to Modesto Centre Plaza and visits by smaller groups to grazing operations in Merced County.
The event was sponsored by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, made up of people in ranching, government, environmental groups and academia.
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