Mother Nature lent a helping hand Monday to the Calaveras County's Narcotics Enforcement Unit yesterday and today.
With help from state Campaign Against Marijuana Planting agents, two abandoned marijuana plantations with a total 4,122 plants were uprooted in San Andreas and Mountain Ranch.
At both sites, seasonal springs fed irrigation lines that once watered the rows of 6-foot-tall plants. However, the springs were dry, the plants were starting to wilt and the waterless farmers had apparently given up on their crops.
"They weren't completely ready for sale," Calaveras County Sheriff's Department Captain Mike Walker said. "They were mature plants, but the actual harvest season is probably a month, month-and-a half-away."
The first site was uncovered Monday, about a quarter-mile off of Hawver Road near San Andreas. County and state officials raided the area not sure what to expect, but quickly concluded that the site was abandoned.
While investigating that site, the sheriff's department learned of another site off of Whiskey Slide Road near Mountain Ranch. That was raided yesterday and also found to be deserted.
A total of 964 wilting or dried-up plants were seized from the Hawver Road site, and 3,158 plants were seized from the grow at Whiskey Slide Road.
The busts bring the number of pot plants pulled in Calaveras County this year near the 10,000 mark.
That's a notable achievement, Walker said, considering the Sheriff's Department is without a state grant that was its main funding source for marijuana suppression in recent years.
"We'd usually be doing a lot more, but since the loss of that grant, we've lost two people in that unit who would be doing this full-time," Walker said. "I would say it's a good number for the amount of people we have working on it."
Walker said the sites were likely the work of Mexican drug organizations, "because the size and technique they were using to grow are very similar."
Contact Scott Pesznecker at email@example.com.