Forest Service to Shoot Wild Cattle That Attacked Hikers in Gila National Forest

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The US Forest Service will “lethally eliminate” a herd of feral cattle that had established itself in the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico, the agency announced.

Wild cows and bulls have been a problem in the Gila National Forest since a rancher abandoned a herd of cattle in the 1970s. As a result of their abandonment, these animals are not considered domesticated by experts, which could put endangering local foot traffic.

According to the agency, some of the cattle in question had been exhibiting aggressive behavior, even attacking hikers on occasion. The herd is also responsible for extensive environmental damage such as stream bed erosion, water pollution, and overgrazing.

in a Press releaseGila National Forest Service Supervisor Camille Howes stated, “Wild cattle in the Gila Wilderness have been aggressive towards wilderness visitors, grazing year-round and trampling the banks of streams and springs, causing erosion and siltation. This action will help restore the wilderness character of the Gila Wilderness that is enjoyed by visitors from across the country.”

Although it has been difficult to get an accurate estimate of the number of cattle in the region, officials suspect there are around 150 wild cattle in the area. The Gila National Forest has worked extensively with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services to remove these feral herds from forest boundaries.

As of yesterday, the Forest Service closed a section of the Gila National Forest to the public in preparation for an aerial shot, which will take place from February 23 to 26. The resulting carcasses will be left in the area to decompose naturally, although the Forest Service will attempt to remove livestock from water sources, trails and sensitive areas.

Added Howes: “This has been a difficult decision, but the lethal removal of wild cattle from the Gila Wilderness is necessary to protect public safety, habitats for threatened and endangered species, water quality, and the natural character of the Gila. Wilderness”.

While conservationists, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and WildEarth Guardians, as well as the Chiricahua Apache Nation Council have largely applauded the agency’s decision, some ranching groups and Farmers have criticized the planned killings.

On its Facebook page, the New Mexico Cattle Producers Association announced that it was suing for a restraining order to prevent the Forest Service from putting its plans into action, based on an agreement it had reached with the plaintiffs in February 2022. to grant 75 days notice prior to any future deadly removal. The organization sued over a similar restraining order last year; a federal district court denied his request.

Officials say they are actively looking for collaborative solutions to manage wild cattle in the future. The Forest Service hopes this week’s aerial shots will substantially reduce the feral herd population. But the agency told CNN that additional operations will likely be required in the future as well.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
Articles: 7737