Feral Cattle Aerial Gunning Continues As Court Denies Restraining Order
The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association filed a complaint asking the Court to enter a restraining order against the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). In an emergency hearing, the judge denied the application for a restraining order and has given the ‘go ahead’ on shooting feral cattle in Gila National Forest via helicopter.
These feral cattle have a unique history dating back to the 1970s when a local rancher went bankrupt. The rancher who next obtained grazing privileges attempted to gather and manage the cows with little success. Since the late 1990s, permitted grazing of the area has ceased, yet the feral cattle continue to reproduce and inhabit the area. The Forest Service estimates 200 head roam the forest—none of which have ever been in ownership or have brands of local ranchers.
A Defenders of Wildlife representative states the cattle overgraze riverside areas, erode streambanks, harm water quality and degrade the habitat of endangered species. Feral cattle damage the wilderness areas and threaten the public, as they have been known to charge hikers, the Forest Service explains.
Despite consensus that the feral cattle harm the forest, many ranchers believe aerial gunning is not the solution. Bronson Corn, President-Elect of NMCGA stated in a release, “The repercussions of gunning-down and leaving of cattle carcasses in the Gila will be felt by the agriculture community and many New Mexican’s for some time. Those animals could have entered the food chain and been of benefit to many, instead they are being consumed by predators that already have the natural inclination to depredate producer’s livestock. The overall situation and the waste of protein is saddening.”
NMCGA explains the economic impact of the operation in a release, giving an example of the Gila operation waste using actual meat prices from Santa Fe, New Mexico. “200 cattle x 440 lbs (the average amount of edible beef one cow produces) = 88,000 lbs of beef.” One pound of ground beef chuck in Santa Fe costs approximately $4.48 at a local supermarket. “This is roughly $394,240 worth of beef, if it was all processed as ground beef…The value left behind both monetarily and nutritionally from the gunning-down of estray cattle in the Gila is too momentous to disregard.”
Jurisdiction of estray livestock falls on the New Mexico Livestock Board. However, in a recent meeting of New Mexico state lawmakers in the House Agriculture, Acequias and Water Resources Committee, a vote passed tasking the Livestock Board, Agriculture Department and U.S. Forest Service to work together to expedite the removal of the feral livestock. The U.S. Wildlife Services began aerial surveys of the forest as planned with forty-seven head killed on day one.
Featured image by New Mexico Cattle Growers Association
Caption: Feral cattle in the Gila National Forest have a unique history dating back to the 1970s. Since the late 1990s, permitted grazing of the area has ceased, yet the feral cattle continue to reproduce and inhabit the area. (New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association)