Feral cows face removal from a national forest in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal authorities have a plan to remove feral cows that are roaming New Mexico’s Gila National Forest and causing damage by over-grazing and trampling stream banks.
The Albuquerque Journal reports feral cattle have inhabited the forest since the 1970s and the U.S. Forest Service began its efforts to remove them in the 1990s.
More than 700 cattle have been removed and the U.S. Forest Service estimates there still are 50 to 250 feral cows roaming the Gila.
The Forest Service used lethal methods to remove 65 cattle in one operation last February, according to the Journal.
The Grant County Board of Commissioners unanimously supports the removal plan.
The public comment period began in November and ends Monday.
Center for Biological Diversity co-founder Todd Schulke told the Journal that his organization supports the Forest Service’s approach because the alternative is conducting roundups and that still leads to many cattle being euthanized due to stress and injury.
The Forest Service’s proposed plan would make both lethal and non-lethal methods available to remove the remaining population of unbranded cattle, according to the Journal.
The operations would likely take place in February, over two seven-day periods.
New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association President Loren Patterson disagrees with the plan to use lethal on-site measures.
He said the carcasses are left in place and the meat is wasted as opposed to the cattle going to auction, and the practice poses a risk of giving predators a taste for cattle.
Patterson would like to see a longer public comment period and a more thorough impact study, along with a reinstatement of grazing allotments to ranchers, who he said would be on the ground to remove unauthorized cattle.
He’s also concerned that the Forest Service could kill branded cattle that wander into the space.
Forest Service spokesperson Maribeth Pecotte said that in the decades of past removals, the Forest Service is only aware of one branded cow that was shot.