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New Mexico feral cows to be culled by helicopter shooters

Published 02/17/2023, 05:06 PM
Updated 02/17/2023, 07:00 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Cattle are seen near San Ignacio de Velasco, Bolivia, September 25, 2019. REUTERS/David Mercado

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) - Authorities have approved a plan for shooters carried by helicopter to kill dozens of feral cattle damaging habitats and menacing hikers in New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, the U.S. Forest Service said this week.

The four-day cull, due to begin on Thursday, will target about 150 stray or unbranded cows that environmentalists say destroy the ecosystems of endangered species among the Gila's soaring mountains and precipitous canyons.

The hunt may yet face a legal challenge from ranchers who have said that shooting cattle from the air is a cruel and inefficient way to manage the population.

Forest Supervisor Camille Howes said the cull, the second in as many years, is the most humane way to protect wildlife habitats and the public.

“The feral cattle in the Gila Wilderness have been aggressive towards wilderness visitors, graze year-round, and trample stream banks and springs,” Howes said in a statement.

Shooting feral hogs from the air is common in the U.S. West, as is killing predators such as coyotes, but gunning down feral cattle has met resistance.

Ranchers say helicopters cause cattle to run, forcing shooters to pepper cows with multiple rounds, some taking hours or days to die. They also fear ranch cattle that have strayed due to broken fences and scarce water will be shot, harming an industry hit by climate change and rising costs.

"They are not looking for solutions that are long term, and not deemed cruelty," said Loren Patterson, president of The New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA), which advocates roundups rather than wasting a valuable food resource.

NMCGA sued the Forest Service over its last cull and Patterson threatened further legal action to stop this one.

Last year’s legal challenge ended in an out of court settlement, which Patterson said called for both sides to seek alternatives to airborne culls.

The Forest Service decision marked a victory for environmentalists who want all cows removed from the Gila and other public lands.

"The priority is to make sure that the cows are not destroying habitat for threatened endangered species," said Cyndi Tuell, New Mexico and Arizona director for the Western Watersheds Project.

Latest comments

how dear they let cattle roam free. someone needs to give them steroids and vaccines🤪
it's a cow. it eats, sleeps and💩. never heard of a cow killing anyone
What do cows do different than the buffalo that are native to new mexico?
as if Cows are dangerous for the Eco System
the should do something similar but In MTG neighborhood
Can't they use a reaper drone? Or an f-16 with a 400k sidewinder? Let's go murica on these cows
sorry we only waste 400k side winder missles on $8 weather balloons to distract Americans from real issues they don't want you to focus on
tell republicans their democratic cows and were going to offer shooting season - wouldn't be a living cow left for 100 miles - problem solved
Why not hunt them like they do in Hawaii and Australia? I bet game hunters would be less cruel than  spraying them with bullets from the air.
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