February 17, 2023 – Feral cattle in the Gila Wilderness Area in New Mexico will be killed.
About 150 head of unbranded cattle that make their way to the Gila River and other resources will be shot via helicopter.
ABC’s WDHN News reports, “Ranching industry groups and other rural advocates are concerned that the action taken in New Mexico could set a precedent as more grazing parcels become vacant across the West. Ranchers say fewer people are maintaining fences and gone are the rural neighbors who used to help corral wayward cows. Some have left the business because of worsening drought, making water scarce for cattle, and skyrocketing costs for feed and other supplies.”
The Gila National Forest’s news release says that all “dispatched” cattle will be left onsite to naturally decompose. Forest Service staff will make sure that no carcasses are adjacent to or in any water body or spring, designated hiking trail, or known culturally sensitive area. A wilderness minimum requirements decision guide has been completed and approved before using any methods otherwise prohibited under the Wilderness Act.
Areas of the Forest will be closed to the public starting Monday, February 20 through Sunday, February 26. The Forest Service has published a closure map.
“This has been a difficult decision, but the lethal removal of feral cattle from the Gila Wilderness is necessary to protect public safety, threatened and endangered species habitats, water quality, and the natural character of the Gila Wilderness,” said Camille Howes, Gila National Forest Supervisor. “The feral cattle in the Gila Wilderness have been aggressive towards wilderness visitors, graze year-round, and trample stream banks and springs, causing erosion and sedimentation. This action will help restore the wilderness character of the Gila Wilderness enjoyed by visitors from across the country.”