Feds to go on a feral cattle hunt to protect Gila Wilderness

A cow at a river
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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 reportsOpens in a new tab., “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 mapOpens in a new tab..

“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 SupervisorOpens in a new tab.. “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.”


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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