ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A plan by U.S. Forest Service officials to put a dent in the population of feral cattle on national forest land near the New Mexico-Arizona border is drawing fire from ranchers who say gunning down the animals from helicopters is a violation of federal law and won’t help to solve the problem.
The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association is concerned about the ability of the wildlife agents to delineate branded from unbranded livestock, saying mistakenly killing cows with brands would amount to the taking of private property.
Environmentalists also have long voiced concerns that leaving cow carcasses on the landscape will only help condition Mexican gray wolves to prey on livestock. Ranchers worry the upcoming aerial gunning operation on the Gila National Forest could exacerbate conflicts with the endangered species.
Forest officials said Friday they are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to remove all unbranded and unauthorized cattle from the Gila Wilderness, saying the animals pose a significant threat to sensitive habitat along streams and wetlands. A previous effort by a contractor to catch and remove wild cattle from the area netted about 20 animals.
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