Rarely given more than minimal herding, Bundy’s cattle seem now to be on their own-

Many people argue that Nevada, the driest state, is really no place for cattle, grass-loving creatures that they are. Nonetheless, herds of widely spaced cattle have pummeled the landscape there for over a hundred years.

For a generation Cliven Bundy ran his herd illegally on and around the former Bunkerville grazing allotment in the hot desert near Las Vegas (more properly next to Mesquite, Nevada). It was public land at first, but then increasing numbers of his cattle became at least semi-feral and were found over a huge area near the Nevada, Utah, Arizona border. Bundy portrayed himself as a typical rancher, opposed by the government, but the U.S. Attorney at the time of his indictment told the judge:

“Raised in the wild, Bundy’s cattle are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for the meager amounts of food and water available in the difficult and arid terrain that comprises the public lands in that area of the country,”. . . . “Bereft of human interaction, his cattle that manage to survive are wild, mean and ornery.

“He does not vaccinate or treat his cattle for disease; does not employ cowboys to control and herd them; does not manage or control breeding; has no knowledge of where all the cattle are located at any given time; rarely brands them before he captures them; and has to bait them into traps in order to gather them.

Now there seems to be no care for the cattle at all, and it is reported that they are slowly starving, although there is no official confirmation of this. March through May is the only time of the year when there is any semblance of what looks like grass or forbs on the big alluvial fans beneath the Virgin mountain range where the cattle roam. The Reno Gazette-Journal contacted State of Nevada officials about finally rounding up the cattle, but they were told by email from Flint Wright from the Nevada Department of Agriculture:

“We have not received any substantiated reports of Cliven Bundy’s cattle starving on the Golden Butte [sic] allotment — though this may be true to some extent, as Cliven’s management practices leave a lot to be desired.

“Yes the cattle are in trespass and some are unbranded, and therefore feral and estray. Also yes, per [Nevada Revised Statute] 569, that makes them state property. However, because they are trespassed on BLM ground with a court order in effect, it would require BLM or the court to authorize the [Nevada Department of Agriculture] to perform any sort of gather of the cattle.”

Wright said the herd’s size was unknown, but it was probably 1000 or more. A report from the BLM in 2014 said Bundy’s cattle had been found over an incredible 700 square mile area that included BLM, National Park (Lake Mead NRA), state and private lands (in addition to Bundy’s private land).

Beneath the Virgin Mtns. in March. Nothing to eat but creosote. Photo by Ralph Maughan

Beneath the Virgin Mtns. in March. Nothing to eat but creosote. Photo by Ralph Maughan

It is hard to say when they will be removed because in the past outfits contracted to round up the cattle have been threatened and run off by Bundy supporters. In addition the cattle are near feral and often mean:

Nevada Fish and Wildlife Department told E&E News that the physical effort of rounding up the cattle would be most hard.  “But removing Bundy’s ornery, battle-tested herd — estimated by one Nevada official to be worth up to $800,000 — will be expensive, logistically difficult and potentially dangerous.  ‘It’s like hunting cape buffalo,’ said Ken Mayer, the former director of Nevada’s Department of Wildlife. ‘They’re nasty, they’re smart, and they won’t hesitate to charge.’ ” Of course, the value of the herd will also decline as they stand in the waterless 100° + F. heat of the southern Nevada summer.

 

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

23 Responses to Bundy’s cattle starving on their illegal Nevada range

  1. avatar Sandy says:

    I hate what cattle are doing to the landscape in the west and how their presence threatens the existience of much of our native wildlife, predators and non-predators. I also understand the ability to survive in this harsh environment is difficult at best, having said all that it is very sad the Bundy had allowed these cattle to languish, starve to death and face such horrific conditions for this type of animal. It appears if nothing else it would be humane to destroy them or get them herded to a more appropriate enviornment. If this is supposed to be a livelyhood, a livelyhood for what? Pain and useless sacrifice>

    • avatar Theo Chu says:

      Nevada should open a hunting season on them and the feral horses in the same area that are causing just as much damage.

  2. avatar Fred Alvey,Jr. says:

    It seems axiomatic that lazy,irresponsible people, dependent on handouts,just can’t accept accountability for the consequences of their own negligence. It’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault;the white man,the black man,the Jews,or,in this case,the local predators and environmentalists.

  3. avatar Kevin Jamison says:

    Most of these cows could not possibly be worth $800. They probably are worthless; people should not eat meat, especially beef, anyway. (Personally my wife and I have cut way back.)
    Just send “Wildlife Services” (that euphemism just kills me, no pun intended) to gun them all down from the air. Excellent use of an otherwise useless Federal Agency.
    Feed a few thousand coyotes and maybe a wolf or two.

  4. avatar Nancy says:

    “Just send “Wildlife Services” (that euphemism just kills me, no pun intended) to gun them all down from the air. Excellent use of an otherwise useless Federal Agency”

    LOL, Kevin!!

  5. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    Not amused! Can’t somebody somewhere surprise us and take the high road?

    • avatar Nancy says:

      Ida, seriously, the “high road” here would be government/ WS, recognizing there should be a big concern over Bundy’s cattle, at will, for years.

      I think some well place ads, in that area, advertising free beef (starter herd?) to those that want to come and get it, would clear out any Bundy feral cattle on this allotment, in no time at all. Just my thoughts.

      Think (Google) feral pigs 🙂

      • avatar Ida Lupines says:

        Treating living beings like nothing is not the high road. I don’t care what Bundy is guilty of doing, the cattle are just more victims of humans.

        You can’t say WS is low for killing wolves and coyotes in the most inhumane manner, and then raise them up again because they kill cattle who have been neglected by Bundy, that you don’t like? Where is his family in all this? The humane thing to do would be for them to be fed, or rounded up humanely and taken in by a shelter or another ranch.

        I’m not for genetically modified skeeters either. Pass out birth control.

        • avatar TC says:

          No, they can’t be sent to a “shelter” (??) and it’s likely that no reputable rancher really wants them. People looking for a quick buck would want them. They’re wild, rank, ornery, feral, potentially dangerous range cattle of unknown genetics and unknown (but, likely very interesting) disease status. It probably would cost more to capture, quarantine, test, feed, treat, try to contain, and hopefully re-domesticate some of them than they’re worth, and what they’re worth is all most people will care about. Cattle like these in confinement are hard on themselves, hard on people, and hard on facilities – and by hard, I mean they frequently break all three things. Literally. The best solution I can see would be to kill/euthanize them in place or round up as many of them as possible and send them to slaughter. It’s not their fault, and they should be treated with respect and as much humanity as possible, but they really do have to go.

          • avatar Ida Lupines says:

            It’s too bad there aren’t any natural predators left there, such as wolves. But like the GMO mosquitoes, we killed them off because they were/are inconvenient. I think sending them to slaughter would be hellish. Where the hell are the Bundy family in all this?

            I meant sanctuary, not shelter, I guess I should have said! 🙂

            • avatar Theo Chu says:

              Wolves require abundant large prey which never existed there – a few bighorn (hard for a wolf to catch) a few pronghorn (hard for a wolf to catch)a few mule deer and some high speed jackrabbits. The only realistic way to get these cows off the land is to kill them in situ humanely as possible. They by their presence are killing native animals daily.

            • avatar Theo Chu says:

              In answer to your question “..where the hell are the Bundy family….”, well the men are mostly in jail thankfully. :o)

              • avatar Susan says:

                If the Bundy cattle are genuinely starving you would think there’d be an animal welfare case here. But animal welfare laws have a way of specifically excluding livestock…

                I think that in practice the welfare of cattle is wholly in the hands of the producer. If the producer neglects his animals, the larger public does not truly care about what happens to them.

                There are no significant sanctuaries for cattle because most people do not concern themselves with the welfare of cattle. (Apart from a token handful of farm sanctuaries across the nation, that might have room for a few animals – but I’m pretty sure they have no suitable facilities for wild range cattle.)

                Years ago I saw (as volunteer photographer for the SPCA) one case of extreme abuse of cattle.

                Picture a barnfull of veal calves in 20 below zero weather, locked in this filthy unheated barn, without water or food – desperately hungry, freezing to death (a lot of their hair had come off from the filth), and agonizingly thirsty.

                Picture a calf whipping its head under another’s body when it heard urine start to fall, desperately drinking the urine as it came out, because there was nothing else to drink.

                The point of the story is that there was nowhere for the SPCA to send this herd of tormented calves, apart from the slaughterhouse.

                I can still vividly see them being herded on tottering legs into the transport truck that would take them to their destruction in the most convenient fashion.

                • avatar Ida Lupines says:

                  So nightmarishly bad. We know why livestock would be excluded from animal welfare laws. Scum. 🙁

    • avatar Fred Alvey,Jr. says:

      A good point.We will gain more support by refraining from brutal(even if sarcastic) recommendations. We,re the good guys; we need to come across that way.

  6. avatar Kevin Jamison says:

    Ms. Lupines,
    I was kidding, mostly. Please tell me you are too.

  7. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    I can tell you that concerning wildlife services and the state of our environment and wildlife lately, and domesticated animals – I have zero sense of humor.

  8. avatar Kevin Jamison says:

    Ms. lupines, I understand your position. I agree that the treatment of animals in general and especially the less fortunate human ones is appalling today and always.
    Bundy’s animals, however, are destroying the habitat for another animal that deserves a place in the desert down there and is being crowded out and driven to extinction. The cows should be captured and if not suitable for human consumption or adoption, should be put down. No one seems to be taking responsibility. It should be the Feds since they are the ones who created the situation by allowing Bundy to thumb his nose at any and all attempts to rein him in for so many many years.
    But, oh well, it turned out pretty good since he may spend the rest of his miserable days sitting in a federal penitentiary.
    Except for the situation with his cows.

  9. avatar Kevin Jamison says:

    Oh, and I think “Wildlife Services” is pretty much the lowest bunch of scum that ever got a GS rating. Totally unaccountable. And that goes for their constituency.
    (Except for the GS part.)

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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