Update: The aerial reduction was held. Only 19 feral cows were shot and killed. They were left where they fell so to return to the land they had been extracting nutrients from. As many as 150 feral cattle were said to live illegally in the Gila Wilderness. The Forest Service said all the cattle seen were successfully shot. If so, this is just a small dent in the problem. Ralph Maughan

Good news in New Mexico. The Gila National Forest has decided to remove feral cattle from the Gila Wilderness and surrounding areas, either by non-lethal or lethal means.

It is remarkable for the FS to do anything about destructive livestock, so this decision by Forest Supervisor Camille Howes deserves special recognition for putting the public interest and public lands first.

Officials have given a kill order to wildlife experts in southwestern New Mexico as part of an effort to eliminate feral cows in the Gila Wilderness.

The Forest Service approved a plan to use helicopters and shooters to eliminate feral cattle from public lands.

Feral cattle are degrading the Gila Wilderness. Photo George Wuerthner

Supervisor Howes said: “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,”

Ranchers, however, opposed the decision and argued the plan to shoot cows from a helicopter should be regarded as animal cruelty. In addition, they said the action violates federal regulations and will result in a problematic situation in dealing with the left-behind carcasses.

In an almost laughable statement, the livestock group claims killing cattle starving to death from drought conditions is “cruel.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

This action will result in cleaner water, healthier riparian zones, and a more intact Greater Gila Ecosystem.

About The Author

George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology

126 Responses to Good News–Feral Cattle To Be Removed From Gila Wilderness (and Update 3-19-23)

  1. Louise C Brannon says:

    I think the Gila would be a good place to reintroduce grizzlies to the Southwest. The cattle carcasses would be excellent food.

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      I agree. Shooting the cattle and letting them lay as food seems to be way to me to get rid of them with the least damage to the wilderness environment that is supposed to be maintained by law.

      The cattle have already damaged the Wilderness by being there for a number of years. Many, probably most of the cattle, were probably born in the Gila Wilderness, showing the magnitude and especially the persistence of the problem.

      • JEFF E. says:


        Ralph I thought you would want to post on this BS.
        Jeff E.

        • Maggie Frazier says:

          So Idaho wants to “remove”/kill over 700 wolves – to get down to 500? Thats of course IF, big if, there are actually 1270 wolves living there!
          I wonder if their “guesstimates” are made the same way the BLM’s are.

        • Jeff Hoffman says:

          “Idaho’s population alone is above what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered to be the carrying capacity for the entire the Northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington.”

          That’s utter BS. I don’t know who’s lying here, the feds, Idaho, or both. Predator populations are self-regulating and definitely don’t need human intervention. If wolf populations exceed carrying capacity, the wolves themselves will take care of it, thank you. (Maybe they mean “above the carrying capacity” for rancher or hunter interests.)

          As to the conflicts mentioned here, they are all caused by humans and their non-native animals. Wildlife should always take priority in these situations, for both moral and ecological reasons.

          Idaho hates native predators. Someone speaking for the state government years ago called grizzlies “monsters” and wanted them eliminated from Idaho. (Grizzlies are technically omnivores, but you get the point.) Nice land in Idaho, but to say the people as a whole leave a lot to be desired would be putting it mildly.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            Wolf populations are self-regulating.

            The continued progression of killing wolves (with the goal of ultimately eliminating them, I believe) just won’t stop its creep, and is a huge setback for conservation efforts.

            It just won’t stop, and it seems we can’t expect any help from Washington, DC either.

  2. Mike Higgins says:

    Great news!

  3. Jackie Johnson says:

    This is good news indeed,especially in our American southwest which does not have much forage or water to begin with. I suspect that it is easier to do with Democrats controlling the Whitehouse and the Senate.

  4. Maggie Frazier says:

    Animal cruelty???? But But — arent these the same people who raise these animals for slaughter? Perhaps these ranchers (?) have never seen what happens in a slaughter house?

  5. Amy says:

    Amazing how killing predators from helicopters is supported by ranchers but killing cows from helicopters is “cruelty”??? But then cows to go to slaughter to feed the beef eating world…. Glad to see the Forest Service implementing a first step in restoration of a small chunk of public lands from destruction by livestock.

  6. Eric says:

    Seriously? Animal cruelty? I am sorry for the feral cows. They are non-native and didn’t asked to be dumped in an environment they didn’t evolve in, and so I am sorry that they have to be culled for humanity’s mistakes. But, seriously, animal cruelty?

    These are the same individuals that regard any predator (Coyote, Fox, Wolf, Bear, etc.) as “vermin” that need to be eliminated to save their precious “livestock”. Give me a break.

  7. Mike Sauber says:

    and our NM state legislator has our own Republican house rep. lying through his teeth to get the legislature to oppose this shooting. He claimed the FS “Mandated” all permittees surrounding the wilderness to vacate their ranches and allotments for a year with no compensation. Total Lies. I just wrote LTE to Santa Fe New Mexican correcting his lies.

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      “He claimed the FS “Mandated” all permittees surrounding the wilderness to vacate their ranches and allotments for a year with no compensation.”

      If only! Except permanently, not just for a year.

  8. Jeff Hoffman says:

    I got an email yesterday from Forest Supervisor Camille Howes notifying me of the decision. I tried to thank her, but the email came from a “do not reply”-type email. If we can find a way to thank her we should do so; decisions like this that go against the establishment cause a lot of blowback against those who make them, and we need to send encouragement where possible.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      I got the same – sort of convoluted language, but finally figured out they were actually going to do it!
      Hope she stays on there.

      • Maggie Frazier says:

        Just read WWP news that Biden administration is keeping the $1.35 grazing fee in place! Could be changed by exec. order, but no pres. since Reagan(!) has done so. Seems livestock lobby carries a big stick – and speaks loudly!

        • Jeff Hoffman says:

          Yeah, it makes no sense. The grazing industry doesn’t have that much money, and its influence is very outsized compared to its money. I guess it’s cowboy worship and love of beef that drives this.

          • Maggie Frazier says:

            Yup – I agree. Altho, I dont buy or eat beef anymore. Not a vegetarian by any means – just seems like red meat doesnt agree with me & from what I’ve read – not good for me. But thats my opinion, you understand.
            My opinion about “cowboys” has changed too!

            • Jeff Hoffman says:

              I was really tempted to become a cowboy a long time ago. I was driving my truck on a 2-lane road in Montana when the tiny amount of traffic was blocked so that the cowboys could herd cattle across the road. One of them rode over to me and we started talking — he was about the same height on his horse as I was in the truck — and I asked him what I could do to get a job doing what he was doing, because I love horses and riding. He offered to trade his horse for my truck! I was very tempted, but of course I didn’t do it (I could have bought many horses by selling my truck). I didn’t know anything about the harms caused by cattle grazing then, though I was a vegetarian at the time. Now of course I’m glad I didn’t make the trade for more than just financial reasons (not that driving semis doesn’t also cause environmental harm, but still).

              BTW, red meat isn’t the problem, it’s farmed meat that is. Humans have always eaten red meat, as have our hominid ancestors. But they ate wild meat, big difference.

              • Patricia Randolph says:

                Eating animals is eating animals and causes suffering and great environmental damage. Animal agriculture is the most damaging force on earth. End the slaughterhouse and we have a chance to save some of the million species we are extinguishing right now – half of life on earth so that the other half in that interdependent web we superhumans MAN-AGE, will collapse. We are destroying billions of years of evolution and will not live long on a dead planet with dead hot oceans and cows. It is not the wild cows that are the problem. It is the tame humans.

                • Ida Lupine says:

                  Yes. Look at the amount of diseases spreading to wildlife from agriculture and domestic livestock raising. Bird flu (which is a misnomer now because it is spreading out to mammals), CWD, even Covid has being found in animals. Traces of opiates are being found in shellfish on the West Coast.

                  I envision a world where nothing but humans and their poor slave cattle exist (as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be). And wind turbines.

                  Humans are suffocating this planet.

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  It goes the other direction too. Most infectious diseases that humans contract are now zoonotic, i.e., they come from unnatural contact with animals. Did you know that we get colds because of our contact with horses?

                • Louise C Brannon says:

                  I read Spillover by David Quammen which has a long piece about coronaviruses in Asian bats. When reports of a new respiratory virus in Asia surfaced, I knew what it probably was.

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  Except that COVID-19 didn’t come from bats, it escaped from a biotech lab in Wuhan, China. With U.S. funding, that lab was doing gain of function research and created COVID-19 in doing so. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has an excellent article on this from May 2021 2 years ago if you’re interested: https://thebulletin.org/2021/05/the-origin-of-covid-did-people-or-nature-open-pandoras-box-at-wuhan/

                • Louise C Brannon says:

                  Whatever. As the article says, there’s no direct evidence of that. It was somebody or many somebodies messing around with bats in China. Never a good idea.

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  Sure, just go along with the establishment lies and propaganda. Both the U.S. and China covered this up at the very beginning, which is the only reason that they can’t be 100% certain of the origin of the disease. That alone tells you all you need to know.

                • Ida Lupine says:

                  The other issue you mention is important too – destroying billions of years of evolution in the blink of an eye.

                  It always breaks my heart to see photos of grinning trophy hunters for this very reason, and roomsful of dead wildlife.

                  In the case of the feral cattle, because they had been neglected in the past by whoever owned them, the easiest solution now is to destroy them, and we get off with no responsibility, as usual.

                  We can’t really turn back the clock on all the destruction we have done. It requires an entirely different mindset than the one we have.

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  No, actually it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with hunting or fishing animals and eating them. Humans have done this our entire history for the past 200,000 years, as have the hominids from which we evolved for millions of years before that. We live on a planet where we all eat and excrete each other, that’s how the life cycle works, and it’s what created the fecundity of life that existed before humans started ruining everything.

                  The current problems with eating meat are that 1) humans are grossly overpopulated, so as a whole we eat way too much of everything, including meat; 2) eating farmed meat is, as you pointed out, every ecologically destructive (also cruel to animals and not healthy food); and 3) people who eat meat, which is the vast majority of humans, eat far too much of it. We only need meat for vitamin B-12, and we need so little of that that eating meat once or twice per month would be sufficient.

                  I agree that if all humans became vegans the rest of the planet would be much better off. We have far too many people and far too little wildlife for everyone to hunt and gather now, so that’s not an option at this time, though it should be our long-term goal. But refraining from eating meat is not natural for humans, and it’s not realistic to expect people to do that. What people need to do now is limit their families to one child, and maybe eat eggs from pasture-raised chickens occasionally (though there are probably too many people on Earth for everyone to do that). Without greatly lowering human population to an ecologically-balanced level, which will take multiple generations to accomplish, there is no good solution for this problem.

                  Ultimately, our difference here is that I recognize that we live on a planet where the plants & animals eat each other, and you don’t seem to do so. While I’d strongly prefer to live on a planet where we pet wild animals instead of eating them, that’s not reality. You can love and respect other species while also acknowledging that you will eat them in the natural order of things. As long as you limit your meat to natural prey animals — no whales, bears, or elephants, for example — and don’t eat too many of them, things will be fine.

                • Charles Fox says:

                  It doesn’t appear to be “natural” for humans to refrain from anything. Spectacularly destructive technologies are now in the hands of billions of violent, unrestrained apes. That’s why we’re in global ecological collapse.

                  The “natural” process now will be for humans to finish destroying the biosphere and go extinct. We’re at the top of a collapsing pyramid. We’re sitting in artificially constructed buildings using a global network of computers to accomplish most of our daily activities. It makes little sense to frame humans as anything “natural” at this point.

                  The only “natural” hunting that humans could engage in would be walking through the forest naked with a pointed stick. Although we are embedded in a rabid gun culture, there’s nothing even remotely natural about firearms. One of the symptoms of our cultural disease is that we don’t think we’re sick. The disease is always “out there.”

                  If humans really are natural carnivores, why do we find the sight of animals being slaughtered so repulsive and disturbing?

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  I agree with most of what you wrote. While your prediction is also MY realistic expectation, I always maintain hope. You never know what might happen if you keep trying, and giving up on life on Earth is not an option as far as I’m concerned.

                  As to what’s natural for humans, I also agree. When I advocate living as hunter-gatherers, I certainly do not mean hunting with guns, which I abhor. And I agree, there’s nothing natural about modern humans, even down to the unnaturally polluted air we breathe and the stolen water we drink.

                  I also have to say that the problems that humans cause — to the Earth, its ecosystems, and the other life here — did not start with technology. Ignoring the causing of extinctions wherever humans went when we began leaving Africa 60-90,000 years ago, it was the use of agriculture staring 10-12,000 years ago that’s the physical root of all environmental and ecological problems on our beleaguered planet. But that’s only the physical root. As you pointed out, there’s a deeper problem with humans here, and I strongly believe that it’s our obsession with all the wrong things and our ignoring of the right ones that even allowed us to consider killing native plants and planting crops (i.e., agriculture) to begin with. See my outline that Wild Earth published recently for more details. https://rewilding.org/fixing-humans-by-expanding-our-consciousness/

                • Ida Lupine says:

                  Yes, I know that a lot of diseases are spread by other living things, but for too long we have thought ourselves exempt from spreading our own diseases, whatever they may be, out into the animal world.

                  The ancient TB bacteria has spread from humans to cattle, Covid spreads among species, the great apes can catch our diseases, etc.

                  We are far from being as pure as the driven snow. I fear for marine life with sewage, plastics, human drugs, and now industrial wind, which might just be the final nail.

                  I think maybe some meat in our diets could be all right, but we have become total gluttons, IMO. Even other cultures that have traditionally less meat in their diets have begun to emulate Western ways, whether it is due to prosperity, IDK.

              • Linda Horn says:

                Jeff, I hadn’t seen evidence that humans got the common cold (MERS) from horses. However, there is a camel/human vector. No camel kisses, folks!


  9. Linda Horn says:

    The ‘cruelty’ stems from shooting at animals from a helicopter and assuming every shot was a clean kill. If you think that’s humane, do some research on Australian ‘sharpshooters’ killing Brumbies. Vets did a post-mortem on the aerial cull and generally approved it, but governments have a way of finding credentialed apologists for controversial activities.

    “Why aerial shooting Brumbies is not Humane” — Australian Brumby Alliance, 24-October-2014

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      This is not an animal rights group. Cattle are as destructive to the natural environment as anything, and that goes double in arid areas like this. No one here wants to be cruel, but the natural environment is the priority, and that requires the removal of the cattle.

      • Linda Horn says:

        Wow, Jeff, you certainly take the ‘dominion’ thing seriously. Is it religious conviction or purely secular human exceptionalism?

        BTW, people can be concerned about animal welfare for species that have few legal rights. You may or may not know that if the cattle were in a slaughterhouse, they’d actually have the right to be rendered insensible to pain before being carved up. It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s what’s required under the Humane Slaughter Act.

        • Jeff Hoffman says:

          It has nothing to do with dominion. I’m totally ecocentric, and fully recognize that humans fit the medical definition of being a cancerous tumor on the Earth (doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s another issue). I don’t put humans above any other species, and in fact below all of them in most important ways.

          I fully appreciate your empathy and caring, but it’s totally misplaced. Cattle are not naturally-evolved animals, and they do great harm wherever they are, even more so in arid areas like this. Where is your concern for the native ecosystems and native life that cattle are harming and killing? You can’t have it both ways, this is about priorities. Leaving the cattle there would do great harm to the ecosystem, and to the native plants and animals. I suggest that you refocus your empathy and caring for those beings.

          Read Mike Sauber’s response to Ida above. As I said before, this is about protecting the natural environment first and foremost, and about priorities.

      • Patricia Randolph says:

        With 60% of mammals on earth livestock just raised as young animals to be slaughtered, wild cattle are hardly the problem. It is the 60% that go to slaughter that are the manmade gluttony. END THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE because otherwise, the last 4% of mammals that are wild will continue to be killed for fun and money.

        • Ralph Maughan says:

          I am not disagreeing with your point, Patricia. I just wanted to add the point that cattle are never wild, even if they might be feral. I think “feral” is the best way to characterize unowned and unmanaged.

          To be wild, a thing cannot have been created by humans.

          I know that here people are using “wild” only as a moniker for unmanaged, but I want to make the point that cattle can never really be wild, as opposed to natural.

          Cattle are always of an unnatural or artificial origin and should never be part of anything that is said to be wild.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      I agree with you in respect to the Brumbies. But considering the various species that are already being shot or chased by helicopters, ATVs or snowmobiles – wild animals like the brumbies – the good old boys are fine with that – its just cattle they’re concerned about.
      Not sure how else it would be possible to remove these wild cows/bulls.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I don’t like it either. It again is another problem people have created by neglect, and now take the lazy, easy way out every time.

      They could be rounded up and relocated humanely, or at least try to do something other than violently kill things. And after what has happened in East Palestine, OH – I doubt we’ll ever be able to clean up our act.

      • Mike Sauber says:

        The Gila is too rugged and the cattle are too wild. Easier to herd cats. If only one or two, they could be shot in place and hauled out some way, but the sheer number won’t allow that. Herding has been tried. Horses have been gored, bulls tied up for days to try and make them weak enough to move more easily. Many many die from injuries/stress. This is the last resort.

        • Ralph Maughan says:

          Nonetheless, it looks like shooting and leaving them in place is close at hand.

    • Linda Horn says:

      How about landing to confirm kills and, if necessary, end the animals’ lives properly? I have friends who flew and crewed helicopters in Vietnam and now do Search & Rescue for LE and the Coast Guard. They regularly deal with terrain and conditions that would give ‘normal’ people nightmares.

  10. Patricia Randolph says:

    There are all sorts of excuses to kill sentient beings. We need to end the slaughterhouse, end trapping, end hunting and fur farms and all of the torture, use and abuse of fellow mortals – and not kill them from the air for our ideas of balance which are always imbalance. Instead of creating more death and carcasses – how many cattle are there? Perhaps there is a sanctuary that would like to teach people to respect cows. No doubt, animal agriculture is the most destructive force on the planet causing over half of climate chaos, water use and abuse and death of the last four % of mammals on earth that are wild. But aerial shooting is not the answer. Find a humane one. All life is sacred – even the poor wild cows.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I was going to ask the same – how many feral cattle are out there? Compared to the amount of cattle raised for beef, it doesn’t seem like it is going to do much for saving the lands, and just an effort for appearances sake.

      Cattle on feedlots is still going to require space, and land to raise feed, and be even more humane. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. I’ve never felt better about giving it up entirely.

      I remember when former President Obama had said that combatting climate change is going to require sacrifice. I knew at the time it wouldn’t be people making the sacrifices.

      I’m very concerned about the fate of the last remaining 350 or so right whales here on the Atlantic coast, in the rush with all of the grandiose plans for offshore wind, millions of planned acres.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      There are many wonderful sanctuaries – I know of one not far away from me. They take in cattle, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens – and let them live out their lives there.
      These “poor wild cows and BULLS” – proved to be too dangerous to round up & created more stress & injuries in the attempt. Read Mike Sauber’s comments above!
      Plus, if they could be caught – these are full grown cattle – WILD cattle – I doubt any sanctuary could take them safely.

  11. Nancy says:

    Thinking outside the box – Simple way to address it?


    Have a lottery where folks who want to hunt feral cattle (and thrilled for the protein) can sign up?

    Quite a few outfitting businesses around the Gila that might be interested (with a little added incentive $$ from the state) that would no doubt be cheaper than flying helicopters?

    Lots of food banks in the state that could use the protein.


    • Ida Lupine says:

      That might be a little better than what’s proposed now.

      I read where there are 150 feral cows, after a previous culling.

  12. ImmerTreue says:

    “Ranchers, however, opposed the decision and argued the plan to shoot cows from a helicopter should be regarded as animal cruelty. In addition, they said the action violates federal regulations and will result in a problematic situation in dealing with the left-behind carcasses”


    • Maggie Frazier says:

      AS I said – no big whoops about shooting Wild animals from helicopters – chasing them down with snowmobiles etc. But COWS? All of a sudden, THAT is animal cruelty.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        When you think of the wolves that other ranchers demand be killed from the air, I know.

        Couldn’t these cattle be brought into a herd, some brought to a sanctuary, or relocated?

  13. Chris Zinda says:

    I read this somewhere…that it’s time to shoot Bundy cattle.

    “If the federal government is not going to abide by judicial decree – the law – what choice is left but for citizens to enforce it? This isn’t a matter of legal interpretation, it’s already settled yet remains unenforceable. The preferred outcome would be the federal government to assume the risk of enforcement and not force citizens to assume it.

    Now, if citizens were to assume that risk they should also assume the Bundy clan is armed and dangerous, that any direct action by a group of citizens – like WWP/CBD (Would they oppose shooting Bundy cattle as proposed in this piece?) – enforcing the law would be met with a corresponding force of citizens defending Bundy breaking it, resulting in two armed forces squaring off over the land. Nobody wants that kind of dangerous situation, including the Federal Government who is as reticent to protect public lands and enforce the law as Uvalde, Texas police children.

    Instead, a preferred method might just be cells of concerned citizens shooting Bundy cattle over a period of time, slowly culling the herd. With this option there would be no grand standoff, just the Bundy clan getting increasingly agitated. They would need to recruit acolytes to patrol like Maremma, dogs of a different kind to live among Bundy cattle for free. And, that cannot last for long with the human breed as the years pass.

    Other than acolytes, who would ole Cliven call when his cattle are shot? All he’s got left are a handful acolytes who through the years have become increasingly suspicious of his motives. Certainly not Stewart Rhodes, nor State or Federal law enforcement, and possibly only his local Sheriff. Regardless, what laws would those who are accused of shooting Bundy cattle be charged? These are trespass cattle on The People’s public lands. It’s inconceivable anyone would be charged criminally or financially for their loss, the only risk to citizens enforcing the law being shot themselves by Bundy or his dwindling number of acolytes.

    Of course law enforcement of all ilk would take notice of such citizen action, under the guise of protecting the peace to hide their real motive of public embarrassment and shame, perhaps that embarrassment and shame then enough to press them to remove Bundy cattle themselves and relieve citizens of the burden that may include death.

    Direct citizen action to enforce environmental law is rare and yet to be tried regarding judicial decree and Federal inaction in the Bundy case. It should be seen directly opposite the unlawful actions of the Bundy clan and their mobs. While the Bundy “patriots” attempt to enforce some constitutional hamburger they grind themselves an opposing group of citizens would be assisting their government upholding already adjudicated law and protect our public lands in true patriotic fashion.

    Federal inaction in the Bundy case creates a situation where those citizens who care about the tortoise, the land and civil society feel they have few choices other than to become uncivil/lawful themselves, buying guns to shoot not people but cows – living beings, nonetheless. Federal inaction – which has become unlawful over 30 years – has not only emboldened Bundy and other faux patriots but is assisting in the breakdown of civil society itself, as if citizens see their government is unlawful – no matter their place on the ideological scale – there is little motivation or reward for them to be lawful at all.”

    • Rambling Dave says:

      Something like this has been occurring on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in northern Arizona where wild horses living along the Mogollon Rim near Heber-Overgaard are being found dead, shot by unknown individuals. A few here, a few there – it’s starting to add up. Investigations by the Forest Service turn up nothing, but nobody in charge really cares. Following the money, my first guess would be that the ranchers with leases have grown tired of the feral horses competing for forage with their cows.

      I’ve camped and hiked in that area a few times and found the mustangs to be very fine creatures, much nicer to be around than the cattle and the idiot 2-leggers riding in circles in OHVs and dirt bikes. The damage the horses may be causing to the environment there is tiny compared to the cattle and the wreakreation crowd.

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      The federal government totally wussed out when the Bundy jerks confronted them with guns during the Nevada episode. Can you imagine if that had been, say, a Black Lives Matter group pointing guns at federal marshals? But because it was good ole boy cowboys, the feds ran away. Totally disgusting.

    • Linda Horn says:

      I watched the Bundy situation from the first day it hit the news. The reaction in our little corner of New Mexico has been particularly interesting because of its large Mormon population, support for the Sagebrush Revolt, Wild West gun culture, and growing hatred of liberals. It used to be a reasonably tolerant place, but now folks are openly hostile to ‘Demonrats’ like me, who they blame for every personal and societal ill.

  14. Charles Fox says:

    Ranchers opposing the killing of cows is beyond hypocrisy. They don’t seem to have any problem continuously shipping millions off to slaughter.

    It’s a very fine thing to remove ecologically damaging non-native cattle from wilderness areas, but gunning them down from helicopters is more extreme violence, and it’s difficult to celebrate this methodology. The “wildlife experts” referenced above are USDA Wildlife Services that are experts in killing wildlife.

    The cattle carcasses too are problematic. You don’t want to habituate any native carnivore to eating cows. Public lands ranching is highly problematic all around. Ranchers should stop feeding wildlife.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Absolutely, I think of the wolves they shoot from the air too.

      • Maggie Frazier says:

        I agree, Ida – somehow that doesnt bother these “ranchers” or “hunters”. But cows? Animals that are raised with one purpose – slaughter! The inhumane title is a bit far-fetched in this instance.

  15. Nancy says:


    Talking about a 150 head of feral cattle here? Yet it will end up costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars (air time & sharp shooters) to solve a problem that was decades in the making (and pretty much ignored)

    And…. it would appear, feral cattle aren’t the only problems New Mexico has now, when it comes to dealing with feral livestock:


    Google feral hogs and many southern/south western states, are now dealing with once use to be domesticated but now are feral livestock, destroying wilderness areas.

    Fact is, the human species created most of, if not all of these invasive/non native species problems in wild areas and elsewhere (like waterways?) due to ignorance, greed, etc. but we do need to address it in a humane way and as Charles Fox points out in his comment above “you don’t want to habituate native carnivore to eating cows”

    Which is still an ongoing debate by biologists who study wild carnivores and dead livestock…. left to just rot.

    “Environmentalists used to point to the removal of livestock carcasses as a preventative measure to limit conflict between wolves and ranchers. However, federal officials stated in documents that were released this week that there’s no scientific research or observational data to suggest that once wolves scavenge on a livestock carcass, they become habituated to cattle”

    I would question those “federal officials” and the bubble they continue to exist in, when it comes to good, factual research data out there, regarding natural predators or even reintroduced, native predators and their impact on whats left of wilderness areas.

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      Do you recognize the massive damage and harms caused by cattle grazing, especially in arid areas like this?

      If so, do you acknowledge that we must choose whether to prioritize native ecosystems and the native species there, on one hand, and cattle on the other hand? (All politics are about priorities, often if not usually more than anything else, and you can’t have your cake and eat it too, so choose.) If not, we have nothing further to discuss.

      If so, do you prioritize native ecosystems and the native life there over non-native animals like cattle? If not, we have nothing further to discuss.

      If so, what specifically are your humane methods for dealing with these cattle? In your response, please address the fact pointed out by Mike Sauber that the method they’re going to use is the only viable one.

      • Linda Horn says:

        Jeff, seems to me you could benefit from a Hunter Education course, which you can take even if you don’t intend to hunt. You can also find lots of advice online. The “humane method” is to closely observe the shots and land and dispatch animals which you observe may not have been killed immediately.

        • Jeff Hoffman says:

          You failed to acknowledge the fact that because of the large number of cattle, that method wouldn’t work: “If only one or two, they could be shot in place and hauled out some way, but the sheer number won’t allow that.”

          I would never hunt with a gun, totally disgusting. I don’t hunt at all, but if I did so the most sophisticated weapon I’d used would be a crossbow. Guns are just more industrial crap that should be eliminated.

          • Linda D Horn says:

            Do you know any hunters? Not trophy seekers, but the folks who hunt to put food on the table and keep the herds healthy. The finest hunters I ever met are my husband’s best friend from grade school and his family. They hunt with bows and firearms both modern and historic. He’s also a gunsmith with all the tools needed to keep his collection in tiptop shape. Our son attended his classes, which included following game and navigation on land and water. Our son doesn’t hunt but enjoys target shooting with firearms and bows. They all enjoy photographing wildlife.

            • Jeff Hoffman says:

              Whether I personally know hunters is totally irrelevant. I don’t need to know ranchers to know that cattle grazing is very ecologically harmful. I hate guns, period. I respect bow hunters who eat what they kill. Everyone else, a big NO.

          • Linda D Horn says:

            Jeff, do you have any close friends who are hunters? Not trophy seekers, but the folks who hunt to put food on the table and keep the herds healthy. The finest hunters I ever met are my husband’s best friend since grade school and his family. They hunt with bows and firearms both modern and historic. He’s also a gunsmith with all the tools needed to keep his collection in tiptop shape. Our son attended his classes, which included following game and navigation on land and water. Our son doesn’t hunt but enjoys target shooting with firearms and bows. They all enjoy photographing wildlife.

      • Nancy says:

        Of course I realize the damage cattle can do to sensitive areas, Jeff.

        I’ve lived in cattle “country” for over 30 years and witnessed first hand the damage but I’ve also witnessed the damage done by humans on their ATV’s in those same sensitive areas. Would you propose we also shoot humans from helicopters and leave them to rot?

        I would imagine the rugged terrain of the Gila differs little to some of the rugged terrain in my area so it wouldn’t be that difficult to allow local ranchers to round up what they could and allow hunters to shoot and salvage the rest.

        Thousands of hunters descend on areas like that (and around here) every year and have no problem shooting and packing out 1,000 elk.

        The waste of protein and the inhumane methods are what concern me, Jeff. Not to mention the huge cost associated with the aerial gunning down of these cattle.

        Once these cattle are removed, the land and waterways will recover, or maybe you haven’t noticed some of the amazing before and after photos on the WWP site?

        Back in early 2000, a pack of wolves were gunned down by helicopter in my valley. A pair of adults and 4 yearling pups.

        I often wondered if the adults spent the previous spring raising those pups from a dead calf pile on a near by ranch. They developed a taste for beef. (There are wolves in the Gila)

        They managed to stay out of trouble until the following spring and then took down a heifer on another near by ranch. That taste for beef, cost them their lives.

        I totally agree that cattle are a blight on public lands and need to be removed but aerial gunning and leaving them to suffer and then rot, is a quick fix for a problem that’s should of been addressed decades ago.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          Great post. The Mexican wolves in the area might be drawn in to the dead cattle too, and we can’t afford to lose any more of them.

        • Jeff Hoffman says:

          Off road a-holes have shot at rangers and other enforcement personnel. So, yes, that fire should be returned.

          I get your point of view and agree with most of it. I’m opposed to industrial civilization and hate helicopters, so of course I don’t like aerial shootings or aerial anything else. I hate guns too. I also hate pesticides, but I support using them where they’re the only way to remove non-native species.

          I just want the cattle removed as quickly as possible, and if aerial shooting is the only way to do that, then I support it. If other methods would be more effective and less harmful, I’d support them instead. My point is that removing the cattle quickly should be the priority, not animal rights. Do it as humanely as possible, but do it quickly.

  16. Mike Sauber says:

    I have to say, would I prefer a way other than aerial shooting over a wilderness area? Yes. I moved here 44 yrs ago very largely because of these iconic wildernesses. I have been fighting cattle destruction most all of those years. I have suggested the hunting and removal for food banks etc. Roundups have been done, as best they could, with limited success. The remaining ones propagate and we are back to square one. At one anniversary of Wilderness for the FS I wrote a local LTE saying that the FS cares as much for wilderness values as Charles Manson cares about the sanctity of human life because if the cattle remaining in our wilderness and not being addressed. CBD and WWP have been at the forefront of negotiating the removal. I have no doubt many other alternatives were offered and preferred. For whatever reasons, this is what the agency was able or willing to do. At this point in time, Ive said ANY way you remove them is fine with me. I just want a true wilderness again. I assume now that the cattle are not considered anyone’s property citizen hunters and others could easily go in and continue by shooting any feral ones left with less fear of any prosecution.

  17. Ida Lupine says:

    What about lead ammo in the wilderness, what are they going to be using? I understand why this must be done, but I don’t prefer it. At least with hunting, we could limit the amount of lead ammo left in the environment?

  18. Mike Sauber says:

    Forgot to mention, I was told by CBD there are not any wolf packs in the immediate region. I’m totally fine with the carcasses finally giving something back to the natural system. Considering it “waste” is a human centered point of view.

  19. Skyler thomas says:

    Ranchers pretending to care about the well being of animals is as laughable as it gets.

  20. Maggie Frazier says:

    Per the New Mexico Cattle Growers Assoc (NMCGA):

    “Part of our long-term solution to keep this from happening again is to re-authorize some of those grazing permits so that there’s always people out there stewarding the land and keeping unauthorized, unmanaged cattle from getting where they don’t need to be,” said Patterson of the NMCGA’s proposal to the government.”
    Now, remember this has been going on for 40 (forty) years but according to NMCGA these are strays – no such thing as feral!

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      So, an industry group claims that its industry isn’t harmful. I’m shocked!

      • Maggie Frazier says:

        So Idaho wants to “remove”/kill over 700 wolves – to get down to 500? Thats of course IF, big if, there are actually 1270 wolves living there!
        I wonder if their “guesstimates” are made the same way the BLM’s are.

        • Jeff Hoffman says:

          Before the colonizers got here, there were about as many wolves in what is now the U.S. as there were humans (1-3 million, though some people now think that there were more humans than that). THAT would be a proper number of wolves, and without looking I’d bet that Idaho had a lot them. Of course the wolves would need an adequate amount of ecologically healthy open space and food, which raises other issues caused by humans.

      • Maggie Frazier says:

        Here is the site to comment regarding the Idaho wolf “plan”. I didnt think out of staters could comment but i was wrong!


  21. Charles Fox says:

    The ranchers should be paying for this removal, not complaining about it.

    How can this be prevented from happening again?

    • Nancy says:

      Short of conducting major “culling” operations of our own species, Charles (and what a nightmare that would be) I honestly don’t see how this can be prevented from happening again.

  22. Linda Horn says:

    A little bird told me that a rancher who breeds old-line Corriente cattle for rodeos was offered the gather before the FS put it out for bid. He said he runs his stock on country locals consider as rough as the Gila, so he felt he had the expertise, crew, gear, and contacts for the job. He was way high compared to the winning bidder, because he included everything it would take to do it properly.

    Ironically, the winner contacted him and wanted to sub the job, but naturally didn’t want to pay the price. He also had issues with guaranteeing a ‘full cleanout’ within a 120-day timeframe in such a complicated situation.

    From what he said, the first FS contract was only for 60 head, because they didn’t have the money for more. From my experience, if it was a BLM job the money would have been there. I wonder if they’re ‘quietly’ underwriting the FS on this one. It’s been known to happen.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Well that’s interesting.

    • Maggie Frazier says:

      Linda, appears that it also depends upon exactly what species they are rounding up (like BLM).

      • Jeff Hoffman says:

        How about a species called “ranchers”? I suppose the bleeding hearts would rather have them rounded up than shot from helicopters. 🙂

  23. Ida Lupine says:

    I’m just still worried about lead getting into the environment and killing more than just cattle. I’ve heard the reason that hunters resist changing from lead is that copper is cost prohibitive. I know the FS isn’t using gatling guns (I hope), but I don’t want to hear about an entire chain of death with crows, ravens, birds of prey, coyotes, etc. all dying too, or water supplies being affected.

    It seems no matter what we do in modern times, it will have a negative effect on nature.

    • Mike Sauber says:

      No leads bullets was specified. They won’t be used.

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      Fully agree, though my understanding is that stainless steel is less toxic than copper. If so, I’d strongly prefer they use stainless steel.

      Does anyone know what ammunition they’ll be using?

  24. Mike Sauber says:

    A very unfortunate move. The Governor threatens to halt the killing. She was to take a poll, and at the end of the day tally the results. Although it’s too late, anyone who wants to chime in, her number is 505 896 7200.
    If she were to stop it, she must also stop any predator control that way IMO.

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      This love of the hooved locusts called “cattle” is psychotic and evil. These unnatural animals do great ecological harm wherever they exist. If only the damn elected officials cared a fraction as much for native wildlife.

      • Linda Horn says:

        Jeff, despite how you hate them, domesticated cattle aren’t “unnatural” animals. Like all living things, they have ancient ancestors and those ancestors were originally wildlife.

        And please try to have some compassion for more the 150 sentient beings who are about to suffer and die for simply trying to live in a place they didn’t choose to be born.

        “Cattle Domestication: from Aurochs to Cow”

        • Nancy says:

          I think there are more troubling issues at play here than what a lot people want to acknowledge?

          “The ranchers state in their complaint that its common for fences to be left open by recreational users in the forest or fences or gates to be knocked down by large wildlife as well. At least 30 miles of fencing was also burned by Forest Service backfires in May last year”



          Again, a quick fix, a tremendous waste of protein and perhaps to much “red tape” for those who could of addressed it in a more humane manner?

          • Nancy says:

            While it certainly wouldn’t work in the rugged terrain of the Gila, one rancher’s approach to rounding “up” wild cattle in Hawaii that stray on to public lands

          • Ida Lupine says:

            A terrible waste, especially with inflation and the price of beef high (they say, I haven’t bought it in years).

            I do worry about it drawing in the Mexican wolves too, even though it has been said here there are none in the area.

            • Mike Sauber says:

              Waste of these carcasses is an anthropomorphic term. In wilderness, nature rules and will relish the new nutrient load.

              • Nancy says:

                May sound that way Mike but, in most if not all states, it is illegal to shoot game and leave the carcass to rot. Technically, feral cattle aren’t considered game but letting them rot could also bring on a whole host of problems for the land, if they suffered from any transmittable diseases?

                And don’t forget, “nature rules” was the mentality for a lot of ranchers back in the day (dead cow/calving piles, boneyards, etc.)

                Many have cleaned up their act in recent years. Some even rely now on local disposal services:


                finally realizing big predators like wolves & bears, are attracted to that old way of leaving carcasses to rot.

                And perhaps a contradiction to your source that there are no wolf packs in the Gila NF?


                Average range for a wolf pack? 500 but can be up to a 1,000 square miles.

                I am still curious as to why it got to this point (aerial gunning) if there were local ranchers wiling & able to get these cattle off the forest?

                Unless they were stock photos in a lot of the articles on this situation, many of those cows looked to be in great shape.

                • Mike Sauber says:

                  I’m on the periphery of the actual dealings and get my info from CBD and others who have been meeting with FS officials. They have been working on this for years. I don’t know what the legal or other reasons the FS chose this plan. NOTHING has been done for too long again and they continue to breed. I understand the range of wolves is large. The CBD has been ok with this plan and I consider them one of the most hard working strict groups. Would they have preferred a different approach? I’d be surprised if they haven’t offered a few, but working with the agency, compromise is unfortunately sometimes necessary to get a bigger goal satisfied. I, myself have offered many other options to the FS (for what it’s worth). 50 years has worn me down to accepting ANY way to get the damn cattle from ruining our nation’s first wilderness. As far as leaving the carcasses, There are maybe 150 cattle there, which is too many to haul out any way. The nutrients avilable will be distributed as needed. If some wolves were to partake, we’ll just hope for the best. Those cattle need to go.

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  Fully agree. Removing the cattle MUST be the top priority here. All else is secondary.

                  Also agree that the Center for Biological Diversity is one of the best environmental groups in the U.S., if not THE best. It was formed by former Earth First!ers from New Mexico and Arizona, and one of the first things it did was to shut down ALL logging in some National Forests in the southwest for a significant amount of time. It’s also the only major environmental group that I know of that takes on the issue of human overpopulation (at the urging of me and some others), the biggest problem on Earth.

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  I agree with Mike, but I would have articulated it differently. Sayings like “nature rules” can mean different things to different people. Ranchers saying that is laughable, because ranching itself is unnatural. What I would say is that there’s no such thing as wasting food, because microbes have to eat too. I don’t mean that we should waste land with agriculture to grow food that won’t be eaten by humans, but the idea — that if humans don’t eat food it’s wasted — is totally anthropocentric, as Mike pointed out.

              • Ida Lupine says:

                On that we can agree, the Center for Biological Diversity IMO is one of the best, and going to bat for a little wildflower at a Nevada lithium mine site means a lot to me.

                However, the entire thing with the removal of the feral cattle is anthropocentric. As long as it doesn’t lead to disease, or predators being shot in this bargain. 🙁

                The last time this was done it was taken to court, and the ranchers received a settlement. What’s different now?

                • Ida Lupine says:

                  and credit where credit is due, the US gov’t for protecting this flower and its habitat. It almost seems like an impossibility.

                • Jeff Hoffman says:

                  I’m glad that the Center got the flower protected, but the big issue there is the mine itself. The area is called Thacker Pass, and we’ve been fighting this mine for years. A lawsuit trying to stop the mine was just lost, so it’s not looking good, but we’re still fighting. This proposed mine is a result of all this phony “green” energy garbage, and proves that there’s no such thing as “green” energy.

          • Jeff Hoffman says:

            Those fences shouldn’t exist, because domestic livestock shouldn’t exist. There, problem solved. Next!

          • Jeff Hoffman says:

            Ranchers have no credibility on ecological or wildlife issues. As to animal rights, this is a perfect example where they come into direct conflict with ecological concerns. I always prioritize the Earth and all native life here over all else, including humans. I agree that the Forest Disservice should use the most humane method possible to remove the cattle as long as it’s equally effective, but my priority and that of the rest of the native life here is removing the cattle.

        • Jeff Hoffman says:

          By “unnatural,”I meant bred by humans and not naturally evolved. The fact that they are NOT naturally evolved is the reason that they’re so harmful to ecosystems and the native life there regardless of where they are, though they’re clearly more harmful in some places than in others.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      I agree, I absolutely hate it for wolves, and I don’t like it for inconvenient animals either, like this.

      The weather may not be cooperating either?

      The Brumbies of Australia ought to be one of their national treasures, like our wild horses are.

      I’d like to see it stopped for predator control, but that is in Washington, I believe?

      • Jeff Hoffman says:

        All life is NOT equal. Only naturally-evolved life should be here. Species bred into existence by humans, like cattle, need to be removed as quickly and effectively as possible. Within those parameters removal should be done as humanely as possible, but the priority should be quick and effective removal.

    • Jeff Hoffman says:

      The people opposing this removal are ranchers. Cattle are NOT wildlife, and the article says nothing about wildlife being shot.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        They are not native wildlife, but they are living wild.

        That’s just it, I don’t think the articles are going to say, because it isn’t that important to them, other life on earth. There was just an article the other day about removing snakes. Saying that the cattle are dangerous to visitors, well there are a lot of animals dangerous to visitors. We don’t want a sanitized Disneyland, and we don’t want people to lose their fear and respect of the wild. Already they are trying to take selfies with bison. What’s next, I don’t want to even consider.

        I don’t think it is only ranchers who are uncomfortable with this method, and it doesn’t mean they are wrong to question it.

        Have the ranchers or other agency round them up. How is aerial shooting more humane, when wounded animals are left to die?

          • Jeff Hoffman says:

            I thought they said that there were 150 head of cattle in the Gila? To be clear, I support the removal of ANY cattle from there and everywhere else by any means necessary (though the most humane means should be tried first if possible), but there’s a huge difference between 19 and 150.

          • Michael Sauber says:

            “What a waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Loren Patterson, President New Mexico Cattle Growers Association”. Talk about throwing a big big stone from his glass house. The public lands welfare ranchers should really be quiet when crying about taxpayers money. Five times more taxpayer money goes into management than what we get back in grazing fees. (BTW we don’t get all that whopping $1.35/aum. One half of that goes back into their own range “betterment” fund, like waters and fencing)

            • Jeff Hoffman says:

              Right on Michael, good catch! On top of the fact that ranchers are the problem and have no credibility on this issue, so who cares what they say except to debunk it.

  25. Ida Lupine says:

    Disease appearing in pronghorn antelope:


  26. Ida Lupine says:

    There are 94.4 million head of cattle in this country. Nineteen feral seems hardly worth removing, by an air war, especially. Just another political display for voting points, IMO.


February 2023


‎"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."

~ Edward Abbey

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