Portion of Gila Wilderness closes ahead of operation to kill feral cows
Last week, U.S. Forest Service managers approved a plan to shoot feral cows in the Gila National Forest from a helicopter.
A part of the Gila Wilderness is now closed to pave the way for the Forest Service to begin the process.
Starting Thursday, a helicopter will make rounds, aiming to shoot and kill around 150 cattle in a remote stretch that spans over 870 square miles. That area is also home to endangered Mexican gray wolves, elk, deer and other wildlife.
Forest officials said the wild cattle in that area have been destructive, especially in sensitive spots of the wilderness. They’ve reportedly damaged streams and rivers.
However, some believe the method is just cruel.
An analysis report by the Forest Service responded to a comment asking if the dead cattle could be donated to a local food bank, charity, or family support service. Officials said, “The logistics of removing thousands of pounds of meat from a remote wilderness location… would be daunting.”
Forest officials also said the cattle are not vaccinated and so they cannot attest to their safety for human consumption — meaning those cattle carcasses will be left to naturally decompose.
In a statement, Camille Howes, Gila National Forest supervisor, said:
“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.”
Officials are asking the public to avoid the area this week.