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Why helicopter shooters plan to kill stray cows in New Mexico, US



Why helicopter shooters plan to kill stray cows in New Mexico, US

Shooting wild hogs from the air is common in the US West. (Representative)

The US Forest Service said this week that officials have approved plans for shooters to be taken by helicopter to kill dozens of wild cattle damaging habitats and dangerous hikers in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness.

The four-day selection, starting Thursday, will target about 150 stray or unbranded cows that environmentalists say destroy the ecosystem of endangered species amid the Gila’s soaring mountains and precipitous valleys.

The hunt may still face a legal challenge from ranchers who have said that shooting cattle from the air is a cruel and inefficient way to manage populations.

Forest supervisor Camille Howes said the move, the second in as many years, is the most humane way to protect wildlife habitats and the public.

“Wild cattle in the Gila Forest have been aggressive toward forest visitors, graze year-round, and trample river banks and streams,” Howes said in a statement.

Killing wild hogs from the air is common in the US West, as are predators such as coyotes, but killing wild cattle has encountered resistance.

Ranchers say helicopters rush cattle, forcing shooters to make multiple rounds to the cows, some taking hours or days to die. They also fear farm cattle that have strayed because of broken fences and scarce water will be shot, hurting the industry from climate change and rising costs.

“They are not looking for solutions that are long-term, and not considered cruelty,” said Lorraine Patterson, president of The New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA).

The NMCGA sued the Forest Service over her last hunt and Patterson threatened further legal action to stop it.

Last year’s legal challenge ended in an out-of-court settlement, with Patterson saying both sides were asked to explore alternatives to the airborne bridges.

The Forest Service’s decision marked a victory for environmentalists, who want all cows removed from the Gila and other public lands.

“The priority is to make sure that cows are not destroying habitat for endangered species,” said Cindy Tuel, New Mexico and Arizona director of the Western Watershed Project.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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