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The forest service in the Gila mountains of New Mexico has been given the go ahead by the court to destroy approximately 150 wild cattle in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico. These are cattle that in the last several decades have escaped into the wild from herds grazing in the area and have continued to produce offspring for many years and several generations. They are extremely wild just as other animals like elk and deer that have also been born into the forest and have grown up in the wild. They are very afraid of man; some probably having seen a human only from afar and on very limited occasions throughout their life (these cattle have no owners but belong to the person who can catch or harvest them here in New Mexico. They are called “slicks” referring to the fact that their hide is slick because they are unbranded).
The head of the forest service has put out a press release that the cattle had chased some hikers. We do not believe this unless the cow had a calf and that is very usual behavior that would be replicated by any wild mother when their offspring is considered threatened. If an elk, deer, bear, or when someone or something makes the mother feel the baby is endangered, a mother cow will go on the offensive to protect their young. This mothering instinct is not just in animals, but in human mothers also. We had friends that lived on the border of the Jicarilla Reservation in northern New Mexico. The two kids were outside playing, and the dogs began to bark uncontrollable the mother was sweeping the floor so went outside to check on the kids and see what the dogs were barking about. A large cougar was just feet away from grabbing her kids; for the moment the dogs were keeping it at bay. Without thought of her own wellbeing she attacked this 170-pound Tom cougar shrieking and beating the cat with the broom to save her children. We all admire and respect this wonderful God given mothering instinct. Unless the cow’s calf was threatened it would not attack but run from the hikers like most wild animals.
As a result of this accusation, I would openly ask the forest service in the Gila to tell us who was chased and when. There must be a written record of the complaint, time of day, location etc. These cattle have lived for many years without complaint from any hikers or other people using the forest. Suddenly after decades, we have cattle chasing hikers for no reason. Not Likely.
When I first talked to the forest service about a month ago, amazingly they wanted to remove the cattle for a different reason. It was to protect the flora and fauna the cattle were destroying with their hooves. This wild area is about the distance from Santa Fe to Albuquerque. There are probably at least 20,000 elk and close to that many deer as well as wild horses. How could 200 cattle do this damage? They cited the supposed testimony of their biologist quoting damage. We have a PHD biologist on our staff that highly disagreed with them. So now we find the complaint of cattle attacking hikers??? What are we to believe?
Their mission to destroy the cattle: The powers that be in the forest service and state government sought and got permission to use helicopters with gunners to pursue and shoot the cattle from the air; cows, calves, and bulls. They will attempt to kill them all. Why do this when there is a humane alternative?
The waste--a disgrace: The executioners from the helicopters would then leave the dead bodies of those cattle to rot where they fall. Those in charge would like you to believe that this is the only way to remove the wild cattle from the forest. This is not the case, but it is one of the most inhumane and wasteful slaughters of these animals in this century.
Cruelty: The United States Forest Service and the court completely ignored the laws concerning cruelty to animals. With laws in place but unheeded by the forest service and the court, we have again put New Mexico on the world map, by many people around the world hearing and not believing that these cattle would by killed and or mutilated from the air when another way for removal exists and is readily available to remove all the cattle (which is completely humane and respectful to the animals and doesn’t put the cattle through unmitigated terror and hell as they are pursued from the air for extinction).
The shots required to kill the animals are not easy shots (unlike at a shooting range, with fixed targets that don’t move and with a solid unmoving stand for the shooters to shoot from). Until the first shot is fired the animals won’t be on high alert running for their lives, but after the shooting begins it will be pandemonium on the ground. While the bulls and cows without calves will run, the shooters must rely on the mothers’ natural instincts to protect their offspring to kill both mother and baby calf. When they shoot to kill the mother or the calf, the animals will be running in pandemonium, panicked beyond belief with the helicopters swooping down with guns blaring and the cattle bawling and running for their lives in extreme fear. Very, very few will be humane one shot kills where the gunner is able to aim at a vital spot like the heart or lungs. They will be shots aimed at the whole animal where the animal will usually have to be hit several times all over the body to kill those cattle. When a mother cow is wounded, her calf will stay in the vicinity of their mother, maybe running a few yards to escape but always returning to the mother. The mother has been the calf protector and nurturer for its entire life. The mother cow will (without a thought for her own wellbeing) attack bear, packs of wolves, and even mountain lions to save her calf, never thinking about her own safety or her life to protect her calf. The calf also completely relies on this love and protection of the mother for its survival.
A few years ago, in eastern New Mexico there was a wildfire that moved so rapidly that it caught many mother cows with their newborn calves. The mother cows with their calves ran from the fire but the newborn calves couldn’t keep up so the fire would overtake them. The mothers would run ahead a short distance, but realizing their calves hadn’t followed, would run back right into the fire to face certain death (to do anything they could to save their calf). Many mother cows died in the fire, but many others were burned so badly they had to be put down. You can call that instinct, or some may call that love--whatever it is--it is one of the highest compliments to mankind on the planet.
Shooting from the air: The bulls are a different story; they will run wildly trying to escape. If their foe was on the ground, they would turn and fight man or animal as the aggressor. It will take a lot more shots to kill an adrenaline-fueled bull. As a result, there will be many wounded bulls and cows that don’t have a calf that will escape and spend hours, days, and maybe weeks wounded and bleeding, in extreme pain from this aerial helicopter assault. In heavy timber, the only shot a helicopter shooter will have, will be shooting straight down between the trees (a very, very limited field of fire). The helicopter will have to continually be moving quickly above the trees to somehow try to keep up with the running cattle on the ground; trying to even get a clean shot with the animals moving rapidly through the trees will be almost an impossibility.
Those in the federal and state agencies that have birthed this unnecessary helicopter slaughter in the Gila Forest; the ones behind this inhuman and unworkable aerial assault idea, would like you to believe this is the only way to remove these cattle in the Gila National Forest. That is definitely not true! There is a humane way to save the cattle’s lives: capture them, relocate, and gentle them, so they can be reintroduced with domestic cattle.
A brief history of the cattle removal effort in the Gila: It is my understanding that that heads of these groups wanting to eradicate the cattle had somehow determined that those cattle in the Gila were causing a great problem with erosion and destroying flora and fauna. Wild horses eat all day; they move back and forth, and because of their teeth and lips they will eat grass all the way down to the ground. Cattle on the other hand eat, then rest mid-day chewing their cud, waiting for some late afternoon grazing. Cattle because of their mouth configuration cannot eat the grass to the ground (they have limited mobility). They can eat no closer than about 2 to 3 inches above the ground. My question to this head of the Gila National Forest is: “How can animals that have lips and an oral cavity that make it impossible to eat the plants to the ground damage the flora and fauna?”. By destroying flora and fauna of an area SOOO big and remote, I am sure that many other animals that share the Gila don’t even know the cattle exist.
The person in charge of the Gila National Forest decided to remove these cattle last year, so then hired a small group of regular cowboys to do the job. Although I am sure they were good at roping; they were NOT trained cattle removal experts in handling these wild cattle who fear humans. This project effort, in an extremely large wild area, handled by a few regular cowboys last year, had a very poor success rate. Some cattle were even choked, suffocated, and had died; and other problems arose from trying to get these cattle out of the forest. The bid the forest service put out for these cowboys last year to locate and remove the cattle didn’t require them to have the equipment needed to locate the cattle, portable shoots to pen the animals, or the proof of training and years of experience to make this project a success. And as a result, this project was a terrible failure.
The equipment and knowledge for removing wild cattle out of rough and dangerous country takes a trained and proven specialist. The military doesn’t just find a few good scuba divers to save those still alive on a sunken submarine. Instead, the military uses only the best qualified, serious underwater specialists with a proven track record to undertake such a vital task. Trained and experienced cattle removal specialists who can do their job saving the cattle--bringing them out of the forest, and moving them to new pastures, to be relocated safely at the end of the day--are an absolute necessity for the proper handling and processing of this cattle removal project. For this extremely dangerous work, a group of professionally trained cowboys specifically trained in dealing with wild cattle in rough and wild forest are exactly who is needed to accomplish this. They specialize in this type of work and know the business.
In my recent research I found a group of Native Americans that after seeing the work they have done really impressed me, and in my opinion are some of the best anywhere when working in this specialty area of removing, rescuing, and resettling wild cattle and horses. Myself, after being raised in farm and ranch environments have seen some great horsemen; and as a result, am not as easily impressed with most things done for horses. But after seeing the actual GoPro movie footage of this team removing cattle humanely and saving the cattle, it was almost like watching a superman movie with superman wearing boots and riding a horse. This group of trained professionals in one part are chasing or sometimes running from cattle up hills that would be a challenge without the wild cattle. The four corners in northern New Mexico are one of the area’s scenic big, rugged, and rough wild areas of the state. This is where I found this group, headed by Luke and Trista Barela who had just completed a contract removing 78 wild bulls from this four corners area where these cattle had run wild for years. Their crew roped and brought out all 78 animals. They put them in portable corrals, realizing that removing a big bull is much more dangerous, physically intensive, and time consuming than removing just cows. They load the cattle into the corrals until they can be processed and moved out of the area. No dead bulls, no wasted meat, and no cruelty to the animals. The forest service would be employing these mostly native New Mexicans to perform the job they are trained in, keeping the work in New Mexico for New Mexicans.
The worst of the present helicopter assault contract:
1. Shooting cattle from the air will wound and cause extreme pain to most of the cattle shot; many cattle will go for hours, days, and even months wounded and in pain before they finally die.
2. Meat that could have been utilized by poor or elderly will be completely wasted. Dead carcass will amount to over well over 100,000 pounds of rotting meat, which will leech massive amounts of bacteria into the ground, running into nearby water sources causing pollution and spread of disease.
3. Luke and Trista Barela are Native Americans (from the Jicarilla Apache and Southern Ute tribes), and with their team have been solving these problematic and dangerous captures for several years, working in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado; specializing in humane removal of cattle. They were completely overlooked by the forest service for this project; with this job they could continue to feed their families and they already have a record second to none that this job could have been contracted at a much smaller rate of expense to the forest service, benefiting both animals and people.
4. While the shooting occurs, the fear-causing panic will make the cattle run blindly; in this panic, they will even run over each other (with big bulls crushing and trampling some small calves and smaller cows in their pandemonium), putting a terrific fear in them that is completely unnecessary to accomplish the job at hand.
5. It will cost the government (using our tax dollars) $$$$; several hundred thousand dollars just for this one already destined to fail effort.
6. The Gila National Forest in New Mexico joins the Arizona white mountain Apache reservation on the entire west side. This is a very vast area to cover, so when the aerial assault from the helicopters begins and the cattle start running, many cattle will run right into Arizona next door, where no one is shooting at them. They will then stay there and begin returning to their New Mexico wild lands as soon as the helicopters leave and the shooting stops.
7. This unnecessary attempted annihilation of the cattle in the Gila will at best be a very temporary fix. Cattle will drift back into the area, continue to reproduce, and this will become a recurring problem every year. This project will also continue to cost several hundred thousand dollars each year. The surviving wild cattle will be a self-perpetuating problem that will continue year to year that could be resolved with this group of native cattle and horse control specialists, who can contract with the forest service to keep the cattle in check on a day-to-day basis. They will immediately begin with locating, catching, and removing the existing herd that has built up. Protecting the flora and fauna by keeping the cattle numbers in check in the Gila with this new management method is much more cost effective and humane than conducting a major annual cattle search and destroy project. These specialized contractors will keep four trained cattle removal specialists on continual patrol in the Gila, for cattle that filter back into the Gila and will immediately capture them and humanely remove them year-round. This will keep the numbers down to near single digits. These specialists will use a variety of tracking and spotting machines including drones, and dogs that have been bred for identifying and spotting the cattle. After the cattle are spotted, the cattle removal specialists take over (where cattle would otherwise be overlooked in deep underbrush). The contractors can keep an active count of any number of cattle in the Gila; bringing the cattle out alive to be reintroduced into domestic herds when possible.
Some people ask me why as the owner of Tree Doctor 911 we got involved in this problem with the cattle and forest. The reason being is that we work with saving trees, not just locally, but all over the world. Trees project a supernatural peace and wellbeing. When this peace of the forest is attacked with directed brutality and malice, we are attacked as stewards of the forest. We have researched and proposed workable alternatives that address every area of need from the problem to a good outcome. The cattle can be relocated humanely with the job going to New Mexicans, and it will be a continuous fix for the wild cattle situation the Gila National Forest. When there is a problem with cutting or destroying old growth trees, we will be involved with our allegiance always to the trees. Trees are man’s best friend. They work for mankind; we work to save them. Without trees, there will be no life on the planet. When you see a problem, don’t set it aside and wait for the government to fix it.
Get involved; our future depends on it!
Tree Doctor 911
Saving the world’s trees for the benefit of our future