MIMBRES — The Wilderness Ranger District, Gila National Forest, issued a "Notice of Intent to Impound Livestock" because of reports of livestock of unknown ownership roaming freely on forest land.

The livestock are cattle located in the Gila Wilderness along the Gila River near Turkey Creek, in the vicinity of Johnson Canyon and Miller Springs. The cattle have been roaming freely for about 10 years and are leftover from a 2006 impoundment of unauthorized livestock conducted through a Forest contract.

"The intent of the Forest in implementing this notice is to properly manage grazing that occurs on National Forest land," said Wilderness District Ranger Ray Torres. "Often, strayed livestock are found to be roaming freely in sensitive areas such as lush riparian (water-dependent) areas or areas occupied by threatened and endangered species. Strayed livestock are also found in or near recreation areas heavily used by the public."

By issuing the notice, the Forest is notifying the public of livestock of unknown ownership observed on Forest lands and its intention to gather the unauthorized livestock to determine ownership of the livestock. Once the livestock is gathered, the Forest will work with the local Brand Inspector of the New Mexico Livestock Board to identify and contact the owner, if possible. If an owner cannot be identified, the normal procedure is to turn the animals over to the Livestock Board for disposal under N.M. State regulations.

In past cases of strayed animals where the owner of the livestock has been identified and the livestock has simply escaped the control of the owner, the owners were able to recover their livestock without penalties, once they have proven ownership. Ownership is determined either by a brand found on the animal or by an owner providing a Bill of Sale or other documentation that is sufficient to verify legal ownership.

The notice was published via legal notice on Oct. 3, and will be in effect for one year following the date of its publishing. The process to impound livestock of unknown ownership will commence if the livestock are not removed within 15 days from the date of the legal notice publishing. The impoundment process follows federal and New Mexico State regulations.

For more information, call Torres at 575-536-2250.