Governor’s Appeal Gives Cattle Last-Minute Reprieve
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Herds of wild cattle that have been trampling three Aleutian islands won a one-month reprieve after Gov. Bill Sheffield asked federal wildlife officials to postpone plans to shoot the animals.
″The governor’s concern is that these cattle are not harvested and left there to rot,″ Molly McCammon, Sheffield’s spokeswoman, said late Friday after the governor’s last-minute appeal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Earlier Friday, the federal agency announced it had exhausted every alternative and would begin slaughtering the estimated 350 animals on Monday.
Robert Putz, the agency’s director in Alaska, changed his mind when Sheffield and state legislators representing the affected area complained that not enough notice had been given.
The Shumagin Corp., a native village corporation, had told the agency it wanted to haul some of the animals by barge to another island about 50 miles away and to salvage some of the meat if the cattle were killed.
″This was the first time that the state and the Shumagin Corp. heard they were going to proceed with the kill, and everybody (with the corporation) is out tanner crab fishing right now,″ said Ms. McCammon.
The governor ″has asked for the extension to give them extra time to work out some kind of alternative - move them to another island or at least so the people will have a chance to salvage the meat,″ she said.
The agency says the beasts must be killed or removed because they are stripping migratory waterfowl nesting areas and causing serious erosion. The islands, part of the Alaska National Maritime Wildlife Refuge, are located about 550 miles southwest of Anchorage.
The agency planned to send a team of eight marksmen, who would travel on foot and in helicopters to shoot the cattle. They hoped to complete the killing within a week, leaving the carcasses where they fell.
″It’s not as if the meat won’t be utilized,″ said Joe Mazzoni, deputy assistant to Putz. ″Eagles will clean up a good deal.″
The delay marks the second extension the agency has given the native corporation and the latest in a long series of failed attempts to remove the cows.Twice, the agency tried to sell the wild cattle. When that failed, it offered to give them away. It even offered to let somebody else shoot them, opening a special cattle hunting season from July 23 to Oct. 11.
There were few takers because of the expense and difficulties in reaching the uninhabited islands, and the area’s poor weather.
The islands are believed to contain the only feral cattle loose in the 2,500-island refuge that stretches along Alaska’s coastline from Ketchikan to the Arctic Ocean.
A recent estimate shows there are about 100 cattle on Caton Island, 100 on Chernabura Island and about 150 on Simeonof Island. Officials said the cattle were put on Simeonof Island in 1896; sparse historical records don’t show when they appeared on the other islands.
Originally, the animals were mostly Angus, Hereford and Scottish Highland, he said. Some of their offspring look something like a cross between a Hereford and a musk ox.
They are mean-tempered, wary animals, officials said. ″They’re very wild,″ Martin said. ″The president of Shumagin Corp. had to shoot a bull to keep it from getting him. The islands are rife with cattle stories.″