[WEBMASTER'S NOTE: the following story was added to this site verbatim from e-mail discussions with the author. I have added some comments at the end of this page.]
I have a topic I think is very related to the problems you are addressing on your webpage. My husband and I live on a 230 acre ranch that borders BLM (Bureau of Land Management). For years, we and all our neighbors have lost thousands of dollars due to property damage caused by cattle. In New Mexico, its the old law, the rancher and BLM are not responsible for fencing cattle in, you have to fence them out. Cattle may go where they wish, and do what they wish. For years I was frustrated by losing my rose garden, trees, and my alfalfa when they broke into my barn, but I never realized until recently that there is another aspect. Cattle are dangerous.
It sounds silly, but let me tell you my story. On 6-16-00 a long-horn bull broke into my 40 acre pasture where I keep my horse. He chased down my 4 year old gelding and gored it at least 3 times. I hate to be graphic, but he literally ripped this poor horses intenstines out and scattered them around the pasture. It was the most horrible death one can imagine. I am a nurse, and I have never in my life seen anything that brutal.
The bull had been on other property as well and aggressively challenged several of my neighbors I found out later. My seven year old daughter plays in that pasture. If a bull can do that to a 1500 pound animal, imagine what he would do to a child. Scary, isn't it.
Yet, the law protects the rancher, and I fear it will take the death of some child to change this open-range law. The reason these cattle flock to the subdivisions and small farms like mine, is they are hungry. The BLM lands are overgrazed and underfenced (If at all!). I know that your page is more focused on environmental issues, but I think everyone should know, there is a danger to humans as well when overgrazed lands continue to be used and not maintained. If my dog jumps a fence and bites someone, I am responsible. Yet, if the cattle destroy your home, the rancher is protected. It is high time BLM and ranchers were held more accountable...before someone dies.
And in further correspondence . . .
I would be grateful if you would put my story on your website. Maybe the more people who read it, the more will be done to change these laws. I personally am emailing all my politicians and trying to bring attention to the fact that the laws that protect the ranchers are breeding irresponsibility. The man who owned the bull that killed my horse so brutally, knew his bull was wandering up and down the Tularosa creek for over a month, and he knew the bull was mean, but he also knew he was protected by those outdated laws for open range. It could have just as easily been a person that bull ran down. Please feel free to use my story.
And in further correspondence . . .
This rancher knew his bull was mean, although he is completely denying it now. I know this because another rancher who lives near by called us and told us he had personally warned the man his bull was mean. Plus another neighbor said that the man who owned the bull told him not to get near it's pen, "because that bull's mean and will kill you." And last but not least, about 2 weeks before this incident, the bull tried to chase down another rancher who was rounding up his cattle. All the other ranchers knew the bull was mean and I guess they did try to tell this guy, but he didn't care. Surprisingly, some of our best support did come from ranchers who called us when they heard about my horse. Most ranchers, in all honesty, would have probably put this bull down. They were upset this guy left his bull wander when he knew this.
WOLFSOUL SPEAKS: So now that you know the story, I ask: how can ANYONE get away with this? If a dog is known to be dangerous, the dog is taken and put down. The owner of the dog is also responsible for the damages caused by the dog. Why should the owner of a dangerous cow get such soft treatment when the owner of the dog does not?
By allowing such dangerous and destructive animals to roam around, the government is harming the rights of many people for the benefit of just one person. I don't know if this is the case everywhere in the U.S., but in some places, a person who hits a cow on the road is forced to pay for the cow. Why then, isn't a rancher forced to pay for a horse that one of his bulls kills? This double standard is ludicrous. It is time for ranchers (generally speaking) to take responsibility for the effect of their cattle on the general public. Mines have to spend money and/or time remediating the damage they cause, and so should ranchers.