NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A group of New Mexico ranchers and landowners are suing the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. They claim the state is not protecting them from the ever-growing elk herd destroying their land. The lawsuit was filed by eight different residents that live near the Gila Forest. They’re fed up with the number of elk that run through their land and want to be compensated by the state after years of damage caused by the animals. 

“It’s thousands of dollars because not only do they tear the fences down and eat our feed, we have to replace that feed for our cattle, and like I said, I had 100 head of cattle, my dad had 100 head of cattle on the farm and now I’m down to 22 head,” Zeno Kiehne, one of the plaintiffs on the lawsuit.   

Kiehne said the elk population continues to grow throughout New Mexico including where he lives. As a result, he says hundreds of elk go on his and other private properties nearby destroying their land. It makes them unable to raise cattle or grow crops. The private landowners are constantly fixing property fences damaged by the elk.

The owners have a solution: let them allow hunters on their land to kill the elk. It’s known as the EPLUS program. Which grants dozens of licenses to landowners where the herd is especially large. Game and Fish continues to deny this request.

One landowner said he has been denied every year for the last 16 years. The private property owners said this would reduce the size of the herd and give them the opportunity to make some money off of the potential hunts.

“Well you can sell those permits anywhere from $10,000 to $18,000 is what they’re going for, in the 16D permits which I’m in the unit. That would help fix fences and help me buy feed,” said Zeno.  

Kiehne claims he has neighbors with less land that get approved Game and Fish permits every year that allow hunters on their property. The lawsuit is asking for restitution for damages to their land, and to give the property owners money for basically taking their land without compensation.

KRQE News 13 did reach out to the Game and Fish Department to comment on the lawsuit but has not yet heard back.