By Steven Long
HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Three years ago when former Texas Parks and Wildlife parks director Walt Dabney issued a moratorium stopping shooting of wild burros in the vast Big Bend Ranch State Park animal advocates quieted down.
The shootings were halted after a flurry of bad press in the local Big Bend Sentinel and in the statewide Horseback Magazine.
Now that donkey killings have resumed under new parks commissioner Brent Leisure, the public outcry has dramatically increased, with almost 76,000 names on a petition and a possible ricochet into the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Contacted by Horseback Magazine last week for an interview on the issue, Leisure punted, kicking the controversy to an underling, Kevin Good. Horseback responded saying the issue was getting legs and required comment from the top. Both Leisure and TPWD head Carter Smith’s email addresses were provided.
The Perry campaign will likely have to respond to the issue because the Texas governor will almost certainly be compared to Alaska’s Sarah Palin who advocated shooting wolves from the air prompting howls of protest from wildlife advocates and outraged citizens.
The outcry may be worse in Texas where equine advocacy groups are already active fighting horsemeat processors shipping thousands of domestic horses across the border to Mexican abattoirs. The burro killings are also likely to be linked to the alleged inhumane treatment of wild horses in the American West during helicopter driven stampedes by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
Texas Parks and Wildlife launched the resumption of donkey killing with Perry’s approval advocates claim.
The petitions are being sponsored by the website, change.org.
Wild Horse and Burro advocates claim the state agency is attempting to rid the park, 70 miles across, of burros to make way for Big Horn Sheep, a big game animal coveted by wealthy hunters.
The state agency counters saying the app.
70 burros are destructive to the huge park’s fragile landscape and that the burros are not a native Texas species. They also claim to have worked with wild horse groups to humanely capture the burros yet none of the animals are in captivity.
TPWD worked with Ray Field, of the Wild Horse Foundation who was instrumental in calling attention to hundreds of dead horses laying in a Presidio creek near holding pens for slaughter bound animals.