June 18, 2008

by Steven Long
of Texas Horse Talk

The shooting of wild burros at the largest state park in Texas is on hold, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Parks Director Walt Dabney. The killings, which started last year by senior officials of the agency, have sparked protests from animal rights groups and horse lovers.

Last week, TPWD staged the last of a series of poorly publicized meetings in Houston to let the public vent on the issue. There were 17 in attendance, and those who spoke expressed frustration and anger at the agency's intransigence in insisting the animals be removed even by lethal means if necessary.

A compromise was suggested from the floor that TPWD issue a moratorium on shooting the feral burros on the vast park that stretches 70 miles across in some places. "We are not going to commit to a specific time line on a burro Moratorium," Dabney told Texas Horse Talk on Monday night in an email. "We have in essence imposed a moratorium to see if there is an effective means available other than lethal removal. This suspension has been in place since November," he said.

The state agency has invited animal rescue organizations to come into the park and take the burros out. One group is already there working.

"We began discussions with Donkey Rescue in December and they began trapping efforts in April. Those efforts are on going. I have another meeting this week with another organization who wants to discuss the possibility of rounding up burros.

"We are going to give these efforts a chance to show whether they are viable or not."

Neither Dabney, nor any other high TPWD official attended last Thursday's meeting to answer questions from an audience that was impassioned and often angry with the shooting of burros last year at the state's largest park. Instead, the director's special assistant, Kevin Good, fielded questions after showing a 20-year-old film produced by the US Navy on destruction of habitat by wild donkeys at a site it owned.

Good told the crowd that "Texas Parks and Wildlife doesn't have the financial resources to remove the burros short of killing them." He said that it would cost $750 per animal to remove each of the 200 - 400 burros that live there. What's more, Good said that even if all the burros were removed, nothing would prevent others from swimming the Rio Grande and invading the park again.

After the killings of 71 burros in the park last year TPWD launched an internal investigation which cleared two high parks officials of wrongdoing. Knowledgeable sources have told Texas Horse Talk Magazine that the white paper is a whitewash. Good said the agency would not ask for an outside investigation of the burro genocide.

Good denied that the animals were being killed in order to make room for desert big horn sheep which would be brought in to satisfy big game hunters who would pay a premium per gun to hunt them.