AUSTIN, Texas -- Rewards totaling $4,500 are being offered for information on the slaughter of 39 pronghorn antelope late last year on a ranch in Dallam County near Kerrick, Texas.
In addition to a reward of up to $1,000 offered through Texas Parks and Wildlife^s Operation Game Thief crime stoppers program, additional bounties of $2,500 from the Amarillo chapter of Safari Club International and $1,000 from the Dallas Safari Club have come in toward gaining information about this heinous slaughter.
On the afternoon of Dec. 9, 2000, TPW game wardens learned of the incident from firefighters who responded to a grass fire that may be related to the antelope killings. When wardens arrived on the scene, they found evidence that some of the antelope had been run over with vehicles, resulting in broken legs and other serious injuries. Some antelope had been shot at close range with shotguns.
"This is the most wanton waste of wildlife I have seen in my 30-year career," said Jim Robertson, TPW law enforcement director, who happened to be in the area for a regional meeting and was one of the first game wardens on the scene. "The way these animals were killed was horrendous, about as barbaric as you can imagine."
Perpetrators of the crime could face fines of $2,000 to $10,000 and/or 2 to 10 years in state prison for each slaughtered animal.
"It^s outrageous what happened, and we wanted to up the ante so it might help solve the crime," said Jim J. Brewer, treasurer with the Amarillo chapter of Safari Club International. "Some people might think that anyone who hunts might go out and commit an atrocity like that, and we want people to know that we^re hunters who are conservation minded who support law enforcement and are against any kind of illegal game killing."
Antelope harvest in Texas is managed conservatively by TPW through a permit system, based on estimated population surpluses. Last year, 103 antelope permits were issued to landowners in Dallam County, according to Dumas-based TPW wildlife biologist David Cook. Landowners can offer the permits to hunters, charging between $1,000 to $2,500 for an antelope hunt.
"We don^t know as yet what impact this slaughter will have on future permit issuance rates or the status of the antelope herd in Dallam County," said Cook. "We already know the herd is well below the long-term population average and below carrying capacity of the range."
TPW biologists estimate the current population of pronghorn antelope in Texas at 11,000, down from a 20-year high of 24,500 in 1987. Officials attribute the decline to a long-term drought that has gripped the state in recent years, particular in the Trans Pecos region.
Anyone with information about the crime should call the Operation Game Thief Reward Hotline at (800) 792-GAME (4263) or the TPW Amarillo law enforcement office at (806) 379-8900. Callers may remain anonymous. If information leads to conviction of the violators, persons providing the information may be eligible for a cash reward of up to a $1,000 from OGT. The same criteria will be used in consideration of the other rewards being offered.
Since OGT^s inception in 1981, calls to the Reward Hotline have resulted in more than $1 million in assessed fines with rewards of about $150,000 paid to the citizens who provided information leading to the convictions.