RIO HONDO — The cattle fever tick was discovered on several properties in eastern Cameron County in 2014.
These ticks are capable of carrying microscopic parasites that cause cattle fever, a disease that is a huge threat to the Texas cattle industry.
Since this discovery, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has been coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas Animal Health Commission to control the spread of fever ticks.
While cattle are the preferred host of the cattle fever tick, exotic nilgai antelope and white tailed deer also carry them. The refuge doesn’t have cattle, nor is grazing currently allowed on the refuge. However, nilgai and deer are present and roam throughout the prairies and forests of South Texas.
“Since being notified of the tick infestation in June of 2014, staff at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge have spent hundreds of hours working on the fever tick issue. We have done everything required by law, and in addition have voluntarily taken steps to significantly reduce nilgai herds on the refuge in hopes of slowing the spread of the tick,” said Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde.
The refuge has held annual public firearm and archery hunts since 1979. White tailed deer and nilgai are harvested during these hunts. In an effort to help control the spread of cattle fever ticks the refuge has coordinated four additional nilgai harvests since 2014 in which 186 nilgai were removed.
The harvests have been focused on exotic nilgai as there are no regulations since it is an introduced species, unlike white tailed deer which are game animals regulated through hunting seasons and bag limits by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Another nilgai harvest is planned for refuge lands adjacent to neighboring cattle ranches, north of the Harlingen Ship Channel, on June 22. Trinity Oaks, a nonprofit organization, will conduct the harvest.
Trinity Oaks will process the meat and it will be donated to local charitable and faith-based organizations in the lower Rio Grande Valley and Mexico. For more information about this organization visittrinityoaks.org.
For more information about cattle fever ticks in South Texas visit tahc.state.tx.us/animal_health/fevertick/fevertick.html.
To learn more about Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, visitfws.gov/refuge/laguna_atascosa.