Frozen, ground nilgai from hunts on refuge delivered across Valley

HARLINGEN — The fruits of nilgai culls at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge were visible yesterday.

Several thousand pounds of processed, packaged and frozen ground nilgai were delivered to several charitable organizations on both sides of the border.

The meat was delivered by Trinity Oaks, a charitable organization based in San Antonio which was founded by former Harlingen resident Tom Snyder.

Of the four recent refuge culls, which employed sharpshooters in helicopters, a total of 131 nilgai were taken.

The antelope, which are a non-native species, also carry cattle fever ticks which are a threat to Texas beef cattle and justification for the cull, federal officials say.

A cull Monday found that of the 42 nilgai taken, 30 of the antelope native to India and introduced to South Texas in the 1930s carried the fever ticks. The presence of the ticks does not affect the meat for human consumption.

To date, 24,000 pounds of nilgai has been processed by Trinity Oaks from the nilgai culls at Laguna Atascosa. The nilgai cull Monday will add about 8,000 pounds to the total nilgai meat to be distributed to charities.

Mike Snyder of Harlingen, also with Trinity Oaks and the brother of the charity’s founder, said the antelope meat is ground along with 10 percent beef tallow since the nilgai meat is so lean. It is then sealed in two-pound packages and frozen.

“I run about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of meat a month out of this office,” said Mike Snyder from his Colonial Life Insurance office on Tyler Avenue. Both Snyders work for the insurance company in addition to their work with Trinity Oaks.

Trinity Oaks also receives venison from white-tailed deer from hunters who donate their harvest to charity.

Rev. Rod Clark, formerly with St. Albans Episcopal Church in Harlingen, was on hand yesterday to receive a portion of the nilgai bounty.

Clark recently moved to St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church in Mission, where he also is active in the charitable organization the Order of Naucratius, named for a saint who used his pastimes of hunting and fishing to feed the poor.

“So we’ve started a ministry of hunters and fishermen to use their vocations to help follow Jesus’ call to feed the hungry,” Clark said yesterday.

“We partnered with Trinity Oaks because we have relationships around the Valley, both Upper and Lower and Mid-Valley, whether its soup kitchens, or refuge centers or domestic violence shelters, along with different feeding ministries,” he said.

“We were already doing this work, and we met Tom and Mike with Trinity Oaks and said, here’s a no-brainer, so we started our partnership,” Clark added.

The nilgai culls this year are not the first for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, said refuge manager Boyd Blihovde.

But what is different now is how the meat is used.

“Previously the meat was going to a private enterprise, and they were getting between $22 and $28 per pound,” Blihovde said as he tossed frozen nilgai packages into a Yeti cooler. “This meat is going to the needy for free.”

Among charities receiving nilgai meat

Loaves and Fishes

Harlingen Food Pantry

Con mi Manos, a Deaf Education Center and ministry located in Matamoros

Casa Amparo orphanage in Reynosa

Isaiah 55, serving deaf and marginalized people Mexico

Iglesia del Dios

Good neighbor Settlement House of Brownsville

Order of Naucratious

Some also will be processed into nilgai jerky to be sent as care packages for troops overseas