RIO HONDO — There’s a little-known law in Texas you may want to know about if you’re an avid hunter or a back-country explorer who likes to go off the beaten path.
You will want to keep an eye out for purple paint on fences and trees. It may save you from trouble with authorities and landowners.
Capt. James Dunks, a 20-year veteran of Texas Parks and Wildlife, said the purple paint is more common in East Texas, where there are not a lot of fenced properties, but they are utilized here in South Texas as well.
“I know I’ve seen them on Highway 1420 between Rio Hondo and Port Mansfield, and there are more in the area,” Dunks said.
The practice began in Arkansas in 1989 as a way for property owners to delineate the divide between public and private land. It has now spread to 11 other states, with Texas adopting the practice in 1997.
The color purple was chosen because it’s visible even to those who are colorblind.
There are specific requirements if using this method of notice. The purple paint must be vertical lines no less than eight inches in length and at least one inch wide; the bottom of the mark must be between three feet and five feet off the ground, and placed at locations that are easily visible to anyone nearing the property.
The purple markings also must be no more than 100 feet apart on forest land and 1,000 feet apart on non-forested land.
Dunks says there are various reasons the purple paint is more practical than signage.
“It keeps people from poaching, or using no trespassing or private property signs as target practice, causing them constantly having to be replaced. You put up a sign, people will steal them, shoot at them — it’s a lot harder to steal a pine tree. You can’t steal it, purple paint’s a great thing.”
Dunks also mentioned how social media has increased their catch of illegal hunters and those who traffic in the sale of protected wildlife.
“We make a lot of cases off social media and Craig’s List, people selling live owls, hawks and such. We investigate every one,” he said.
Dunks also cautioned hunters to beware TPWD’s own laws about hunting without landowner consent.
“If you go on private property and kill a deer, it’s no longer just a misdemeanor, you’ve committed a state felony offense, punishable by prison time and fines,” he said.