Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2016 9:10 pm
By RICK KELLEY Staff Writer
LOS FRESNOS — Sharpshooters in helicopters will target nilgai antelope at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge sometime next month.
The helicopter cull of nilgai on Unit 4 in the northern part of the refuge will be the third this year. The first two occurred at the Bahia Grande Unit along the gulf.
“The reason for the aerial harvest is because we’re trying to do our best to help out our rancher neighbors,” refuge manager Boyd Blihovde said last week. “The fever tick has everybody worried that maybe Texas cattle are not going to be accepted in other markets — overseas or in other states.”
Reducing the number of nilgai became a major issue in 2014, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered cattle fever ticks deep inside CameronCounty and established a temporary quarantine area. Nilgai are carriers of the tick.
The refuge finds itself squarely in the middle of the temporary quarantine area zone covering 223,000 acres in CameronCounty. The decision to kill off the nilgai using helicopter gunmen may put the refuge squarely in the crosshairs of Valley sportsmen, who cherish the exotic antelope as a game animal.