News Roundup: A Soaring Wildlife Population Creates Problems At Big Bend

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 2, 2018 2:27 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Big Bend National Park is considering a measure to manage invasive, non-native species that have found their way onto the 800,00-acre park.

The two animals they’re looking to control: aoudads and feral hogs. Officials say the two growing populations present a risk to the park’s natural resources. Carlos Morales with Marfa Public Radio reports the proposed plan calls for lethal measures:

Both feral hogs and aoudads — which are also known as barbary sheep — have been found in the park for decades. But recently their numbers have grown. Wildlife biologist Raymond Skiles says the two threaten the park’s biodiversity and the best control method is shooting them. This would happen either on the ground or in the air from helicopters. Skiles explains the latter has an advantage over other tactics.

“Just getting access to the animals and then having the ability to rapidly and effectively reduce them,” Skiles says. “Really, that’s the only strategy that has expectations of success.”

The park says only certified professionals would be allowed to perform the aerial shootings.

Other methods considered but eventually tabled include sonic deterrents, fertility control, and constructing large-scale fences to keep the animals out of the park.

Skiles estimates there are between 200 to 400 aoudads in the park, plus about 50 feral hogs, which have mainly been found in the northern parts of the park but are expected to spread throughout.

“All expectations are that they will expand into the park by way of the Rio Grande,” Skiles says. “So we want to be ahead of the curve and be prepared to prevent them from doing too much damage on the river.”

Officials are looking for public feedback on the proposed plan.

A former Dallas accountant was executed in Texas last night for fatally shooting his two young daughters while their mother listened on the phone.

Gus Contreras, with KERA News, reports John David Battaglia became the nation’s third prisoner executed this year. All of those executions have taken place in Texas. The 62-year-old Battaglia was convicted for killing his daughters, nine-year-old Faith and six-year-old Liberty, while they were at his home for dinner in May 2001. At that time, Battaglia had learned there was a warrant out for his arrest for harassing their mother, his ex-wife. Before Battaglia was put to death on February 1, his execution had been delayed twice before because his lawyers had long argued he was mentally incompetent.

Three other executions are scheduled in Texas through April.

The drought in Texas continues to grow, according to data from the United States Drought Monitor released on February 1. It finds nearly the entire state is abnormally dry or worse. Currently, 20 percent of the state is in extreme drought and the worst conditions are in the panhandle. Meteorologist Richard Heim told KUT News that the dryness will hit agriculture hard in that area because the soil still hasn’t recovered from the state’s last big drought.

“It’s going to kind of erase the kind of recovery layers in the ground and you’re back to, gosh, no moisture in the soil,” Heim says. “So you’re going to have drought come back really fast really severe.”

The Texas Agrilife Extension Service says the dry conditions mean wildfire season has come early to much of the state.