Why Wildlife Refuges Are Culling This Animal to Save Cattle from a Deadly Blood Disease

The nilgai carries fever ticks, which spread the disease.

By Michael MarksJanuary 17, 2017 12:33 pm

There are few terms that strike as much fear in the heart of Texas cattlemen as “fever tick.” Cattle fever is a blood disease that decimated herds in the early 1900s. The ticks that carry it are native to Mexico, and agricultural agencies have recently found them further north than their allowed range.

Officials are blaming the disease on an animal called the nilgai, which is an imported species of antelope that can carry fever ticks and range freely through parts of south Texas. But they aren’t necessarily the only culprit here.

Rick Kelley, reporter with the Valley Morning Star, says that whitetail deer also carry the fever ticks but agricultural agencies are more committed to quelling nilgai populations than deer.

“Federal wildlife refuges are there to protect native species,” Kelley says. “I think that refuges, I’d be safe to say, would be happy to have nilgai eliminated.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– Whether nilgai are more of a problem than deer or other tick-carrying animals

– How severe is the threat of this spread of fever ticks on the Texas cattle industry?

– What is the process used to reduce nilgai population and is it ramping up?

Written by Emma Whalen.