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Hunters need a permit to kill endangered species in Texas, judge rules

April 03, 2012|Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • A scimitar-horned oryx walks along a hillside on the Morani River Ranch in Uvalde County, Texas. A federal judge ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can require ranchers to follow a federal permitting process for hunting the animals.
A scimitar-horned oryx walks along a hillside on the Morani River Ranch… (Ron T. Ennis / Fort Worth…)

Houston —

Hunters in Texas will no longer be able to shoot down three endangered species of antelopes without a federal permit, a judge ruled Tuesday.

A special federal exemption had previously allowed breeders of the scimitar-homed oryx and two other endangered African antelopes to sell and allow their animals to be hunted — at $5,500 a head.

As a result, herds grew exponentially on exotic hunting ranches nationwide, especially in Texas.

However this exemption of the Endangered Species Act disappeared Tuesday after a federal judge rejected a last-minute appeal by ranchers for an injunction.

“It’s our private property. We bought these animals, we have propagated these animals and conserved them,” said Charly Seale, executive director of the Exotic Wildlife Assn. The Ingram, Texas-based group, which claims nearly 5,000 members, filed for the injunction from a federal judge in Washington.

A federal judge found in favor of the Darien, Conn.-based group three years ago, ruling that anyone who wants to hunt or transport the endangered antelopes needs a federal permit — anathema to many Texas breeders.

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service upheld the ruling, and a federal judge again upheld it, rejecting the ranchers’ appeal. 

So far, only 58 people have applied for federal permits to register the antelopes, 52 to hunt them, according to Lesli Gray, a Dallas-based spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Austin American-Statesman. All but one of the applications were from Texas, she said.

Seale’s group plans to keep fighting to get the antelope removed from the endangered species list, on which he says the captive-bred animals do not belong.

Most breeders cannot afford to keep their herds without charging fees to hunt them, he said — he sold his own pack of 23 oryx.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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