GOLDTHWAITE, Texas — At around 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 in Mills County, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens apprehended two central Texas men and a resident of Louisiana for allegedly hauling eight whitetail deer believed to have been smuggled across state lines.
Texas game wardens have been receiving information for several years about whitetail deer being brought across state lines. This is not only illegal but also poses a disease threat to native whitetail deer. Texas borders essentially remain closed to the importation of whitetail and mule deer because of disease concerns.
This year, wardens focused on several regions of the state and spent many hours conducting surveillance of trucks towing stock trailers believed to be hauling deer. In cooperation with wildlife officers from several other states and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service federal agents, Texas game wardens have made several similar cases this year. This one marks the largest in TPWD Region 7 in western Central Texas.
Capt. Kevin Davis, who supervises game wardens in the area, was happy to see his team’s hard work pay off.
"We finally hit the bull’s-eye last night," Davis said. "We have spent a lot of time and effort trying to catch folks smuggling whitetail deer into our state. We have had a number of near misses the last couple of years but believe we finally made a good case. However, we are also aware that this is just one of several groups smuggling deer and our efforts will continue."
Davis said the preliminary investigation indicates the deer may have come from Oklahoma. As the investigation continues, he said TPWD will be working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek charges under the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits unlawful transportation of game animals.
"The deer being smuggled in the cases we’ve been following are not your average deer," Davis said. "They tend to have superior genetics, so they are highly valuable, and there can be a lot of money at stake."