Rick Perry appears to dance a little sidestep on wild burro shootings
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2011:
AUSTIN–What Texas governor and candidate for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination Rick Perry knows about wild burros under fire from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department in Big Bend Ranch State Park is uncertain.
But some of Perry’s online backers have made what they know clear: burros are emblematic of the Democratic Party, the party of incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama, and for that reason alone should be shot, along with “Liberals in Big cities,” as one poster to the Drudge Report web site put it.
The burro issue ignited after an August 26, 2011 address by Wild Burro Protection League founder Marjorie Farabee to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission.
“Earlier this year, I made a trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park to investigate the ecosystems of these parks with Craig Downer, a well known wildlife ecologist,” Farabee began. “After 71 burros were inhumanely gunned down in 2007, it was widely believed that the shootings had stopped. Unfortunately, we discovered that at least 46 more of these remarkable animals have been wasted.”
Karen Van Atta Luce posted an online petition on behalf of the burros in early September 2011, attracting more than 60,000 signatures within the next 30 days. “Less than 300 wild burros remain in Big Bend Ranch State Park,” Luce wrote in the petition preamble. “They are protected on federal land, but Texas Parks & Wildlife intends to kill them on state park lands. The Parks Department states that wild donkeys harm the resources of the park,” contrary to the findings of Farabee and Downer that the net contribution of burro activity is positive.
“In addition,” Luce continued, “Parks staff have stated on the record that they need to kill the wild burros to ensure that they can restore ‘native’ bighorn sheep to the park. Bighorn are a high profile species prized by big game hunters. Their restoration is heavily subsidized by private individuals who believe that the wild burro is an ‘enemy’ of the bighorn. Hunting permits for bighorn are sold at auction format, with the highest recorded winning bid being $152,000.”
Added Change.org animal causes organizer Pamela Black, “Not only does the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department have an agenda to bring in bighorn sheep for hunting; they are allowing the Desert Bighorn Council to dictate the terms. They refuse to release the sheep into Big Bend Ranch State Park as long as the wild burros are there. How can Texas get away with killing off a species that would be protected on federal land? A technicality. Ignoring that wild burros are a restored native species that has existed in Texas for 500 years, Texas Parks & Wildlife designates wild burros under the vague definition of ‘invasive species.’ There is a solution: change the policy,” Black continued. “Rick Perry can sign off on a new Texas Parks & Wildlife policy to protect wild burros, or to more clearly define invasive species.”
“Asked about the petition drive,” reported Peggy Fikac of the Houston Chron-icle, “Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed said by e-mail that ‘The governor expects Parks & Wildlife to act in the best interest of Texas’ land and species. Would refer you to them for any other questions.'”
While Perry himself has not spoken about feral burros, in June 2011 he signed a bill that allows any licensed hunter to shoot feral pigs from helicopters
Elected lieutenant governor in 1998, Perry ascended to governor in December 2000 when then-governor George W. Bush was elected U.S. President. Re-elected three times since, Perry has signed bills introducing felony cruelty penalties to Texas, initiating state oversight of commercial dog breeding, extending the coverage of humane laws to feral cats and stray dogs, reinforcing the laws prohibiting dogfighting and cockfighting, creating penalties for prolonged dog tethering, requiring that pets be included in protective orders issued in domestic violence cases, and requiring that disaster planning must provide for service animals and household pets.
But Perry is also “an avid hunter,” who “has the heads and the pelts mounted on the wall to prove it,” Perry campaign spokesperson Robert Black told media during his 2006 election campaign. Rock star and hunting advocate Ted Nugent campaigned for Perry. “Using machine guns as props,” Associated Press reported, “Nugent appeared onstage as the final act of the inaugural ball wearing a cutoff T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag and shouting offensive remarks about non-English speakers, according to people who were in attendance.”
Responded Perry spokesperson Scott Haywood, “Ted Nugent is a great American patriot. The governor is proud to have his support.”
Running for re-election against then-Houston mayor Bill White, Perry reinforced his hunting credentials in April 2010 by telling Associated Press that two months earlier he shot a coyote while jogging near his Austin home, after the coyote allegedly menaced his daughter’s Labrador retriever. Perry jogged with a handgun, he said, because “I knew there were a lot of predators out there. You’ll hear a pack of coyotes. People are losing small cats and dogs all the time out there.”
Pointed out R.G. Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle, “Austin has ordinances against discharging firearms within city limits and hunting fur-bearing animals such as coyotes. But police spokesperson Sergeant Keith Bazzle said Perry’s actions would not be a violation of the firearms ordinance because the incident was ‘self-defense.’ There were 19 reports of coyotes in Perry’s ZIP code between January and March,” Ratcliffe continued, “but none involved threatening activities or attacks on domestic animals. In the entire city, there were only five reports of aggressive coyotes. Texas Parks & Wildlife in 2007 issued a release advising urban dwellers who encounter coyotes to scare them off by shouting or throwing something at them.”
“With all due respect to his manhood, 90-pound women in tennis shoes effectively scare 30-pound coyotes away with a sharp shout,” said WildEarth Guardians spokesperson Wendy Keefover-Ring. “We’re sending Governor Perry a plastic whistle,” she added, “so he can leave his gun at home.”