Dell City in Hudspeth County is seeing unwelcome visitors who may assume they are on public lands but are trespassing and hunting illegally, with devastating wildlife consequences.
“Last year, we found several dead does that were shot and abandoned,” said Keith Newbill, who manages land owned by El Paso Water in Dell City. “These were brazen acts to kill for pleasure – not for food. Although poaching seems to have lessened now that game wardens and local tenants are more actively engaged, poaching is still a problem.”
EPWater owns more than 60,000 acres in the Dell City area after purchasing land and water rights associated with the Bone Springs-Victorio Peak aquifer. Decades from now, water will be piped to El Paso to help meet peak water needs.
Dell City has always enjoyed a healthy mule deer and pronghorn population because of the abundance of crops and water, but proper management and limiting hunts are important to sustain the wildlife population.
Newbill said it’s been a rough year for wildlife because of prolonged drought and chronic wasting disease that have stressed local populations.
“In coming to this community, El Paso Water has made a commitment to conservation and stewardship of lands and water,” Newbill said. “That conservation ethic extends to protecting the native wildlife in the area.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist Jose Etchart cautioned that even with drought alone, the “fawn crop” or survival of fawns looks grim this year.
“In five years, we won’t see a large buck population for hunting,” Etchart said. “If illegal hunting takes out does, it will be hard to get those population numbers up.”
Local community members hold leases to a large portion of the rangeland owned by EPWater.
“The community has a vested interest in taking care of valuable wildlife resources,” Newbill said. “We all know it’s important to preserve and manage the habitat to ensure wildlife thrive here for a long time to come.”
Awareness has increased, and community members ̶ especially those leasing lands ̶ are actively monitoring for trespassers and working with game wardens to address illegal entry, Newbill said.
“But there are still people from outside the community who are either unaware they are on private land or are blatantly trespassing and poaching,” Newbill said.
As a landowner, EPWater recently signed a nonconsent affidavit with the game warden, which allows filing of charges against offenders who trespass and/or poach on EPWater’s private land.
Violations for illegal hunting are a felony, and the penalties include jail time and a fine, Hudspeth County game warden Ruben Aguilar said.
Aguilar encouraged anyone who observes potential poachers to contact the game warden or the local sheriff’s office.
The nonprofit organization Operation Game Thief works to help curtail poaching and offers a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a wildlife crime, he added.
Author: Lisa Rosendorf – El Paso Water