How many longhorn are too many longhorn?
The wild longhorn herd at Big Bend Ranch State Park has reached the end of the trail. A symbol of the state's ranching heritage, the beasts don't fit into the park's mission of conserving the natural and cultural resources, and are destined for removal or containment.
When the state acquired the 215,000 acres of desert in 1988, a herd of more than 200 longhorns came with the former sheep ranch. Now about 30 head remain. Only the wiliest remain free, but their days may be numbered.
In recent years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has wrestled with efforts to control wild burros and reintroduce bighorn sheep in the park. Descendants of Spanish cattle, the longhorns thrive in the harsh environment of West Texas. They also compete with native species for the limited resources.
The argument has become heated as groups line up for and against saving the wild herd. Charles "Doc" Anderson, a Waco-area state rep., and others want to preserve the nearly genetically pure animals. TPWD, the Sierra Club, and others want to eliminate or reduce the herd to a few in a fenced pasture.
Since 1941, TPWD has maintained a historically and genetically pure herd of longhorns. The official state longhorn herd, which does not include the Big Bend animals, can be seen at Fort Griffin State Historic Site and at Copper Breaks, Abilene, San Angelo, and Palo Duro Canyon state parks.
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