The Fight Over The Future of Texas' Deer

Animal breeders square off against Texas.

In a lawsuit filed on his behalf by Dallas attorney Steven M. Griggs in April, Anderton is seeking the return of his breeder permit and compensation for his deer. His complaint attacks the foundation of TPW regulatory authority over deer breeders — the Texas statute that says all wildlife belongs to the state. "... A person's legally obtained property may be seized at any time by the state, without due process of law and without any administrative or legal remedy," he argues. This, he claims, violates his constitutional rights.

TPW, in its response, says Anderton could only possess deer legally as long as he held a permit. When the rules changed, his was taken away. He was "legally bound to dispose of the deer and TPWD had legal justification to take the actions it did," the agency wrote in its response.

Anderton may not exactly be the upstanding test case the deer breeding industry was hoping for, but right now he's the best they've got.

Texas Parks and Wildlife agents shot breeder James Anderton’s entire herd of nearly 80 deer.
Sebron Snyder
Texas Parks and Wildlife agents shot breeder James Anderton’s entire herd of nearly 80 deer.
Afterward, they severed the deer’s heads, ears and antlers and tested for disease.
Sebron Snyder
Afterward, they severed the deer’s heads, ears and antlers and tested for disease.

"That's what the industry is waiting on," Madera Bonita Ranch's Browning says. "Someone to say, 'Those are my deer.'"

It took a while for two Bobcat tractors to dig a 10-foot-deep trench big enough for more than 70 deer. Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists had severed their heads, their antlers and their ears. They took samples from the spinal cords. Sharon Anderton picked up the corner of a black tarp and stared at the pile of heads. She knew these deer to a one, but shorn of ears and antlers, they were unidentifiable.

"It's one of those things you always remember," she says. "You're never going to forget that."

If a judge orders TPW to compensate Anderton for them, the decision may prove private ownership in a state where every whitetail, even those conceived artificially and born in a pen, belongs ultimately to Texas and its people. It would signal a fundamental shift in the concept of wildlife as an irrevocable public trust. That outlook dates to the backlash to market hunting and the near extinction of whole deer species for the sale of pelts and venison. Beginning with Teddy Roosevelt's presidency, a movement to set aside federal wildlife refuges took shape. The secretary of agriculture created hunting seasons and bag limits, effectively ending the mass harvesting of game species for personal gain. Deer populations rebounded.

Now wildlife conservationists can't help but wonder if this isn't somehow a creeping return to the bad old days. "We recognize that wildlife is a public trust, and it belongs to all people in the state, held in trust and managed on behalf of the people by private landowners," says Doug Slack, director of the Wildlife Society's Texas Chapter. "[Breeders] consider me old-fashioned, but they're promoting new legislation that's promoting ideas and concepts that came up in the 1800s."

But because game species like whitetail deer are no longer in danger of extinction, the industry wonders whether the prevailing public trust model is outdated.

"There's a lot of religious zeal and elitism in my profession that hangs tenaciously to that old belief that wildlife belongs to everybody, and that wildlife in commerce is an evil thing," says Dr. James Kroll, a deer breeder and director of Stephen F. Austin State University's Institute for White-tailed Deer Management and Research. "They're looking at the days of market hunting, but those were days when there was no regulation.

"Academicians and wildlife scientists still have this attitude that is good in many ways but needs to evolve with the times."

Yet these times are witnessing a disease that researchers scarcely understand and don't know how to control beyond quarantine and the preemptive slaughter of deer like Anderton's, placed belly to belly at the bottom of a mass grave. And it's an industry that survives only by moving deer like trading cards, swapping genetics from herd to herd, farm to ranch, in every corner of the state. What if the disease finds its way out of far West Texas and into a deer farm?

Says TPW's Mitch Lockwood: "You begin to see the spider-web effect that traps and tangles many deer breeders."

For now, at least, it hasn't. When the test results for Anderton's deer came back, his herd was given a clean bill of health.

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There are many things at play here. One prominent point is personal property. Texas keeps property taxes so you never really own your land. It is always in jeopardy of taxes. Why can't a person own a deer or cow or cat outright?

Personal property is liberty.


Whether raising deer is right or wrong, the deer themselves should not have been destroyed in such a ghastly and inhumane way.  As a hunter, I strive for a clean shot, to avoid pain and suffering of the animal, yet the lawmen took no care to avoid pain and suffering of the animals they were destroying. If you have to destroy animals, at least do it humanely.  I have had nightmares ever since I read this article and it has made me profoundly disappointed in the judgement and actions of our officials. 


I fully support Texas Park's & Wildlife actions here!!! SHUT down the TEXAS Deer hunting fenced in pens!!!! You don't hunt in "natural" zoos!!!! Go to the NORTHERN border of the USA & we will show Y'ALL how to really HUNT...yes....HUNT...look it up!! 


Friday, December 14, 2012

DEFRA U.K. What is the risk of Chronic Wasting Disease CWD being introduced into Great Britain? A Qualitative Risk Assessment October 2012    

Monday, June 24, 2013  

The Effects of Chronic Wasting Disease on the Pennsylvania Cervid Industry Following its Discovery    

Tuesday, April 16, 2013  

Cervid Industry Unites To Set Direction for CWD Reform and seem to ignore their ignorance and denial in their role in spreading Chronic Wasting Disease    

Tuesday, May 28, 2013  

Chronic Wasting Disease CWD quarantine Louisiana via CWD index herd Pennsylvania

Update May 28, 2013  6 doe from Pennsylvania CWD index herd still on the loose in Louisiana, quarantine began on October 18, 2012, still ongoing, Lake Charles premises.     

Thursday, June 20, 2013  

typical, BSE, CWD, Scrapie, Captive Farmed shooting pens (livestock), Wild Cervids, Rectal Mucosa Biopsy 2012 USAHA Proceedings, and CJD TSE prion Update  

Saturday, June 01, 2013  

Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) Proposes Modifications to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Brucellosis, and Other Rules     

kind regards, terry


Arrogance, selfishness, and greed is the reason James Anderton unlawfully imported illegally captured wild deer from another state into Texas; arrogance, selfishness, and greed is the reason James Anderton used a half million dollars worth of stolen property he purchased for pennies on the dollar for farm and ranch operations; arrogance, selfishness, and greed is the reason James Anderton chose to involve his son in criminal conduct that unnecessarily resulted in the son sharing a federal prison cell with his father; and arrogance, selfishness, and greed is the reason James Anderton's deer herd was destroyed.  


CWD or not I disagree with these "Genetically Superior" deer farms. As a hunter I love taking a large buck for the dinner table, but not some genetically modified animal. I know people have tied up their life's savings in their farms. But that doesn't make it right. When you go to hunt this type of deer it's not about the utilization of the meat. It's about the trophy on the wall.



I'm a conservationist and a hunter. I agree with you. The problem is too many wanna-be hunters have more money than skill or sense. They are willing to pay hugh amounts to have a B&C caliber mount on their wall, then strut around like they're a great white hunter. These people are not hunters.

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