Some ranchers at odds with state over antelope roundup

Thomas Garcia

Some area ranchers are at odds with the recent herding and exporting of prong horned antelope from Quay County by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

Starting on Feb. 26 the DGF set up traps in Quay County to capture and move 161 antelope to the Santa Ana Pueblo near Albuquerque and to three areas of Mexico, said Dan J. Williams, media relations DGF.

“In the Santa Ana Pueblo area the population had dwindled down to zero,” Williams said. “The antelope are being sent to these areas in an effort to increase and restore the population.”

The DGF had not trapped antelope in New Mexico for more than 10 years, said Darrel Weybright, DGF, big game coordinator.

“Since that time the population of antelope has greatly increased,” Weybright said. “With that increase the department received requests to herd and remove antelope for the Quay County area near Nara Visa.”

Weybright said that the antelope were herded by helicopter moved into a corral trap, vaccinated and then sedated and moved into haulers.
Some ranchers near Nara Visa do not share the optimism of the DGF when it comes to the removal of the antelope.

“I am against any antelope being taken out of this area,” said Van Robertson, a Quay County rancher. “In fact, there are very few people in this area that wanted this done.”

Robertson said that he has tried to maintain and manage the antelope population on his property through hunts.

“I am in the business of hunting,” Robertson said. “Hunting has become a business for area ranchers and they are taking that away.”

One rancher disagreed with the method of herding the antelope, and in particular by helicopter.

“I did not allow them on my land,” Michael Perez said. “They don’t realize that those antelope will go through fences because of helicopters and I have repaired enough fence in the past because of the antelope.”

Perez said that the increase in numbers is due to the DGF taking away their hunts several years ago.

“Now, we are overrun by antelope,” Perez said.

Williams said that any low-level flying by the helicopter pilot would have been limited to the area that was contracted for herding.
“The alternative is to herd by ground and that can be very unsuccessful,” Williams said. “I am not sure when the last time was that the department tried to herd wild animals by ground.”

Area rancher Jay Cammack said that he lost three calves, possibly because they were spooked by the helicopter.

“I contacted the Department of Game and Fish to see if they were flying over my property last Thursday (Feb. 26).” Cammack said. “I found two calves dead in stock tanks and one dead in the middle of a cattle guard. I would normally find one calf in a stock tank once every 10 years. Finding three dead calves in one day, now that is unusual.

Cammack said that he has called and left several messages with the department’s Raton office, but has not heard back from them.
“I’m not sure that the helicopter caused the calves’ deaths,” Cammack said. “Something had to spook them though and all three of them several miles apart from each other.”

Despite the loss of livestock, Cammack said he supports the removal of the antelope, but the department should have looked into reducing their numbers sooner.

“When I moved here in 1981 I would normally see around 30 antelope on the property of 10,000 acres,” Cammack said. “Now we are looking at numbers from 50 to 200 antelope depending on the group.”

Cammack said that in 1996 the DGF reduced the number of hunting permits issued to landowners because of the drought conditions
“That was the right thing to do because the antelope were under some extreme stress at that time,” Cammack said.

However, in the early part of 2000 the antelope numbers began to increase and Cammack said that he was calling the DGF to look into controlling the increase.

“They tell me that the antelope is the property of the New Mexico citizen,” Cammack said. “Well then, where is my rent. Rent for the grass eaten, broken fence and mineral salt. I have yet to see the citizens of New Mexico out repairing my fence.”