Texan farmers claim tick-infested wildlife crossing from Mexico threatens livestock


Low water levels allow tick-infested wildlife to easily cross border from Mexico, threatening South Texas cattle.

TAMAULIPAS, MEXICO.- At 82 years old, longtime rancher Renato Ramirez knows the South Texas borderlands. And on a recent day as he looked across the Rio Grande to Mexico he fretted.

A group of cattle was grazing on the banks, a stone’s throw from him, and he worried they would cross into the United States.

The river is very low right now due to drought conditions. If the cows come across, they could bring ticks that could infect his herd, and that of other South Texas ranchers, with cattle fever, a severe and often fatal disease transmitted by cattle fever ticks.

“The cattle cross and so they bring in the fever tick,” Ramirez said.

South Texas rancher Renato Ramirez checks on his herd Feb. 24, 2022, in Zapata, Texas, on the border with Mexico. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Worse, he says, are deer that now are continually crossing the international river and Lake Falcon, which also borders Mexico, infected with the fever ticks that could spread to his herds.

“The fever tick comes on the deer because the deer cross back and forth,” said Ramirez, dressed in well-worn cowboy boots, jeans and a jean jacket.

“The fever tick carries that fever that kills the cows and once you got it you got to eradicate the whole herd,” he said as he showed Border Report one of his four ranches in this rural part of South Texas.

South Texas rancher Renato Ramirez carries a rope as he keeps a safe distance from his cattle on Feb. 24, 2022, on one of his four ranches in Zapata, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Water levels at Falcon Reservoir on Friday were just 23% of capacity, or 259 feet, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

The water should be 40 feet higher, Ramirez said.

And that means the boundary between Mexico and Texas is closer and it is easier for wildlife to cross.

He says it also entices human smugglers to bring across migrants as there is no border wall in this area where locals fought border wall construction during the Trump administration.

A tick quarantined zone

This area is part of a tick quarantine zone regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(USDA Graphic)

The permanent quarantine zone extends to all cattle ranches on the border from Del Rio to Brownsville, Texas, on the Gulf Coast. Border ranchers receive 2nd notice from feds threatening to revoke land rights

But Zapata County, where international water levels are especially low right now due to a drought at Lake Falcon, has had some of the worst trouble with wildlife crossing and that is putting many herds at risk, Zapata County Judge Joe Rathmell told Border Report recently.

“It’s been an ongoing effort with the fever ticks. Zapata County is kind of the epicenter of that problem and ranchers especially along the border and the lake have to deal with that infestation,” said Rathmell, who also is a rancher.

“There has been an increase in numbers of deer. The lake levels have been so low for so long that we have had increased brush in those areas that would normally be covered with water so there is an increase in population that crosses,” Rathmell said.

Source: NBC News

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