Just in time for the opening of deer season Saturday, Eastland County Judge Rex Fields has been busy answering calls about potential harm to area white-tail deer and the hunters who seek them. An investigation is currently under way in Eastland County following suspected wildlife poisoning south of Cisco in October.
According to TDA spokesperson Bryan Black, a contamination zone has been confirmed. The property is located near the intersections of United States Highway 183 and County Road 173.
An investigation involves local officials, as well as authorities with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Department of State Health Services and United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Enforcement authorities are assessing possible violations of state and/or federal law, including the possible use of a pesticide inconsistent with the label," Black said. "If an investigation finds the law was broken, they could face penalties and criminal prosecution. The TDA could fine the individual $5,000 per violation (and there could be multiple violations.)"
The Attorney General would handle any civil penalties and the county prosecutor would decide on criminal prosecution.
Due to the ongoing investigation, the name of the rancher or others involved in the case have not been released.
Fields said he was contacted last month by an agent with the TDA who informed him of the potential poisoning.
In an attempt to rid peanut crops of feral hogs, a rancher allegedly misused an insecticide named "Temik." Fields said the toxin was applied to corn, which was then placed around peanut fields. Temik is a registered and approved insecticide.
"The contamination of the peanut fields has killed a number of feral hogs, at least one deer and two birds," Fields said.
The TDA reported Thursday that no additional dead animals have been found at the affected site. But corn seed samples collected from contamination sites have confirmed the presence of "high levels of Aldicarb - an active ingredient found in Temik."
"Aldicarb is highly toxic and only a small amount is needed to kill an animal," the TDA reported. "Temik can be harmful to wildlife and domestic animals that may come into contact or feed on something that has the pesticide."
Toxicologists say deer that ingest a lethal dose of the insecticide will die soon after consumption and likely within the immediate area. It is possible for the deer to ingest the pesticide and quickly eliminate the toxin from its body.
For hunters and others set to dine on venison, authorities are urging caution.
"Individuals should never eat carcasses of animals found on the ground or animals that appear sick or diseased," Fields said.
TPWD biologists are monitoring the impact on wildlife and threat to humans.
"As a safety precaution, TPWD is advising (hunters) to draw a five-mile radius around the contaminated area and don't harvest deer within that radius," Black said.
While state authorities did not confirm a second contamination zone, Fields said "another location, near (U.S.) Highway 206 and County Road 218 is suspected to have Temik-treated corn."