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Cattle Fever temporary quarantine declared by TAHC

USDA-APHIS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have set into a motion a Nilgai herd reduction plan that calls for population control on property directly across the Rio Grande River from Mexico.

It should come as no surprise, but the Texas Animal Health Commission in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established a new temporary Cattle Fever Tick Preventative Quarantine Area in South Texas adjacent to the habitat of a wild herd of Nilgai antelope known to be infected by disease-laden ticks.

A recent environmental assessment of the South Texas border region indicates tick infested and wide-roaming Nilgai are already expanding their range as a result of population growth. USDA-APHIS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have set into a motion a Nilgai herd reduction plan that calls for population control on property directly across the Rio Grande River from Mexico.

That track of land on Boca Chica Beach is already within a temporary quarantine zone after a number of Nilgai as well as domestic cattle were discovered infested by ticks. A small portion of that property, which runs along the river and serves as the international boundary line between Texas and Mexico, is part of a Permanent Tick Quarantine Zone from south of Brownsville to just north of Del Rio, about 500 miles. At its widest, this permanent border zone stretches into Texas by up to 10 miles.

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In this latest development, state animal health officials have confirmed cattle fever ticks on Cameron County premises located outside the permanent quarantine zone. In order to protect the land, premises, and animals from exposure to cattle fever ticks, the TAHC is creating a temporary preventative quarantine area (also commonly known as the "TPQA" or "Blanket Area") in Cameron County. This TPQA, and its requirements, will become effective October 7, 2014.

Movement restrictions

The TPQA consists of approximately 223,000 acres. The TPQA will be in effect until all premises within it are released from fever tick quarantines and the area is determined no longer at risk of infestation. Within this area, all livestock (cattle & equine) and live or hunted wildlife (such as nilgai antelope and white-tailed deer) capable of hosting fever ticks are subject to movement restrictions, inspections and treatment as prescribed by TAHC fever tick regulations.

The new temporary quarantine zone is defined as that portion of the state within the boundaries of a line beginning at a point in Cameron County where Farm to Market Road (FM) 511 and Captain Donald L. Foust Road intersect (25.950997;-97.412259); thence, northwest along FM 511 for 9.43 miles to FM 803 (26.028682; -97.530968); thence, north along FM 803 for 21.3 miles to FM 2925 (26.335137; -97.491350); thence, east along FM 2925 for 7.28 miles to the east side of the Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park eastern-most parking lot (26.349462; -97.390468) (parking lot); thence, north along the east side of the parking lot for 61.3 yards to the Arroyo Colorado (26.349960; -97.390577); thence, east along the Arroyo Colorado shoreline for 4.45 miles to Laguna Madre (26.353917; -97.325179); thence, southeast along the Laguna Madre shoreline for 55.33 miles to the Brownsville Navigation District Ship Channel (26.064276; -97.775511) (Brownsville Ship Channel); thence, southwest along the Brownsville Ship Channel for 16.4 miles to the point on Windhaus Road that is a straight line southwest of the Brownsville Ship Channel (25.952057; -97.403765); thence, north along Windhaus Road for 0.1 mile to Captain Donald L. Foust Road (25.952738; -97.404135); thence, west along Captain Donald L. Foust Road for .52 miles to FM 511 (25.950997; -97.412259), the beginning.


Deadly disease

Bovine babesiosis, commonly known as “Texas cattle fever,” is a deadly disease of cattle caused by single-celled organisms that are transmitted by cattle fever ticks. Texas cattle fever greatly harmed the cattle industry in the United States until the beginning of the 20th century.

Thanks to highly effective and collaborative control efforts established through the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program (CFTEP) in 1906 between producers and state and federal agencies, cattle fever ticks were largely eradicated from this country by 1943. As a result, the United States became free of Texas cattle fever, but cattle fever ticks still thrive in Mexico.

In spite of CFTEP establishing a permanent quarantine or buffer zone along the Texas-Mexico border to keep the ticks out of the United States, these potentially disease-carrying ticks are now re-infesting Texas outside of the quarantine zone, increasing the risk of outbreaks of Texas cattle fever. Its reemergence could cause devastating monetary losses for U.S. beef and dairy producers.

According to USDA, the cattle fever tick, Boophilus annulatus, and the southern cattle tick, Boophilus microplus, are carriers of protozoa that inject into the bloodstream of the tick’s host. The protozoa attack red blood cells, resulting in acute anemia, an enlarged spleen and liver, and rapid death in up to 90 percent of infected cattle.

In the late 1860s, Midwestern farmers were finding cattle inflicted with such symptoms and traced them back to the Longhorn cattle driven north by South Texas ranchers. To protect their herds, states along the cattle trails passed quarantine laws routing cattle away from settled areas or restricting passage of herds to the winter months. In 1885, Kansas entirely outlawed driving Texas cattle across its borders.

This resulted in the end of almost all Texas cattle drives that had flourished for 20 years, and crippled the Texas cattle industry for many years.

Ranchers and government researchers say that there are two issues confronting the CFTEP — wildlife as secondary hosts and pesticide-resistant ticks. Ticks can linger on a vacated ranch on a secondary host. Thus, white-tailed deer and nilgai — both abundant in South Texas — must be addressed to reduce the risk of re-infesting South Texas cattle.

For more information about the temporary preventative quarantine area and movement limitations and requirements, call 956-546-6004.

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