Pathology — A Tool For Texas Wildlife

A Game Department was added to the Texas Fish and Oyster Commission in 1907, and three functions branched from this department. Law Enforcement was formed first, with wildlife restoration following and becoming sophisticated by the addition of wildlife pathology in 1963. In these 9 years, some 2,000 necropies have been performed on various species of wildlife to develop disease backgrounds. The benefits of pathological study have been: (I) background data on diseases (2) game management implications as related to disease study and implementation of disease controls (3) forensic pathology development which has proven valuable to Law Enforcement for convictions of game violators. Game was plentiful in Texas in 1821 but declined drastically during the ensuing 50 years due to uncontrolled hunting (Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission, 1927). Public concern over dwindling wildlife resources caused legislation to be enacted providing for game warden to be employed. With this protection from the wardens coupled with public protection from landowners and hunters alike, game populations gradually increased until a new problem was encountered. Overpopulation replaced overharvest, and large losses of game became common. In 1945 and 1947 major deer die offs occurred in Texas (Taylor, 1947, Hahn and Taylor, 1950). Annual losses of 80 per cent in quail populations were considered normal (Jackson, 1969). Adjusted game harvests and regulations failed to stop mortality rates occurring in game animals. These losses potentially result in decreased revenue to landowners and a loss of recreation and meat to the sportsman. Deer losses were more noticeable than those of other game populations because more work was being done on white-tailed deer. Almost 62,000 deer were lost on 350,000 acres of Llano County due to "natural mortality" in a 7-year period (Marburger and Thomas, 1965). These losses made it evident that something more than law enforcement or current management practices was needed for efficient wildlife management.

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