Wardens with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department arrested a man this week after he allegedly shot and killed a donkey near Leonard.
TPWD Game Warden Randolph McGee said the 20-year-old man was initially arrested for hunting from a vehicle on a public roadway and, as of Friday morning, was to be arrested again on charges of cruelty to a livestock animal and criminal mischief, both Class A misdemeanors. McGee said the shooting occurred during the overnight hours of Feb. 1 at a rural property along County Road 5060.
“He said that they were out ‘backroading,’ which is really just riding around and shooting stuff, and he thought it was a wild pig,” McGee said.
The game warden said the woman who owned the property and the donkey, which she described as a pet, found the animal the following morning and took to social media, where she posted a photo of the dead animal and offered a sizable reward for information leading to an arrest.
“That got a lot of people talking,” McGee said. “Someone called in with some really good information and after interviewing a couple of suspects and witnesses, that led us to the arrest.”
Despite the man’s claim that he believed the animal was a wild pig and not a donkey, McGee said the man’s .30-06 rifle was equipped with optics designed specifically for night hunting and that the view of his target would have been relatively clear.
“Everybody can speculate on this: He had bright green light mounted to the scope of this gun and this donkey was about 75 yards off the road,” McGee said. “For anybody that does any nighttime hunting and shooting — he had a powerful scope. With that, I believe you would’ve been able to to tell that was a donkey. Either that or he just has bad eyesight.”
McGee added that this was not the man’s first time to kill a livestock animal. The warden said that, last year, the man and a friend fired numerous rounds at a group of wild hogs after drinking several beers, but failed to notice cattle standing some distance behind the hogs. McGee noted that he believed that incident was in fact an accident, as the man claimed.
“He and a buddy got out and just started blazing away at these pigs and then realized there were cows down there,” McGee said. “One of the bullets went down there and struck a cow.”
The man was charged and McGee said he was forced to pay the animal’s value back to the owner in an out-of-court settlement. McGee said he did not expect to file charges against the other people who were with the man when he killed the donkey on Feb. 1.
Fellow TPWD Game Warden Steve Stapleton said while wardens typically investigate crimes against Texas animals that are considered wildlife, wardens will still pursue those who wrongly kill other types of animals.
“In our line of work, this is something that we don’t normally encounter, but, hey, we work for the state of Texas and the citizens of Texas, so when something so egregious as this happens, we’re not going to put up with it,” Stapleton said.