Exotic animals, animals living outside their native areas, are increasing in number in the Great Plains. These additions to hunting, ranching, and farming operations, plus rare species in private preservation efforts, are mainly hoofed animals of wildlife species with antlers or horns. A few novel domestics, like llamas, join the mix. In the early 1990s, ostriches, emus, and rheas were also promoted, but markets for these large, flightless birds are more limited than for hoofed exotics.
Exotics are raised variously for meat, feathers, hides, eggs, and, in the case of the emu, for oil that is used in cosmetics. Within the Great Plains, exotics activity varies with environment and politics. Texas, with huge, private ranches and varied environments, stresses all types and has the most animals (15,735, representing fifty-six varieties, in Great Plains counties). Species on the Texas Plains include aoudad (Ammotragus lervia) from North Africa, axis deer (Axis axis) from India and Sri Lanka, blackbuck antelope (Antilope cervicapra) from India, fallow deer (Dama dama) from Europe and Asia Minor, red deer (Cervus elaphus) from Europe, and various forms of ibex and wild goat (Capra spp.) from Asia and Africa. In New Mexico, free-ranging aoudad predominate. There, the state dominates exotics activity, and public hunting is the objective. Northward, the main species are winter-hardy deer, such as fallow and red deer. These are mainly found in the drier western zones of the Northern Plains and in Canada where agricultural alternatives are fewer. Canadian exotics farming is an addition to more prevalent experiments with farming, herding, or culling native wildlife.
Increasing numbers of wildlife ranches, deer farms, and escaped exotics have prompted restrictions to prevent disease and interbreeding with native fauna. Wildlife departments often disapprove of exotics because of these negative possibilities or the added competition for space or forage. Thus, it is agricultural rather than wildlife interests that are promoting growth of exotic activity in the Great Plains.
Elizabeth Cary Mungall Texas Woman's University
Mungall, Elizabeth Cary, and William J. Sheffield. Exotics on the Range: The Texas Example. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994.
Traweek, Max S. Statewide Census of Exotic Big Game Animals. Austin: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 1995.