By BETSY BLANEY
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- The Texas wildlife agency said Tuesday it is suspending a policy that allows the killing of burros in a state park along the Mexican border after the Humane Society of the United States offered to devise a nonlethal plan to remove the animals.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will contribute up to $10,000 for the humane society to conduct an aerial survey of the animals this spring, agency executive director Carter Smith told The Associated Press.
The humane society approached the department last fall and expressed a "strong interest" in establishing baseline data, Smith said ahead of the agency's official announcement expected later Tuesday.
"We are happy to work with the department and are pleased that they have halted lethal control of the burros while discussions are under way," Texas humane society director Nicole Paquette said.
Park rangers have killed 130 animals in Big Bend Ranch State Park on the Texas side of the Rio Grande since 2007.
The state considers the wild donkeys to be destructive intruders, hogging forage and lapping up precious water in the drought-starved mountains, thereby threatening the survival of hundreds of native species, including bighorn sheep which the state is working to re-establish in the park.
In Big Bend National Park, adjacent to the state-owned land, killing wild burros is prohibited by a 40-year-old federal ban that Congress said protects the "living symbols and pioneer spirit of the West."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.