Exotic Animals Killed In Van Zandt County - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/26/03

Exotic Animals Killed In Van Zandt County

11 exotic animals have been killed over the past 6 weeks on an East Texas ranch. The Smart Place Game Ranch, located north of Wills Point on Highway 47 in Van Zandt County, has lost $30,000 worth of elk and deer. Bill Smart has a somewhat unusual hobby. He raises exotic animals on 150 acres of land. From zebras, to gazelle, to the second largest herd of white-tailed gnu's in the U.S. He has around 200 in all.

"It's been a very pleasant experience up until the last couple of months," Smart said.

That's because, around six weeks ago, someone began systematically killing his animals. It started with some elk and deer, found shot near a county road that runs along part of his property. An average of two a week have been killed ever since, most recently a prized bull elk, which someone climbed a fence and poisoned.

"It's a terrible situation to think people are this sorry," Smart added.

There are beautiful animals here worth thousands of dollars, but Smart says, it's not about the money.

"The elk, they eat so much, there's no way you could make a profit on an elk... But's it's still fun to have. He added, "It's pretty hard on a person seeing your animals getting killed, and whoever knows this or is doing this knows that."

The Van Zandt County Sheriff's Department says they have several theories they are looking into, and vow to get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, Smart has been forced to move feeders away from public roads, and is taking steps to protect the animals that are still alive.

"It's going to be hard to catch, but law enforcement, all of the county, everybody is going to be aware of this situation, and they better be careful, because we're all after them. This is not right."

Smart is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Van Zandt County Sheriff Pat Burnett vows, this will not be a slap on the wrist for whoever is caught. He is pursuing multiple charges of criminal mischief and animal cruelty at the felony level.

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