Smugglers Lead Border Patrol on Chase Ending at Wildlife Ref
ALAMO – The Pintail Lakes Trail doesn’t end at the ledge that oversees the Rio Grande River. If you follow the steep drop, you’ll find a worn path, leading to a clearing on the banks of the river.
Bottles, tattered clothing and odds linger at this spot at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. There’s no way to know for sure who came through, or for what purpose, but the evidence is strong.
The refuge is also slated as the starting point for a proposed border wall, under the White House’s plans for 60 miles of fence in the Rio Grande Valley. The plan is still unfunded.
On Friday, a smuggler fled agents, driving into the area, said Border Patrol. He drove recklessly and hit three gates before successfully fleeing, they said.
Border Patrol arrested five people in the country illegally and seized 200 pounds of marijuana.
The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, named a “Jewel” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a 2000 plus acre home to native and migratory species. Many visiting birders also visit here too.
“They’re beautiful. They’re bright yellow. They’re very active,” said Jack Cochran, as he described the Great Kiskadee, a popular attraction for those camera-and-binocular-toting birders.
“They’ve got all the characteristics that should make them popular,” he said.
Cochran is a birder from Austin, who visits the Rio Grande Valley for the quality birding. He said, should a border wall be constructed here, it will affect the movement of land-dwelling wildlife.
“It’s probably going to change where I spend my birding tourism dollars,” said Cochran.
The problem remains for Border Patrol, who faces challenges monitoring this wild area.
The thick brush offers convenient cover for smugglers, said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Daniel Tirado.
“The criminal organizations are going to exploit that,” he said.
Additions to personnel, technology would enhance border security, said Tirado.