Hunters invading north Harris Co. wetlands

November 6, 2008 5:17:05 PM PST
No trespassing signs aren't keeping hunters or their guns out of what's become a wildlife habitat in north Harris County. Now, county workers are scared to go to the area along Greens Bayou. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The undeveloped land is part of a Flood Control project and off limits to hunters. The county is now spending money to protect workers.

Unlike some other Flood Control district sites, the Greens Bayou wetlands site is not open to the public. But that hasn't stopped trespassers who come not to enjoy nature, but to hunt. And it's costing taxpayers. Around $130,000 has been spent already on security and that doesn't include damage to property and loss of wildlife.

It's 1,400 acres of prairie designed to hold storm runoff and manmade wetlands to compensate for development. But in the process of creating this, the Flood Control project has become a wildlife habitat for birds, deer, even bobcats and now those who would hunt them.

Flood control workers find the evidence nearly every time they work there.

"We also find hunting blinds," said Flood Control worker Becky Martinez. "We'll find bullet casings."

A deer feeder was found in the woods. Deer blinds are routinely discovered, as well. But some workers there are said to have seen poachers and trespassers first hand.

"We hear gunshots during the day when we're working," said Flood Control employee Michelle Wilkins. "We've had people confronted at gunpoint for working out there and these are our contractors who belong out here. So the problems are pretty significant at this point."

The land is posted, but the signs are peppered with bullet holes. Wire fences have been cut and equipment has been shot up. So now, Flood Control is being forced to do some shooting of its own...with cameras. Dozens are now being placed around the site and they've already captured images of nighttime trespassers on ATVs and in trucks.

Armed security is being added as well to patrol at night and protect workers during the day. And if trespassers are caught on camera or by a deputy, they'll face a Class A misdemeanor for starters.

"Yes, we will prosecute, absolutely," said Flood Control Spokesperson Heather Saucier. "Because it's the unlawful entrance of this property and this property has a very important and specific purpose."

The penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. That's in addition to trespassing charges.

In the past, there have been guided nature tours at that project along Greens Bayou. But the county told us Thursday they've had to scale back some of them and eliminate others because of safety concerns.

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