County axes trapper, causing howls of protest

Jon Wilcox By Jon Wilcox

Dec. 10, 2017 at 9:42 p.m.
Updated Dec. 11, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Victoria County Commissioners Court

Victoria County Commissioners Court   Advocate file image for The Victoria Advocate

Coyotes and hogs may become a more common sight for Victoria County farmers and ranchers in upcoming years.

Although Victoria County commissioners in August removed the funding for a county trapper program from their 2018 budget, the commissioners will discuss the program's alternatives and impact at their public meeting Monday.

"The consensus is the trapper goes along with a long list of other programs and budget line items that we can no longer afford," said Precinct 4 Commissioner Clint Ives.

For decades, Victoria County commissioners have budgeted funding for an expert trapper's services to help control nuisance wildlife. But considering a limited budget because of a drop in sales tax revenue and the bust of the local energy market, county commissioners are faced with numerous difficult but necessary cuts, Ives said.

Commissioners have slashed about $100,000 from the Victoria Regional Airport, more than $100,000 from the Victoria County District Attorney's Office and thousands from the Victoria City-County Health Department, Ives said.

Those cuts are even more necessary in the wake of the court's decision not to raise property tax rates, said County Judge Ben Zeller.

With half of the trapping program's price tag covered by state and federal funding, Victoria County would have been billed about $38,000 in 2018, Zeller said.

But Shawn Campbell, who manages an estimated 3,000-acre Victoria County ranch, said he wonders whether commissioners fully understand the potential impact of cutting the program.

After Campbell chose not to use the trapper's services in 2016, the survival rate of fawns on the property he manages dropped from about 80 to 25 percent because of an increase in predators, he said.

Ives said he understood the ending of the program could result in increasing numbers of killed livestock and destroyed crops for the numerous farmers and ranchers in his precinct. But Ives, who is a rancher, said he also understood the need for responsible economic management.

"Our duty to the taxpayers is being stewards of the budget," Ives said.



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