Farmers, ranchers hope to save trapper program

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

Feb. 10, 2018 at 5:51 p.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2018 at 8:01 a.m.

Feral hogs  feed on a ranch south of Victoria.

Feral hogs feed on a ranch south of Victoria.   Contributed by Shawn Campbell for The Victoria Advocate

In five to six years, nuisance animals such as hogs and coyotes could be coming into the city limits if farmers and ranchers fail to save the county's trapper program, said Russell Hessler.

Hessler, 52, was one of more than 50 farmers and ranchers who met at the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center to come up with a solution to save the trapper program Thursday.

"They'll really multiply and start approaching on town more and bother people in outlying areas of town," he said. "And (they'll) start affecting livestock and dogs and pets and everything else, and we have to keep them at bay."

Victoria County commissioners voted in August to stop paying for an expert to trap predators at no cost to ranchers. In December, the commissioners decided to fund the program for another 90 days while ranchers try to find a way to come up with about half the trapper's total salary of $32,000. The county would continue to fund the other half.

County farmers and ranchers want to form a co-op to help raise the funds with donations and fundraisers.

During the 90-day extension, the county will provide $8,100, said commissioner Kevin Janak. Locals have until March 7 to come up with half of what the county funded, or $4,050.

"They are instructed to come up with a plan to fund at least half and bring it to court for that plan to be passed," he said.

Hessler said the meeting went well, and he hopes the commissioners aren't set on doing away with the program.

"It's going to take some effort to get everyone to work together," he said. "I just hope they don't have their minds made up to do away with it. They're helping us right now, trying to work with us to keep it going."

The county has problems not only with coyotes and vultures killing livestock but also with feral hogs tearing up land, Hessler said.

"They tear up everything - root up hay meadows where we raise hay for cattle - root up the ground and make it rough, which hurts the equipment," he said.

Killing coyotes every now and then does nothing to fix the problem, said Trey Barron, wildlife diversity biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Instead, it can make the predator problem worse by lowering the reproductive age of coyotes.

"If you're going to do predator management, all the research that's been done in South Texas shows that it has to be very high-intensity and needs to be done before fawning season," he said.

At the meeting, Janak said that it costs the county $162 per coyote that is killed in the program, which is hard to comprehend as most people in the county live in the city.

Ranch manager Shawn Campbell said when one calf is killed by a coyote, it costs the rancher $800. A killed goat costs between $250 and $300.

"I just don't understand that - why they've got that stuck in their head," he said. "That's not a valid answer - that $162 for a coyote is too much."



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