Two years ago, Shawn Campbell saw a 60 percent loss of fawns on the Victoria County ranch he manages because of predators.
When he starts his deer survey later this month, he expects to see less than a 10 percent loss in the deer population.
“From a visual perspective, at the Gordon Ranch, we’re not seeing or hearing coyotes, and we’re seeing a lot of fawns survive,” he said. “To me, that means the program is working. We’ve been there where we kind of slacked on having the trapper out, and our fawns surviving dwindled tremendously.”
In March, Victoria County commissioners decided to fund half the county’s trapper program for the rest of fiscal year 2018. Commissioners voted in August 2017 to stop paying for an expert to trap predators at no cost to ranchers. Commissioners will start to reconsider adding the trapper program back to the budget this August, said Russell Hessler, Victoria Prairie Wildlife Management Association president.
Each quarter of the fiscal year, county farmers and ranchers have had to come up with a portion of the other half of the funds for the trapper program, Hessler said. He’s been running the fundraising through the nonprofit for the program. So far, farmers and ranchers have raised $8,100, but have to come up with another $4,050 by the middle of September for the rest of the fiscal year.
Coyotes kill livestock as well as deer, Campbell said. One calf can cost a producer between $1,000 and $1,500. A fawn that could have grown to be a trophy-worthy buck can be a $2,500 to $3,000 loss. Feral hogs destroy ranch roads, crops and land, which causes wear and tear on agricultural machines.
“Whether livestock or wildlife, it takes money out of those producers’ pockets,” he said. “Ranching and wildlife – it’s not a huge margin business in terms of profit margins. If you lose several calves or deer, they all have dollar values on them. It can mean the difference between a profit and loss for the year.”
From October to the end of May, the trapper program captured 151 coyotes and 207 feral hogs, according to a Texas Wildlife Services report. During the same time period, predators caused a loss of $52,718 for commercial game animals, $29,051 for field crops, $13,879 for livestock and $69,125 for pasture damage totaling $164,773 for agriculture damages. Predators also caused $42,900 in property damages.
Hessler, who owns a cattle ranch in northeast Victoria County, agreed with Campbell and said the fawn population looks good this year.
“From what I see out in the country out on the ranch, the fawns have really blossomed this year,” he said. “It’s got to be from the deduction of number of coyotes from the trapper working coyotes that take a lot of fawns.”