By Leah K. Burton and Paul Gaines
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many owners have been spending more time at home and noticing furry or feathery neighbors in their backyards or rummaging throughout the common areas. Although some of these animals may appear cute at first, they may also present a burden to both homeowners and property owners’ associations (“POAs”). These animals may be referred to as “nuisance animals,” and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (“TWPD”) has listed the main culprits as follows: 1) feral hogs; 2) overabundant deer; 3) urban coyotes; 4) alligators; 5) bears; 6) cowbirds; 7) herons/heronries; 8) mountain lions; 9) ticks; and 10) woodpeckers. This section will focus on the most common nuisance animals we see in Texas, especially in the Hill Country: feral hogs, deer, coyotes and, as a bonus, feral cats.
Feral hogs have been roaming Texas since approximately the 1500s when they were likely introduced by early Spanish explorers. Today, the estimated population in Texas has reached a staggering 1.5 million. With the continued population growth and rise in residential development, feral hogs are a common sight around homesteads throughout Texas. This has created a multitude of issues for POAs, especially due to the immense amount of property damage feral hogs tend to create.
Consequently, the State Legislature has instituted measures to address the concerns surrounding feral hogs. Feral hogs are considered unprotected, exotic, non-game animals. The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 317 that was later signed by the Governor on May 31, 2019. This legislation allows for people to hunt feral hogs without a license and without a season. Thus, as long as a hunter has permission from the property owner to hunt feral hogs, they can do so whenever they please (subject to any local ordinances or restrictions).
Oftentimes, POAs may have restrictions prohibiting hunting within the community. Moreover, cities and counties likely prohibit same within their set boundaries. Considering residential communities house adults and children, the hunting remedy will likely not be a safe or reasonable option for most POAs. Thus, the question arises: What can a POA do to address the onslaught of feral hogs? POAs will need to determine what their long and short-term goals are when addressing this problem. Some of the ways POAs have been addressing the issue of feral hogs is by setting large traps that use a variety of baits since feral hogs have demonstrated an understanding of the danger of the trap when using the same bait. Yet, there are risks associated with this method such as the danger a trap may present to residents, especially children. The most common and practical method is typically the utilization of fencing to exclude feral hogs from private property; however, this can also be expensive.
Any efforts by a POA to try and eradicate feral hogs will require careful consideration and planning. POAs should work with their attorney, as well as any county or city officials, to design a plan that is unique to their community if issues with feral hogs escalate.
Coyotes pose a different problem than feral hogs for owners and POAs alike. As development continues to spread, especially throughout rural and less densely populated areas, encounters with coyotes will only increase. Consequently, POAs should be aware of their options for dealing with these animals.
Eradication measures, such as trapping, have proven to be ineffective against coyotes in urban areas. That being the case, TPWD believes education is the best resource and provides a number of safety measures for limiting negative interactions and minimizing problems that urban coyotes may cause:
(1) do not feed the coyotes (intentionally or not), (2) cover compost piles, (3) keep pets indoors or supervise pets while they are outside, (4) walk pets on a leash, (5) refrain from feeding wildlife on the ground (i.e. avoid seed feeders), (6) do not feed feral cats (they are prey for coyotes), and (7) take measures to minimize vegetation near buildings so as to not attract smaller animals that may serve as prey for the coyotes.
If a POA is dealing with unwanted coyotes roaming throughout the community, the guidelines provided above should be observed and may be communicated to the residents in an effort to keep coyotes at bay.
Due to the ever-growing deer population, the Texas legislature has taken action to curb the deer population by creating a hunting season for deer and requiring a license to hunt. Additionally, TPWD has the power to issue trapping and transporting surplus of white-tailed deer permits, specifically listing “Property Owners’ Associations” as permitted recipients of these permits. Fencing has also proven to be an effective exclusion method.
POAs, in addition to considering trapping, transporting of deer, and fencing, may also encourage residents and community members to abstain from feeding any deer in their backyards or in the common areas to discourage deer from seeking food in these areas. In addition, if permitted by a POA’s governing documents, POAs may also consider rules or restrictions that prohibit certain types of vegetation within the boundaries of the community that may be appealing or attractive to deer. Remember, when deer are present, so are deer ticks!
To learn more about why you should not feed feral cats, including the potential criminal liability for doing so, please read Shareholder Eric Tonsul’s article TO FEED OR NOT TO FEED…FERAL CATS.
Prior to implementing any of the measures discussed herein, it is recommended that a POA consult with its attorney to determine the best course of action for their community.
For more information related to nuisance animals and TWPD’s suggestions for same, please refer to the following link:
Join Shareholder Cliff Davis on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, for a Nuisance Animals webinar to learn more about the types of animals classified as nuisance animals and the strategies and potential pitfalls POAs face when trying to combat these issues.