By CHRIS AGEE
Partially funded by the Texas Wildlife Management Association, the trapper program is a resource used by many counties across the state to deal with wildlife-related problems.
District Supervisor Randy Smith was on hand to detail the program's services during a recent Palo Pinto County Commissioner's Court session.
"I appreciate your support of our program," Smith began, explaining Palo Pinto County funds about as much of the local program as state government.
"State and county contribution is close to 50/50," he said.
Trappers are active on a federal, state and countywide level, he explained, noting local trappers are employed by the A&M AgriLife Exntension Service.
According to Smith, trappers are available to handle nearly any concern related to wildlife, whether on a rural ranch or in a residential neighborhood in Mineral Wells.
"What you're paying for is not a trapper but the services we provide," he said.
Trappers protect exotic animals, deer and cattle, Smith said, and aid in preventing feral hogs from damaging local crops.
Additionally, Smith explained his agency has performed services such as removing geese from golf courses and relocating birds from cell phone towers, noting trappers are authorized to use lethal measures when necessary in their animal control efforts.
He said the program is involved in aerial control, noting trappers own three helicopters used across the state. Two of the aircraft are available at any time, he explained, while the third is reserved as a backup.
Smith said the recent prevalence of other wild pig hunters – both aerial and on the ground – have resulted in a sort of competition between the amateur hunter and professional trapper.
For that reason, he noted, trappers caught fewer feral hogs last year than in years past.
Trappers conducted aerial missions in Palo Pinto County in 2012, Smith said, though they were relatively fruitless. Still, he added, if trappers were able to prevent one hog from damaging a residents' property, the service is worthwhile.
According to Smith, the trapper program has also been on the forefront of preventing the spread of rabies.
He said the agency receives funding to drop bait containing a vaccine for many wildlife animals and is currently in the research phase for forming an oral vaccine effective on skunks.
The process of leaving bait would be less effective for skunks than other animals, he noted, because skunks are often found in more populated areas. Smith said even an urban resident can benefit from the work trappers do, though.
"We're available to assist with any wildlife issues," he added.