Sun City homeowners calling on community to stop trapping deer with nets

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Warning: The video in this story contains distressing footage of deer being trapped. Watch at your own risk.

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — A handful of homeowners in Sun City are raising concerns over a deer trapping program that’s been in place in their exclusive retirement community for 17 years.

“The primary reason why we relocated here was because of the wildlife and the natural beauty,”
said Laurel Mulvey.

Mulvey said she and her husband would have moved elsewhere two years ago had they known the community paid trappers to thin out the growing population of deer by netting them and ultimately killing them.

Through a special permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the trappers are allowed to install nets a few feet off the ground and lure the deer underneath with corn. Once a deer walks under the net, the netting falls and captures it inside. The trappers load the deer onto trailers and haul them to a processing facility where they are killed. The state requires the meat be donated to a charitable organization.

The group against the practice claim the community association’s wildlife committee — which is in charge of the program — is not being transparent about it or open to hearing from anyone against the practice. Sun City homeowners Lynne Wisby and Lana Stone want to know how much of their association dues are going toward the program.

“It’s our money, and we have the legal right to know where our money is being spent,” said Wisby.

The wildlife committee meets once a month. Chair Henry Schuessler told KXAN the meetings are not public and are only open to Sun City residents.

“They just give you a minute or two to speak,” said Mulvey. “And they shut you down and say ‘have a good day.'”

Sun City’s wildlife biologist Warren Bluntzer, who is on the committee, said they are transparent about the process and are open to considering other options to deal with the overabundance of deer. He called the program a success and said the trappers net between 125 and 200 deer each year between January and March.

Mulvey started an online petition and said she has a meeting set up with the mayor of Georgetown to request that the city draft an ordinance to set certain regulations for the program. Some of her recommendations include limiting how close the nets can be to homes and requiring deer count data and trapping costs to be made public.

Schuessler told KXAN Sun City’s community association pays about $40,000 a year to run the program. He said about $35,000 goes to the trappers, and another $5,000 covers the cost of the deer testing and processing that’s required by the state.

History of deer netting in Central Texas

Deer trapping is not a new method for dealing with the growing number of white-tailed deer where hunting is not allowed, but capturing the four-legged animals with nets, killing them and processing the meat is controversial.

Video from Lakeway that went viral in 2018 prompted that city to suspend the program, even though they had the green light from the state to do it.

Sun City’s ability to trap and process the dear is also dependent on getting a permit from the TPWD.

Alan Cain, the agency’s white-tailed deer program director, said communities must prove there’s a deer problem either through deer counts, crash reports or complaints that they’re eating expensive landscaping.

Data provided by the TPWD show the agency only issued eight Trap, Transport and Process permits to cities, municipalities and property owners associations in 2020. It is a number that has decreased in the last five years.

Cain said every community is different, and the decisions about how to thin each herd ultimately boil down to what the humans around them deem acceptable.

“There’s emotions, they run high and we understand that,” said Cain. “But ultimately at the end of the day if folks can sit down and talk through things I think they can work out solutions.”

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