KERRVILLE -- Marvin Neunhoffer rattles a feed bag and the sheep come running, if you can call it “running.” The sheep’s gait isn’t the most graceful in the animal kingdom.
Neunhoffer chuckles as the last straggler makes it to the food. The animals know him by sight, and Neunhoffer keeps an eye on them like his great-great grandfather did on this same ranchland in the 1880s.
Since then, coyote populations have increased in the area, and they’ve taken a bite out of Neunhoffer’s business.
“We lost probably 50 sheep and goats and probably eight or 10 calves in a three-month period,” the rancher said.
So Neunhoffer approached Kerr County commissioners last year, to ask that coyotes be put back on the “most wanted” list.
“The bounty was established in 1951 at $15. And I just asked them not to raise it, but just adjust it for inflation,” Neunhoffer added.
And adjust it they did. County commissioners voted Monday to raise the bounty from $15 to $20.
Government trappers take care of rounding up coyotes in many sections of Kerr County. But for those ranch and farmlands not visited by the trappers, hunters can bring in the ears of a coyote along with an affidavit stating where it was killed, and collect the reward. So far, the county’s paid out less than a hundred dollars.
“We’re talking about, as of this year, only five or six cases of that (bounties collected),” said Kerr County Commissioner Guy Overby.
Overby said the bounty is paid out and processed through the county’s animal control division.
Back on the ranch, Neunhoffer spotted a pair of coyotes with a cub recently circling his livestock. For now, his donkey plays watchdog over the flock until a bounty can be claimed on the predators.
“Donkeys inherently hate anything canine. And they’re not the full answer to keeping coyotes out of your livestock, but they are part of the tools that we us,” said Neunhoffer. “It’s an economic issue. Especially with the drought, we spent a lot of money in feed and caring for these animals to get them to that point, and a coyote comes and kills that in one night--that’s money out of your wallet,” he added.
Sixty years ago, county commissioners placed other animals on the bounty list: including foxes ($1.00), wildcats ($2.50) and raccoons ($0.50).
Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley said the bounty on these other varmints has expired.