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When critters call in Fair Oaks Ranch

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FAIR OAKS RANCH — Returning home at 10:15 p.m. from a New Year’s Eve party, Kristin Fisher saw a lone coyote slinking across her front yard.

“It ran across the street, but just stopped and stared at my car,” said Fisher, who lives in the Country Bend area. “I used to hear them at night pretty frequently, but this is the first one I have seen in a while. I saw one this past summer just before the sun came up, carrying a fawn off to the wooded area near our home.”

A rising number of homeowners on Facebook and other social media have reported seeing both feral hogs and coyotes on morning walks or in their backyards, as well as observing damage to the landscape.

Nature experts caution there isn’t necessarily a rise in the critter population; instead humans are invading regions where before only wildlife lived.

Still, city officials have addressed residents’ concerns; many pet owners fear their animals could fall victim to predators such as coyotes and bobcats.

Mayor Garry Manitzas recently spoke at a Fair Oaks Ranch Homeowners Association meeting about possibly creating a group to catch feral hogs spotted on walking trails and the Arbors Preserve.

“I have had brief conversations with the general manager for the (Fair Oaks Ranch Country) club and presented to the FORHA board last week,” Manitzas said. “I believe they will be receptive to a joint-trapping operation, but they have not formally taken action at this point.”

He added, “We also still need to present this to our City Council for consideration. A short-term trapping job is not a huge expense, particularly if we partner on it.”

Hogs as big as 400 pounds have been reported. Mike Stewart, who hunts locally, said he’s seen a large influx lately, along with coyotes, bobcats and, in the past month, more foxes than usual.

“We have a dozen game cameras and we’ve never seen any hogs, but it’s like they’re staying on the other side of the road of the Fair Oaks Ranch city limits,” Stewart said. “I know the people on Country Bend and Highlands Ranch talk about them all the time.”

Jessica Alderson, a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department urban biologist for the San Antonio area, said there’s not an influx of animals; rather, encroaching development by mankind is pushing into their natural habitats.

“We haven’t had any reports from residents about hogs or coyotes,” Alderson said. “Sometimes new development causes an increase of sightings. In winter, we get more sightings because there’s not as much vegetation or brush that typically hides the animals.”

She added, “Development is the No. 1 reason we see hogs and coyotes in urban areas. Whenever there are reports on the news or social media, we get an increase in calls because people are more aware of what they’re seeing, not that there’s more animals.”

Alderson wants folks to remember bobcats, coyotes and feral hogs are all part of the natural balance.

“It’s good to have them because they keep the rodent population in check,” Alderson said. “A lot of people are unintentionally attracting these animals because they leave food out for outdoor pets, which attracts rodents, which attracts bobcats and coyotes. We encourage homeowners to put pets on a feeding schedule and feed them inside.”

Wildlife advocates also note the animals were here before humans.

“We are in The Heights at Two Creeks and so far, skunks getting into the backyard has been our only problem,” Christine Garza said.

Heather Elbash related an encounter too close for comfort.

“In the middle of the afternoon, with lots of kids in my backyard, a coyote trotted through,” Elbash said. “Another evening, when it was still daylight, I was making dinner and one was in my backyard. He went around to the front of the house, but by the time I made it to the front door, he was nowhere to be found.”

For more, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov. The city’s website has also posted information about feral hogs at https://www.fairoaksranchtx.org.

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