By WES FERGUSON
Ruby Ranch residents are locking horns with neighbors who trap and relocate the exotic deer and antelope found roaming the subdivision near Buda.
Capturing the nonnative species has been a contested issue in the neighborhood for years, but a ban on the practice is gaining traction this week with more than 100 residents signing an amendment that would add wildlife management to the subdivision’s list of governing rules.
“Most people in Ruby Ranch moved here because of the exotics,” resident Sonny Hollub said, blaming one resident in particular for declining numbers of deer. “Even though no law says he can’t trap them, the majority of our residents think they’re all ours. He’s reducing our population of exotics to take them to his ranch in Llano.”
Hollub is organizing the petition drive and has formed an HOA oversight group with 72 members and an attorney who helped draft the amendment, which calls for a $1,500 fine for trapping exotics and would create a wildlife committee to manage the population.
During a homeowners association meeting attended by about 110 people Tuesday night, the Ruby Ranch HOA’s attorney said more than 75 percent of lot owners (245 people) would have to sign the amendment before the restrictions could be legally changed.
Collecting those signatures could be an imposing task, however. By the HOA’s estimates, only 77 percent of lot owners live in the subdivision, and absentee landlords and other nonresident owners might be less willing or available to amend the restrictions. Home renters are not eligible to vote on the amendment process.
The Axis deer, blackbuck antelope and fallow deer are thought to be remnants of a former game preserve. Because they are not native species, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department considers the animals to be akin to abandoned livestock and does not regulate them.
HOA board members said they have not pursued action against the trappers because their attorney, Leon Brennen, believes Ruby Ranch’s bylaws and restrictions are too vague to withstand a legal challenge.
“I think the board will be sued by two sides,” board director Thomas Doebner told the crowd Tuesday. “One side is for trying to prevent the trapping, and the other will sue us for not doing enough to prevent trapping.”
Ruby Ranch resident Lisa Fowler said a mother deer and two fawns had been coming to her yard to feed every night.
“I’m a deer feeder, I admit it,” she said. “Unfortunately last night, I only saw the two babies. No mama. … That’s disturbing to me.”