Bulldozers, Iconic Ranches and Legal Disputes About Boundaries and Deer

Who knows where the boundary is for the county line in Jim Wells and Kleberg counties in south Texas?

Deer in south Texas live on tough land whether on open range or in high-fence enclosures. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

Deer in south Texas live on tough land whether on open range or in high-fence enclosures. (Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

For 122 years, it was a fence put up by the 825,000-acre King Ranch on part of its Santa Gertrudis Division. The fence was low — not a high fence or ‘enclosure’ type — and allowed wildlife to move freely. Landowners acknowledged the fence as the boundary, as reportedly deemed by survey more than a century ago.

But with whitetail deer moving from the King Ranch to neighboring landowners, and hunters killing some fine bucks on those adjacent lands, King Ranch officials decided it was time for a change. According to this report from the San Antonio Express-News, not only did they want to put up a higher fence to prevent deer from leaving their property but they also had a new survey done that would move the boundary.

That set off a flurry of arguments by the neighboring landowners who said their property was being wrongfully taken by the King Ranch. The ranch disputed that, of course, saying the updated survey was correct and the property line had been incorrect for the last 122 years.

All this over white-tailed deer and hunting.

“On or about Nov. 8, 2012, the King Ranch, through its employees or fencing crews it had hired, came onto Dr. Garza’s property with a bulldozer, vehicles, people and fencing equipment,” reads a lawsuit filed late last year by Roel Garza, a dentist who owns 400 acres adjacent to the King Ranch, according to the Express-News.

Law enforcement officials were summoned by Garza when the King Ranch brought in heavy equipment to remove a fence, posts and trees on Garza’s property. Another landowner jumped into the fray. A judge granted a restraining order, putting a temporary kibosh on any digging or fence relocation. Afterward, six landowners joined the suit against the King Ranch.

“The land in the strip was farmed, cultivated, grazed by cattle, hunted, fenced, crossed with roads and otherwise utilized by the plaintiffs to the exclusion of the King Ranch,” lawyer Mike Hummell, who owns land on the fence line, testified in the suit proceedings.

Another wrench in the mix was the claim by 70-year old Juan Antonio Garcia. He said the boundary line was set by one of his great uncles after an agreement with Henrietta King, widow of the King Ranch founder, Richard King.

“In 1891, a land exchange between Henrietta King and Luciano Garcia was agreed upon. A fence was erected by the King Ranch and was considered the boundary line. It has been in the same place for the last 122 years,” he said.

It’s quite the tale of wealthy landowners, time, and legal wrangling. And all because of white-tailed deer and hunting.

Read the full story here.