Introducing Mule Deer to their New Home

June 28th, 2017
Black Gap WMA

Black Gap WMA

This is Passport to Texas

Shawn Gray oversees the mule deer restoration program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Over the past two years, with the help of partners, the program identified available surplus animals on public and private land and moved them to Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.

We have moved over two hundred female mule deer.

Gray says the program radio collars 30 to 40 percent of the animals before release.

Some captured deer had a “soft release” which involved keeping them in a fenced area for a couple of weeks allowing them to acclimate to their surroundings. Then, when freed…

They don’t go as far; they tend to stay where you released them.

Other deer had a “hard release”. They were let out of the trailers and allowed to immediately run free.

We have seen one or two of our [radio collared] translocated animals go back to where they were captured. Those were the ones that were hard released. The animals that we have soft released, we have not observed them going back to their home. We’ve observed them doing a lot of exploratory type movements. Figuring out their new home. But for the most part, those animals are staying in and around Black Gap Wildlife management Area.

Which makes all the hard work, planning and coordination worth it.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Mule Deer Restoration

June 27th, 2017
Mule deer in Texas

Mule deer in Texas

This is Passport to Texas

The mule deer population is struggling in parts of the Big Bend region of far West Texas.

We’ve been trying to boost our populations in the Black Gap area since about 2015.

Shawn Gray oversees mule deer restoration. Unlike other mule deer populations, those at Black Gap never fully recovered after the last drought.

We had been monitoring that population for years, and it just remained stagnant. And so, the next decision we made was, well, let’s put some animals down there and try to boost it and see if we can’t get the population trending upward.

During population surveys last fall, biologists identified an available of surplus of animals at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Wildlife Management, and one private ranch in Pecos County. Using the helicopter and net gun method, they trapped the animals.

Once we caught them, we radio-collared and tagged them. We gave them a series of injections for health reason, and then loaded them in trailers and took them down to release them.

Shawn Gray says this spring they moved 98 female mule deer to the Black Gap Wildlife Wildlife Management Area and to the adjacent El Carmen Land & Conservation Company, which together comprise 135,000 contiguous acres dedicated to wildlife and habitat conservation.

Of those radio-collared animals, we monitor intensively, looking at survival and movement—habitat use. We use all those findings to help improve the habitat and help improve our survival.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Fourth of July Festivities

June 26th, 2017
Getting settled for the Fourth of July festivities at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Photo: Larry Hodge.

Getting settled for the Fourth of July festivities at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Photo: Larry Hodge.

This is Passport to Texas

This July Fourth Weekend give yourself and your family a treat, and spend it at one of your state parks.

Pack a picnic and dine al fresco. Depending upon where you go, you’ll dine under the shade of ancient oaks or pines or maples. Bring your hiking shoes or mountain bikes and enjoy the extensive trail systems.

Fishing is free in parks with fishing opportunities. Cast a line and see if you can reel in something tasty to for dinner so you can skip the grocery store on the way home.

If you live in Central Texas, the LBJ State Park and Historic site’s Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm in Johnson City is the place to be on July Fourth. They plan to celebrate like early Texans. What does that mean? You have to go to find out.

For East Texas residents, one of the biggest fireworks display in your part of the state will light up the skies over the Texas Fresh Water Fisheries Center in Athens. Admission to the center is free after 4 p.m. And there’s free fishing until 8:30 p.m.

Whether you go to a park to celebrate your own way, or attend one of these events: bring your family, bring your friends, bring some snacks, but leave the fireworks and sparklers at home. Don’t worry, you’ll still have a blast.

That’s our show for today…Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Tracking Wildlife Beyond Footprints

June 23rd, 2017
TPWD Wildlife Biologist, Jonah Evans trains fellow biologists on the art and science of tracking Texas wildlife.

TPWD Wildlife Biologist, Jonah Evans trains fellow biologists on the art and science of tracking Texas wildlife. Photo by Albert Halpren, Texas Coop Magazine.

This is Passport to Texas

A lot of us, when tracking wildlife, search for footprints only.

You know, the tracks, themselves, are the easy part as far as determining something’s been there.

East Texas wildlife biologist, Heidi Baily says the tracks alone tell only part of the story.

In my experience, one of the toughest things for a tracker to learn, is to just take a step back and look at the scene as a whole rather than zooming in on one or two tracks. Sometimes it really helps to step back and look at where the animal’s been going, and what he’s been doing. You get a whole lot bigger picture as opposed to just kind of a snapshot and being able to say, ‘Okay. That’s a raccoon.’

Heidi says when people start opening themselves to fully tracking wildlife—and not just the footprints—they begin to experience the outdoors in new ways.

A lot of times, you may not see wildlife, but tracking just puts it in your mind that you’re surrounded by wildlife whether you see it or not. And, it really gets your brain to churning trying to put yourself in the mind of that animal. It’s a real treat, and a good time to get outside and enjoy it to the fullest.

Enrich your outdoor experience with wildlife tracking. Find more information at passporttotexas.org.

The Wildlife Restoration Program Supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Wildlife Tracking

June 22nd, 2017
Common animal tracks in Texas.

Common animal tracks in Texas.

This is Passport to Texas

When it comes to wildlife, there’s more of it out there than meets the eye.

Some of them are fairly secretive. A lot of times, we never even see the animal. Looking at the tracks and sign are the only way that we’re able to determine that the animals are present.

Heidi Baily is a wildlife biologist in east Texas. She says tracking is a skill she uses when conducting wildlife surveys.

Wildlife tracking is getting out there and looking for not just the tracks or the imprints left by the feet of the animal, but it’s also getting out there and looking for chew marks on a particular plant. Or, maybe scat—which is the highfalutin name for animal poop. Or a feeding sign, or anything that reveals that something has passed through.

When tracking wildlife, Heidi says, it helps to think like the animal you’re tracking.

The best trackers are the ones who can put themselves in the mind of the animal, and be able to determine where it’s been, what it’s doing and where it’s going. That’s the fun part of the wildlife CSI of it: almost becoming the animal.

Tracking isn’t for wildlife biologists only. Heidi Baily says anyone can track wildlife, starting in their own backyard. Find field guide and tracking app information at passporttotexas.org.

The Wildlife restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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Field Guides:

Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks
by Olaus Johan Murie, Mark Elbroch · Houghton Mifflin · Paperback · 391 pages · ISBN 061851743X

Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species
by Mark Elbroch · Stackpole Books · Paperback · 779 pages · ISBN 0811726266