2016 Crab Trap Clean-up

February 11th, 2016
Derelict crab traps collected from Chocolate Bayou.

Derelict crab traps collected from Chocolate Bayou.

This is Passport to Texas

Lost and abandoned crab traps become hazards to marine life in Texas bays.

We are particularly concerned because of the ghost fishing effects; they continue fishing unmaintained.

When something gets in the trap and dies, it acts as bait, attracting more marine life, which in turn suffers the same fate. Art Morris coordinated the annual cleanup of derelict traps during his time with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And what we do once a year in February, is get volunteers together up and down the coast, and we try to remove all those traps that have been lost, or vandalized or whatever that are potentially ghost fishing.

Volunteers have removed more than 31-thousand traps in the cleanup’s 15 year history. The cleanup traditionally starts on the third Friday of February and continues for 10 days.

We don’t have any kind of salvage laws in Texas, and once you put out a trap—it’s your property and nobody is supposed to touch that. So, in order to get to these derelict traps, we have a legislative, mandated closure.

This mandate gives citizens permission to remove derelict traps from their favorite fishing holes during that 10-day period. Find details volunteering for this year’s cleanup on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Rules for Tree Planting

February 10th, 2016
How to Plant and Where to Play Your Trees.

How to Plant and Where to Play Your Trees.

This is Passport to Texas

Trees are habitat for wildlife. And if you’re adding new trees to your landscape, you need to know the rules.

People frequently ask how close they can put a tree to the house, because shade on the house obviously is a huge energy savings. The general rule of thumb is you go no closer to the house than the eaves are high. So, if you measure up to the eaves of your house, and it’s ten feet high, then you need to get ten feet back from the house.

Scott Harris, a certified arborist in Austin, recommends planting only native specimens.

You always want to plant your trees at the exact level they were in the pot. Don’t dig a big deep hole, dig a big wide hole. Always use the same soil you took out to backfill. But, you can put your compost underneath the mulch, and then all of that organic goodness will dribble down in the way that nature intended.

By watering infrequently and deeply, we can help new trees develop extensive root systems.

If you just have a little bit of water in one area, that’s where the roots are going to go. But if you water very deeply, it’ll spread into the surrounding soil, and the roots will follow that moisture out.

Strong root systems help trees remain strong and withstand drought.

That’s our show…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Plant Native Trees Before Spring

February 9th, 2016
by Tree planting photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr, Creative Commons

by Tree planting photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr, Creative Commons

This is Passport to Texas

Now is an ideal time to plant trees throughout most of Texas…and you might wonder why.

Two reasons: the two most important constituents in tree planting—the people planting the trees and the trees. It’s just much easier on them.

Scott Harris is a certified arborist in Austin. Tree planting season in Texas started in October and continues through March.

Getting the trees in the ground in the fall [and winter], they have the entire cool season, dormant season, to spread roots out before the big demands on roots and water start in the spring.

Just because a tree will grow in Texas, doesn’t mean it should grow here. Harris advises that we all exercise caution about what we plant in our yards.

The biggest thing to avoid is non-natives. Our natives have all of the features you would want, but they’ve spent thousands and thousands of years getting used to being here, and with all of the wildlife used to having them, too. It’s all a web, and you can’t tell which string you can pull out without upsetting things.

Tomorrow we’ll have a few tree planting tips to help you and your newly planted tree enjoy a long and happy life together

That’s our show…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

On the Hunt for Snipe

February 8th, 2016
Wilson's Snipe (Common Snipe or Jacksnipe)

Wilson’s Snipe (Common Snipe or Jacksnipe) Photo credit: USFWS

This is Passport to Texas

An invitation to participate in a snipe hunt fills young hearts with anticipation and anxiety. In my youth, snipe hunts were cloaked in mystery; and that’s what made them deliciously terrifying.

Taken at night to a wooded area and outfitted with a burlap bag…a flashlight with weak batteries…and a whistle to call for help… hunters enter the woods alone in search of dreaded snipes. And how would they recognize them? They would know them when they saw them.

Before long, panicked whistles and screams from deep within the woods pierced the silence, as vivid imaginations got the best of the young snipe hunters. Eventually everyone, including the hunter, had a good laugh.

Today we know snipe are small, long billed, brownish shorebirds in the sandpiper family. Their habitat includes freshwater marshes, ponds and flooded fields. They breed across much of North America, but like to spend their winters in the southern states, including Texas.

Snipe are game birds here, and the season to hunt snipe ends on February 14th. So if you want to go snipe hunting, and not be left holding the bag, time is running out.

Learn more about snipe and see an image of this not so terrifying creature when you log onto our web site: passporttotexas.org.

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

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


More about Snipe:

Snipe winter throughout Texas and huntable numbers can be found in suitable habitat. Generally hunting of snipe is in association with waterfowl hunting, but it has the potential of providing more recreational sport hunting days. Most hunters are unaware of the quality hunts provided by this species. Federal harvest surveys estimate a total statewide harvest of 5,000 birds annually.

Can You Eat Snipe?

Of course you can. But, be prepared for how small they are.  Hank Shaw, who curates the blog Hunter*Angler*Gardener*Cook and is author of three game focused cookbooks, including “Duck, Duck, Goose” says: “[Snipe] is a bird with a flavor all out of proportion to its size. As small as it is, one bird makes a great appetizer, and four a hearty meal. They taste like a combination of squab and duck, with something else. Maybe its the wormy things they eat?”

Hank says the smaller the bird, the higher the heat for cooking. His preparation of snipe is simple: He says he sets his oven to the highest setting (most go to 500° F),  greases up the birds with lard or butter, sprinkles them inside and out with salt, and places them in an oven proof pan with a little bit of water  in the bottom of the pan to help keep the snipe moist.

He says he puts the pan with the snip into the oven for about 5 minutes; after which time he removes the birds from the oven and bastes them with more butter or lard, before putting them back in the heat for another 5 to 7 minutes. He removes the birds from the oven, and lets them rest a few minutes before plating them. He says right before serving, give them a good dusting with black pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Water for Humans and Endangered Species

February 5th, 2016
San Marcos Salamander and Fountain Darter

San Marcos Salamander and Fountain Darter

This is Passport to Texas

The Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan permits what’s necessary to ensure the survival of rare, threatened and endangered species that depend on the Aquifer and the San Marcos and Comal Rivers while allowing continued use of the resource by the rest of us.

There’s federal law requiring this, but it’s the right thing to do in terms of protecting the resource for all of us into the future.

Cindy Loeffler is water resources branch chief at Texas Parks and Wildlife and one of the architects of the protection plan. Convincing people to do the right thing – like modifying their water usage based on the needs of rare species – can be a hard sell.

The plan includes ongoing water conservation—especially during times of drought—removing invasive species, and declaring a portion of the San Marcos River a state scientific area that would make it illegal to uproot endangered Texas Wild Rice.

But Loeffler says these protected species are indicators of a healthy ecosystem – which benefits everyone.

By providing these protections for these species, that helps ensure the San Marcos river, the Comal River will keep flowing. Keeping these springs flowing is really at the heart and soul of the work done by the recovery implementation program. And so that benefits the species, of course, but also benefits people as well.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program…supports our series and funds diverse conservation projects throughout Texas…

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