Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Feel the (Prescribed) Burn

Monday, February 19th, 2018
Prescribed burn underway.

Prescribed burn underway.

This is Passport to Texas

Man mimics nature when he uses fire as a land management tool. He does this with controlled burning, and with prescribed fire.

David Riskin, director of natural resources for state parks, says there is a difference between the two.

Controlled burning is a term that people use that you start at part A, and you burn until you get to part B. Professional land managers use the term prescribed fire because you have specific objectives, you have specific outcomes, you burn under very specific conditions. And so a prescription is a planning document… you lay everything out ahead of time and you then implement it with very specific objectives in mind.

Those objectives naturally have to do with land management, as well as a range of various objectives a landowner may hope to achieve.

There can be a whole series of objectives. From very simple things like fuel load reduction. You can have specific habitat objectives…to change the vegetation structure and composition to support waterfowl, or to support antelope, or lesser prairie chickens…or Houston toads for that matter.

Learn more about prescribed fire on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Pronghorn Restoration and Rural Economy

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018
Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife biologist Shawn Gray finds pronghorns fascinating, and hopes you will, too.

The pronghorn is a unique mammal of North America; it’s the only one found in its family. It’s the fastest mammal in North America. It’s a big game species.

Gray is the pronghorn program leader and oversees the Pronghorn Restoration Project. Because it’s is a game species, hunting them should pick up as their population grows, thus benefitting local communities.

In 2008, we issued probably like 800 buck only hunting permits. And, shoot, in 2009 or 10, we were issuing less than 100. And there’s a lot to that. Not only is it the money that they get for trespass access for hunting, but the hunters come into the local communities and spend time and spend money. So, there’s a lot of those economic impacts as well with a much reduced pronghorn population out here.

The Trans-Pecos pronghorn population dipped below 3K in 2012, and Gray says through translocation and natural reproduction, they hope to see the number rise to 10K.

Most of the local communities in the Trans-Pecos really miss the pronghorn. And they really want to see pronghorn back on the landscape at numbers that they are used to seeing.

With the continued success of the restoration project, they may get their wish.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds pronghorn restoration in Texas.

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

Re-homed on the Range

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018
Pronghorn capture and release.

Pronghorn capture and release.

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife biologist, Shawn Gray, stays busy most days in his role as Texas Parks and Wildlife pronghorn and mule deer program leader in the Trans Pecos.

I get to oversee the management and research for the two species for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

This includes orchestrating the restoration of these species to their native range. Last year, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department successfully relocated 109 pronghorn.

Our surplus populations are located in the Northwest and Northeast Panhandle. We take animals from healthy populations there to boost our local populations in the Trans Pecos that have in recent years seen historic decline.

Texas Parks and Wildlife worked with partners to redistribute the animals.

Translocation has been one of the management tools we’ve been able to do to help those populations rebound. There’s a whole suite of things that we do to improve populations. And, of course, we always need help from Mother Nature to make all those things work for us.

Drought was a leading factor in the pronghorn’s decline in the Trans Pecos, but Gray says the reasons are more complex than that alone. After trapping the animals, each received a health checkup; some were fitted with radio collars.

Through time and our management practices, the populations have been responding well.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds pronghorn restoration in Texas.

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

What Monarchs Need

Thursday, February 8th, 2018
Milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed for monarchs

This is Passport to Texas

Larval monarchs have very specific nutritional needs.

Larval monarchs depend on milkweed species. Essentially, that’s the only plant monarch caterpillars consume.

Ben Hutchins, state invertebrate biologist, says availability of milkweed in Texas is vital to their survival.

As monarchs migrate north from their overwriting grounds in Mexico, Texas is one of their first stops. And this is where they begin to reproduce. And so all of the monarchs that then migrate farther north through the US and Canada, those future generations depend on successful reproduction in the spring here in Texas.

Yet, Texas is just one stop along their migration route.

Monarchs also reproduce and depend on milkweed in the Midwestern states in the united states. And, we know that in many of those states—for example, in the corn belt region—that the availability of milkweed plants has declined substantially over the last several decades. And so, there is some pretty good science that suggests that decline in milkweed availability in the Midwest, directly relates to the monarch population declines that we have seen.

We can all play a part in the monarch’s survival when we plant milkweed and other nectar producing plants.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Citizens Monitor Monarchs

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Why are monarch butterflies declining?

The current thought is that it is actually several different factors that are contributing to the decline that we’re seeing.

Ben Hutchins is TPW’s invertebrate biologist. Deforestation of their winter roosts in Mexico, cold winters, and prolonged drought along their migration path, has had negative effects.

And then, finally, what this project is addressing is this widespread decline in availability of milkweed plants. That’s due to a couple things: predominantly increased use of certain herbicides.

Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs is a citizen science project where folks keep an eye out for the state’s 37 different species of milkweeds –vital to the monarch’s lifecycle – and then then share observations on iNaturalist.org.

We have experts that are going to be looking at these observations and identifying those.

Hutchins says more than a thousand contributors have logged more than seven thousand observations of all 37 milkweed species. Texas Parks and Wildlife also has guide to Texas milkweeds to help you ID the plants.

It is available online, [with] pictures of all of the different species of milkweeds, distribution maps—to let you know if you’re in the right part of the state—and also some of the key characteristics.

Find it on the Nature Trackers page of the Texas Parks and Wildlifewebsite.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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