Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

Wildlife Trail Maps

Friday, September 30th, 2016


Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map

Far West Texas Wildlife Trail map

This is Passport to Texas

Texas Parks and Wildlife non game ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says you don’t have to travel to the Rio Grande Valley to see a wide variety of birds this winter.

We have the wildlife viewing trails all across Texas. These are hot spots that you can find easily that might be close to you or near where you’re going. And they’re available for people to go and look at birds [and other wildlife].

Find the wildlife viewing maps on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Cliff says Texans can plan a winter birding “staycation” with minimal planning.

You can attract a lot of winter birds to your backyard. You can do something as simple as putting out a bird feeder and a birdbath. Or better, creating a wildscape, which is gardening for backyard wildlife. And we do that in our yard and we get so many white-throated sparrows that stay the winter with us because we have provided them with the cover that they need. We have a lot of berry giving shrubs, so we get a lot of cedar waxwings, and American Robins wintering with us. So, you can attract a lot of things in your backyard and have a really good time.

Find birding information and the wildlife viewing trail maps on the Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series, and funds diverse conservation projects in Texas.

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

Milkweed for Monarchs

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed for monarchs

This is Passport to Texas

More than seventy species of milkweed have been recorded nationwide; over half of those are native to Texas. Including two that are endemic.

These are species that are found nowhere else but within the Texas border. One of them is called Texas Milkweed, which is found in canyons in Central Texas. And then we have a species called Coastal Milkweed that occurs roughly from the Houston area to just north of Brownsville.

Jason Singhurst, a botanist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says milkweeds provide sustenance to the iconic monarch butterfly during its migration.

So, here in Texas, we know certain species like green milkweed, antelope horns, broadleaf milkweed, and zizotes are some of our most abundant species that we’re seeing monarch larvae and adults visit.

Because milkweed species vary, do monarchs use each species in the same or different ways?

That’s a really good question. That’s something we’re trying to figure out in Texas. And that’s why we started this mapping project called Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs project—using iNaturalist. It’s an app that you can download on your smartphone. We’re using that project to help us identify different species of milkweeds across the state, and then also which species that larvae, or adult monarch butterflies are visiting.

Find a link to the Milkweeds and Monarchs project on iNaturalist at

Find an article about milkweeds by Jason Singhurst in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Scorpions are Beneficial, Just not in the House

Thursday, August 11th, 2016


Scorpions are beneficial; we just don’t want them in the house.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas boasts a fair number of scorpion species.

There are about 18 species in Texas. Depending on where you’re at—you may have more or less.

Ben Hutchins is an invertebrate biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

In all of Texas, we don’t have scorpions that are considered life threatening. As with any animal that has venom, there’s always the possibility of an allergic reaction.

To healthy non-allergic people a scorpion sting may simply cause short-term discomfort. In nature, scorpions are highly beneficial.

Scorpions are predators, and so they feed on a variety of potential pest organisms. Some scorpions also feed on other scorpions, so they do have an important role in the environment potentially controlling pest populations…insects…spiders…other arachnids. There’s also potential medical utility for scorpions as well—using venom to treat medical conditions.

Therefore, if a scorpion inadvertently wanders into your home some evening while foraging…

There’s really no cause for alarm. What I usually do is use a cup [and place it over the scorpion and use a] piece of paper that you kind of slide under there to pick up the scorpion. And then you can just remove it and put it in an area where it can do its business.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my fight or flight response kicks in when I see a scorpion, and I squish it. Sorry about that.

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

Scorpions Making Themselves at Home–in Yours

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016
Scorpion in Texas

Scorpion in Texas

This is Passport to Texas

I find scorpions in my house from time to time. With their crablike pincers and barbed tails, they’re scary little guys.

I think we have a natural reaction to anything with different body morphology.

Ben Hutchins is an invertebrate biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says scorpions dwell in a wide variety of habitats.

Pretty much any habitat except Alpine environments.

Although we have several species this arachnid in Texas, Hutchins says we’re not likely to run into them.

Usually, we don’t run into them that often because they’re mainly active at night; during the day they’re usually hiding under rocks, under logs—deep in leaf litter as well. So, we don’t run into them a lot, except when perhaps we’re in the yard gardening, or they might wander into our house at night.

Why do they come into our homes?

It’s not really intentional; during their foraging, they might see a crack under your door as just another crevice that they’ll be traveling through in search of prey.

Once they’re inside, they could make themselves comfy.

If you have a room with the lights off and lots of boxes—places to hide—that mirrors their natural environment with lots of secure hiding place for them…

How scorpions are beneficial in the environment. That’s tomorrow.

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

State Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons State Park

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Members of the Texas State Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons State Park

This is Passport to Texas

Caprock Canyons State Park is home to living history: the State Bison Herd.

The herd was started by Charles Goodnight back in the 1870s. And it’s one of the five foundation herds that all bison today pretty much come from.

Unchecked slaughter of Bison nearly brought them to extinction. Mary Goodnight, wife of legendary Texas rancher Charles Goodnight, encouraged her husband to capture calves to save the species. The 130 or so bison roaming Caprock Canyons today are direct descendants of those animals.

There is about 12-thousand acres of bison range in the park. Just about everything that’s open to the public is open to the bison. You can run into them almost everywhere in the park.

Donald Beard, Park Superintendent, says although bison roam freely, visitors must not interact with them.

We do everything we can to keep the park visitor and the animal safe. We educate the visitors as they come in. There are signs. As they come into the visitor center, they’re hand a safety message pamphlet that talks about what to do if you run into a bison on the trail. We just have to keep telling visitors that this is a bison range; of course the bison have the right-of-way. So, the best thing you can do if you run along a bison on a trail is find a shade tree, get out your camera, take some pictures, and wait for them to move on.

Tomorrow: the annual Texas Bison Music Fest.

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

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