Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

2016 Deer Season Forecast

Friday, December 2nd, 2016
White-tailed buck

White-tailed buck

This is Passport to Texas

Last year’s deer season was good; and this year’s season promises to be better.

The conditions have been incredible this year. We had a wet spring across the state—from El Paso to Houston and Amarillo to Brownsville.

White-tailed deer program leader, Alan Cain, says Texas Parks and Wildlife estimates the white-tail population…at about four-million animals. Yet, too many deer in one place can cause illness among them, including possible die off in the herd. Hunting helps to maintain a healthy balance.

We encourage hunters to take the full bag limit in those particular counties. And by doing so it helps improve the habitat. If they don’t want to put that meat in the freezer, they can certainly donate it to Hunters for the Hungry or different charitable organizations around the state.

With an excellent forecast for deer hunting this season, now is the time to get the next generation into the field.

And it’s a great opportunity to get kids outdoors; expose them to hunting. And recruit our future generation of wildlife managers into the state.

Download the Texas Outdoor Annual APP onto your smart phone. Before going on your hunt. It will help you find hunting season dates and bag limits for your county and a whole lot more. Find it on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series.

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

TPW TV – Gobblers Go East

Friday, November 18th, 2016
Turkey release.

Eastern wild turkey release at Gus Engeling WMA 02-05-2014

This is Passport to Texas

A group of 31 eastern wild turkeys recently released in the Angelina National Forest may not be from Texas, but they got here as fast as they could. Wildlife biologist, Jason Hardin.

Any of these birds that come into Texas from out of state, we draw blood for disease testing. We’ve been really lucky—we’ve had really healthy birds coming in. In addition to that, the University of Georgia is doing DNA on all these birds.

Each bird got banded with its own ID number, and joined a four-decades-long restocking effort.

Turkeys were historically found throughout close to 30-million acres in east Texas. So, this is part of their historic range. Around the turn of the 20th Century, we lost birds due to over harvest—primarily—European settlers coming into Texas. There were no regulations to stop them from harvesting those animals. And no law enforcement out there to enforce the few regulations that we did have.

With the last batch of 31, Texas Parks and Wildlife has introduced about 80 birds to the site. Now they’ll monitor their habitat use to determine their preferences, and to ensure their future.

From what we can tell, the birds appear to be doing pretty well. We have some of our highest populations of turkeys in east Texas on that site. So, we know that it can be very successful.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS airs a segment called Gobblers Go East the week of November 20, where you can see the rest of the story. Check your local listings.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Farming Practices Impact Pheasant Population

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

This is Passport to Texas

Pheasant can make a good living in the Panhandle.

If they can find an area where there’s good grain crops—like wheat, sorghum, corn—and playa lakes that will intersect with CRP [conservation reserve program] and the grain crops. That’s really good habitat. The CRP and the playa lakes provide plenty of cover, and the grain crops provide an ample food source for them. And then the irrigated crops, you know, that will provide a good water source for them, too.

Biologist Todd Montandon surveys pheasant in fall to develop harvest recommendations, noting their numbers and distribution.

The change in farming practices has affected where the distribution of the birds has been. Up in the northern panhandle you have more grain, sorghum, corn and wheat. And then as you move further south, it shifts over to cotton and wheat. And it’s not as conducive to pheasant populations as it is up north.

Changes in irrigation also play a role in the species’ survival.

Back in the 70s and 80s, most of the irrigating was done with irrigation ditches into the rows. And now, it’s switched over to the sprinkler system. And there’s not as much water on the ground as there used to be.

Despite these setbacks, Todd Montandon is optimistic about the upcoming hunting season. Details tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Challenges for Pheasant in the Panhandle

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

This is Passport to Texas

Pheasant is an introduced game species in Texas.

They were introduced up here starting probably in the 1950s. And then we did more introductions in the 60s and 70sto get the population boosted, because they’re such a good species to hunt.

Todd Montandon is a district biologist based in the Panhandle.

They tend to do really well around farmland. That’s one of the reasons they’ve done so well here in the Panhandle—because we’ve got lots of irrigated crops and grain crops.

Yet, the drought of recent years took a toll on the species.

In 2007, we saw 2002 birds on our routes, and in 2013 we saw 15. So, it was quite a decrease; and then last year we were back up to 210. It’s still not near what it could be or what it was, but we’re getting back.

Montandon is optimistic the Panhandle’s pheasant population will continue its upward trend if weather conditions remain favorable. Yet, drought isn’t the only challenge these birds face.

I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to what we were because of the changing farming practices. There’s just not as much good quality habitat as there used to be.

More on that tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

How White Nose Syndrome Kills Bats

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
Checking caves for White Nose Syndrome

Checking caves for White Nose Syndrome, Photo © Mylea Bayless, Bat Conservation International,

This is Passport to Texas

White nose syndrome is a fungal disease that attacks hibernating bats.

So, the way that white nose hurts them and is fatal to them is by irritating their skin while they’re hibernating.

Jonah Evans is a mammologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. A skin irritation doesn’t sound fatal, but expending energy reserves is.

Hibernation for a bat is a very narrow budget of energy that they’re trying to make last for many months. And the process of waking up, cleaning off your wings, and fidgeting around a little bit, burns off critical energy—and the result is starvation. They’re just not able to make it through hibernation.

It seems not all bats are affected by White Nose Syndrome even if infected.

If a bat does not hibernate, it means that bat is active all winter long. Some of those stay here in the southern part of the state, but other ones migrate down to Mexico and Central America. And even if those bats get the disease, because they’re active year round, there’s hope that they’ll be constantly replenishing their calories and they won’t perish because of the disease.

Mexican free-tailed bats—the ones in the big caves in Texas—are migratory. Currently, Texas is White Nose Syndrome free. Yet, as a priority species researchers are doing what they can to understand the issue and to develop a management plan should it come to our state.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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