Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

Giant Reed is a Giant Problem in Texas

Monday, May 16th, 2016
Arundo donax, also called Giant Reed.

Arundo donax, also called Giant Reed.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas has its share of invasive plants and animals, including Arundo Donax, or giant reed; you’ve probably seen it along roadways and river banks.

13— If you see it on roadsides, it’s very tall—grows up to about 30 feet. Has segments, really broad, pointed leaves—huge showy plumes. It can actually be quite pretty. And it looks somewhat like corn.

Giant reed is a non-native grass. Monica McGarrity who studies aquatic invasive for Texas Parks and Wildlife, says its greatest impact occurs when it gets into areas along rivers and creeks.

18—They have these impacts because they’re able to outcompete the native plants and push them aside, displace them. And when we’re talking especially about riverside, riparian areas, along our creeks – diversity of native plants is really important to the wildlife, and for maintaining the overall health of the community.

When giant reed displaces native plant communities, the result is reduced habitat quality.

17— It reduces quality for birds and other wildlife. And then it can start to— over time – have impacts on the stream itself, and reduce the habitat that’s available to the aquatic community, and make it more homogenous, more the same throughout. Rather than having diverse pools and riffles and habitats that they need.

Monica McGarrity returns tomorrow to tell us how not to try and remove this plant from our property.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

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

Kidnapping or Rescuing Wild Baby Animals?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016
Baby bobcat, Lexi when she was still a bottle baby. Photo courtesy of

Baby bobcat, Lexi, when she was still a bottle baby. Photo courtesy of

This is Passport to Texas

You know the story of spring: reawakening, renewal, and baby animals. That last part – baby animals – can be tricky. You see, sometimes we find infant wildlife when we’re outdoors, and want to “rescue” them, which might actually be more like kidnapping.

For example, a baby dear [or fawn] will hide quiet and mama will almost always come back. That’s their strategy.

See what I mean. Jonah Evans is a mammalogist at Texas Parks and Wildlife; he says unless an animal is injured or clearly in distress, leave it alone, but monitor it at a safe distance if you’re concerned. Even then…

I recommend, before touching an animal, call a rehabilitator and ask them.

Licensed rehabilitators know animal behavior and can provide guidance, which may also include instructions to leave the animal alone because of legal considerations.

There are actually some regulations about possessing certain wildlife that you have to make sure you’re not violating. Possessing a non-game animal without a license, could be in violation of certain laws.

That can be avoided when you know who to call. Find a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators—by county—on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series

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

Look But Don’t Touch Wild Babies

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
Fawn waiting for mom to return.

Fawn waiting for mom to return.

This is Passport to Texas

This time of year, reports start rolling in to Parks and Wildlife from people who think they’ve discovered abandoned baby animals.

What could have happened is you walked up there, and mama ran off and hid – and baby is hiding there. And, as soon as you leave, mama will come back.

That’s not true in every case, though, says Jonah Evans, Texas Parks and Wildlife mammalogist. If you see an abandoned baby possum, for example, mom could be gone for good.

With 184 some odd mammals in the state, it’s probably pretty difficult to give you a list of which mothers will come back wand which ones won’t. So, what I recommend is before touching and animal – call a [wildlife] rehabilitator.

Licensed rehabilitators know animal behavior and can tell you which critters may benefit from intervention.

If you contact one of the many throughout the state – and there’s a whole long list of them on our website – they are really the experts in this. Not Parks and Wildlife.

Jonah Evans says although—as a mammalogist—he researches and studies warm-blooded animals, rehabilitators are the ones with skills suited to helping citizens’ where abandoned baby animals are concerned.

Find a list of licensed rehabilitators by county on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series…

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

How Venomous Snakes Help Humans

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
Venomous Snake.

Extracting venom at the John C. Perez Serpentarium at Texas A&M- Kingsville, TX

This is Passport to Texas

The National Natural Toxins Research Center in Kingsville, part of the Texas A & M system, houses 450 venomous snakes from around the world in its Serpentarium, from which they collect venom for research.

This center really is sort of a hidden gem in the A & M System, and in the state. It’s doing great work; it’s something that Texans should be proud of.

Reeve Hamilton works for the A & M System. Researchers at the lab do their own research, such as work on a universal anti-venom; they also share venom with fellow researchers worldwide.

Other researchers elsewhere will get in touch with them and say we really need this for our research, can you get it to us? And they’ll freeze it and ship it off. They’re doing their own research, but they’re also enabling the research of others.

Pharmaceuticals to treat heart attacks, strokes, and to prevent the metastasizing of tumors have come from venom research. Reeve Hamilton hopes that by understanding how venomous snakes help humans…

You know, you come across a snake, maybe you might change your appreciation of the animals a little bit.

Read about the Natural Toxins Research Center in the April issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Masters of Deception

Friday, April 1st, 2016
Adult viceroy butterflies have a solid black line on the hind-wings.

Adult viceroy butterflies have a solid black line on the hind-wings.

This is Passport to Texas

In nature, deception can mean the difference between life and death for certain species; animals use camouflage and mimicry to fool predators and prey alike.

Stick insects look like slim twigs and-when among the branches of woody plants-go largely undetected by rodents, bats, and birds that would make a meal of them.

Eastern screech owls use cryptic coloration to blend into their surroundings. When perched in trees their feathers resemble bark; their prey may not notice them until it’s too late to elude capture.

By mimicking the color and pattern of the Monarch butterfly which is poisonous if eaten, the Viceroy butterfly manages to stay off the menu of species that
would otherwise make a snack of it.

Southern flounder, a species of flatfish, are predatory animals. Their coloring is similar to the gulf floor where they lay in wait unnoticed for potential prey-which they ambush once spotted.

A whitetail fawn’s spots help to camouflage it from predators. It works best when they are in a wooded setting, as their reddish coat with white spots resembles
dappled sunlight on the forest floor.

Even though in the human world deception seems like a cheap trick, in the natural world, it’s just the trick some animals need to survive.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife … I’m Cecilia Nasti