Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

Scorpions are Beneficial, Just not in the House

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Scpr[ion

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
Bison

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.

TPW TV – Owls Underground

Friday, July 29th, 2016
Burrowing Owl

Hey! Outta my burrow, you skunk!

This is Passport to Texas

Birds don’t get much cuter than the burrowing owl. And you won’t have to stay up past your bedtime to see one.

One of the great things about these owls is [unlike most owls] they’re out during the day; they’re active day and night.

The week of July 31, get to know this small sandy colored owl with long legs during a segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Alan Fisher produced a story that looks at how this species, threatened and endangered in some part of North America, survives its dwindling habitat in El Paso.

So, they’re a species of concern here because of habitat loss. Burrowing owls don’t tend to dig their own burrows from scratch. They will occupy burrows left from prairie dogs or ground squirrels or other burrowing animals. So, as those animals get pushed out burrowing owls lose their habitat as well.

Fisher also talks with Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Lois Balin, who creates artificial owl nest borrows fitted with video surveillance systems.

Having the cameras underground, gives the biologists a lot of new tools. It’s pretty awesome.

Not surprisingly, says Fisher, the cameras are revealing much about the hidden lives of burrowing owls, from the number of eggs and nestlings, to prey items, and even visitors.

The skunk discovery is the rather astonishing discovery. Skunks are going into the burrows and occupying them, and in some cases preying on the owls.

To find out how the burrowing owls fare, tune into the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of July 31. Check your local listings.

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

Ask a Game Warden: Is it Okay to Shoot Snakes?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

 

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake

This is Passport to Texas’ Ask a Game Warden

Some wildlife can be alarming. Twitter follower Julie Davis-Raley sent us a tweet asking if it is legal for citizens to shoot snakes they see in the road. We turned to Game Warden Kevin Davis, chief of wildlife enforcement, for her answer.

You know, there’s a state law that prohibits discharging firearms of any type from a roadway. What’s perplexing, though, is the thought that a snake needs to be shot. There are a lot of good snakes out there. Snakes are part of our ecosystem. Some are quite fascinating. Some are quite beautiful to look at. But, we do encourage safety around homes, and around things where snakes don’t need to be. And we certainly don’t want to discourage someone from keeping themselves safe. However, most snakes are put together something like this: if you leave them alone, they’re going to leave you alone. And so, we hope that by simply leaving that animal alone, that it goes on about its business and doesn’t need human intervention.

Send us a tweet with your questions for our game wardens. Use the hashtag #askagamewarden. We’re @passporttotexas. Your question could get answered on the radio.

Until next time…for Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.