Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

Revisiting Paddlefish in Big Cypress Bayou

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
Paddlefish at hatchery, photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Paddlefish at hatchery, photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service


This is Passport to Texas

Paddlefish, once abundant in the Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake, started disappearing following construction of a dam at Lake of the Pines in the late 1950s.

07- So, basically, it took away the flows that the paddlefish need, and it took away their spawning substrate; eventually paddlefish just went away.

Inland fisheries’ Tim Bister says in spring 2014 a broad coalition of non-profits, landowners, and government agencies, reintroduced paddlefish into the system. But they first made improvements to benefit the rare species, including development of natural water releases upstream from Lake of the Pines, and gravel bar spawning areas.

14-We stocked 47 paddlefish, a year and a half old, between two and three feet long. And each were implanted with a radio transmitter, with a specific radio frequency that could be identified by a radio receiver.

Researchers tracked the paddlefish to see whether they would swim downstream over the spillway at Caddo Lake, and into Louisiana.

12-[If they did], they wouldn’t be able to swim back upstream because of that barrier. So, we wanted to make sure, by tracking these paddlefish, to see if they’re going to stay in the system. And after a year, I’m happy to say, that no fish were seen going over the spillway.

The radio transmitter batteries are fading, but the data collected so far is promising. Until the paddlefish reach reproductive maturity, we won’t know if we’ll see a self-sustaining population in Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Supports our series.

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

Vultures: Nature’s Clean Up Crew

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015
Black vultures shown use their sense of sight to find their meals, whereas turkey vultures use their sense of smell.

Black vultures (shown) use their sense of sight to find their meals,
whereas turkey vultures use their sense of smell.


This is Passport to Texas

Vultures get a bad rap: maybe it’s because they aren’t “pretty birds”, or because they eat road kill. Texas Parks and Wildlife non-
game Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says they deserve our respect as they are a helpful, interesting species.

15-Vultures have a role to play, what we call “ecosystem services”. These are benefits to us; it’s unfortunate that our
cars hit animals, but think about what’s left behind. The vultures are cleaning up all the mess and we have to commend
them for that.

How do vultures eat decaying carcasses and not get sick?

08- Vultures don’t get sick because they have certain bacteria and other flora in their guts that help them break down these
carcasses.

Although a migratory species, vultures live year-round in Texas. When road kill freezes up north, those vultures
travel south.

10- Because of our location, we not only host a lot more vultures in the winter season, we see a lot more passing
through in the spring and fall migration.

Vultures are social birds and roost together, preferring tall structures that allow an easy entrance and exit.

09-They like cell phone towers, rocky outcrops and ridges, an old tree that’s standing up really high. They like the tallest roof
in the area.

Yet, they nest on the ground under fallen trees, and are excellent parents. Now that you’re better acquainted, we
hope you’ll view vultures in a new light.

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

Texas Vultures

Monday, June 15th, 2015
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture: “I’m king of the world!”


This is Passport to Texas

Some people call them buzzards, but Cliff Shackelford says the correct ornithological name for the large black birds that dine on road kill is: vulture.

03–We have the turkey vulture and the black vulture.

Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

11- And the best way to tell them apart when they’re perched and sitting on that dead deer carcass on the roadside, is: look at the color of the head on the adults. The black vulture has a gray head and the turkey vulture, a red head.

Vultures circle high above the land in search of a meal.

21- The turkey vulture uses the sense of smell, and they’ll smell their prey. The black vulture, though, uses sight, they’ll look for prey, but they’ll also cheat. They’ll also look for where the turkey vultures are circling–[and decide] I’m going to bump in line. And with their numbers, usually the black vulture can overcome the turkey vulture and get the first little bites.

Other interesting facts: vultures defecate on their legs to cool off–using evaporative cooling; and, when threatened, they vomit.

15-This is a defensive mechanism. They don’t have fangs like a rattlesnake; they don’t have claws like a bobcat. So, their best defense is to throw up what’s in their stomach that was lying on the road for the last three days. And guess what? You’re going to turn away; it’s a great defense.

We learn more about this big bird tomorrow.

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

TPW TV: Chicken Land

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
Lesser Prairie Chicken

Lesser Prairie Chicken


This is Passport to Texas

The Lesser Prairie Chicken has declined in Texas. Wildlife biologist Jeff Bonner says the reason: its historic range
has dwindled to almost nothing.

07-Here in Donley County they’re pretty sparse. And, that’s pretty much relative to the quality of the habitat that they have.

Landowners play a crucial role in the restoration of prairie chicken habitat, and hopefully saving the bird; Amarillo Cattleman and landowner, Jay O’Brien.

18- I don’t think you’ll find a cattleman who’s not very interested in the overall ecology of his ranch. That includes wildlife and improving wildlife habitat on his ranch as long as they see that nobody’s going to be dictating exactly how they should do their business.

Landowners may request and receive technical guidance from biologists like Gene Miller, about managing their property for a variety of wildlife.

12-The Hallmark of what we do is providing free, confidential, nonbinding assistance to private landowners. We go where we’re called, and we offer any level of assistance we’re asked to provide.

The future of the Lesser Prairie Chicken is in the hands of private landowners willing to create habitat to keep this iconic species on the landscape for generations to come.

View a segment called Chicken Land, about prairie chicken conservation, on the PBS Texas Parks and Wildlife TV Series the week of June 14. The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Urban Wildlife Biologists

Monday, June 8th, 2015



This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife biologists, like Kelly Simon (SEA-mah) specialize in–city critters–and their habitat in Central Texas.

09-I’m a wildlife biologist who happens to work in an urban area; just like all of our biologists, I deal with the issues that are important to their counties and their areas.

Like her rural counterparts, Simon meets with landowners to provide technical guidance regarding land use.

12- I also deal with municipal ordinances, and councils of government, and all the different landowners that have a stake in the wildlife and wildlife habitat for their urbanized area.

Outreach and public meetings round out her work.

05- [I] just try to help folks understand, and enhance the wildlife habitat that they have all around them.

This doesn’t mean developing downtown habitat suitable for mountain lions, but it does mean creating a balanced wildlife habitat for appropriate species.

18-So, what I do is I try to help people make decisions that will increase the diversity and balance of wildlife habitat, so that we have things like chickadees and titmice and owls and frogs and toads and lizards–and things that are important for ecological balance and biodiversity–and also appropriate for an urbanized area.

Find your county’s wildlife biologist when you log onto the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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