Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

Alligator Ancho Relleno Recipe

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017
Chef Jeff Martinez preparing Alligator Ancho Relleno.

Chef Jeff Martinez preparing Alligator Ancho Relleno.

This is Passport to Texas

If you’ve never eaten alligator, its flesh is firm like pork, with a mild flavor of chicken and fish. Chef Jeff Martinez.

Most of the time when you get alligator meat, it’s going to be the jaw or the tail.

Using ground alligator tail meat, Chef Jeff prepares a recipe for ancho alligator chile relleno.

I’ve got a hot pan here. We’re going to add some extra virgin olive oil to the bottom. We’re going to add our white onion that’s been diced up. We’re going to let this sauté.

Next Chef adds diced garlic, tomatoes and ground gator.

Alligator is a very lean meat, so the cooking time is minimal. So, we’re going to add a little more flavor to this dish by throwing in some sliced green olives. And then we’re going to add some of these raisins. And we’re going to finish it off with slivered almonds that have been toasted, and fresh chopped parsley. And once you put that parsley in, you don’t want to leave it on the stove cooking for too long, because you still want that brightness, that freshness from the parsley.

He salts to taste and then stuffs the mixture into ancho chiles that he rehydrated in hot water and brown sugar.

I’m going to make sure it’s nice and full, but you want to leave enough room so you can take the ancho chile and wrap it back around the meat. And I’m going to set that into an oven proof baking dish.

That goes into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. When done, he garnishes them with crema and parsley.

Find the recipe and instructions at passporttotexas.org.

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

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Alligator Ancho Relleno Recipe

Preparing the Chiles:

8-10 large ancho chiles
10 qts boiling water
3 cups piloncillo or brown sugar
Add piloncillo to boiling water. Let dissolve, stirring occasionally. Slit the anchos down the side, lengthwise. Remove seeds from inside. Place anchos in container that’ll hold anchos and piloncillo water. Pour hot piloncillo water over anchos and let sit for 2 hours or until anchos are rehydrated. They’ll become softer to the touch and brighter red in color.

Once 2 hours have passed. Drain anchos from piloncillo water and allow them to cool.

Making the Stuffing:

2 lbs ground alligator tail meat
2 medium onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup raisins
Salt and pepper to taste
Sautée onions and garlic for about 3 minutes. Throw in tomatoes. Let cook for about 5 minutes. Add ground alligator tail meat and let cook for 5 minutes. Mix in olives, almonds, raisins and parsley. Remove from pan and let cool.

Assembling the Rellenos:

Divide stuffing into 8 equal portions and stuff them into the anchos, being careful not to rip the skin. Once stuffed, place all rellenos on a baking dish and place in preheated oven set to 400 degrees. Leave in oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot all the way through.

Remove all anchos from oven and place on a serving plate. Garnish with Honduran crema or regular sour cream and chopped cilantro. Serve with white rice and beans.

Introducing Mule Deer to their New Home

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
Black Gap WMA

Black Gap WMA

This is Passport to Texas

Shawn Gray oversees the mule deer restoration program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Over the past two years, with the help of partners, the program identified available surplus animals on public and private land and moved them to Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.

We have moved over two hundred female mule deer.

Gray says the program radio collars 30 to 40 percent of the animals before release.

Some captured deer had a “soft release” which involved keeping them in a fenced area for a couple of weeks allowing them to acclimate to their surroundings. Then, when freed…

They don’t go as far; they tend to stay where you released them.

Other deer had a “hard release”. They were let out of the trailers and allowed to immediately run free.

We have seen one or two of our [radio collared] translocated animals go back to where they were captured. Those were the ones that were hard released. The animals that we have soft released, we have not observed them going back to their home. We’ve observed them doing a lot of exploratory type movements. Figuring out their new home. But for the most part, those animals are staying in and around Black Gap Wildlife management Area.

Which makes all the hard work, planning and coordination worth it.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Mule Deer Restoration

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Mule deer in Texas

Mule deer in Texas

This is Passport to Texas

The mule deer population is struggling in parts of the Big Bend region of far West Texas.

We’ve been trying to boost our populations in the Black Gap area since about 2015.

Shawn Gray oversees mule deer restoration. Unlike other mule deer populations, those at Black Gap never fully recovered after the last drought.

We had been monitoring that population for years, and it just remained stagnant. And so, the next decision we made was, well, let’s put some animals down there and try to boost it and see if we can’t get the population trending upward.

During population surveys last fall, biologists identified an available of surplus of animals at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Wildlife Management, and one private ranch in Pecos County. Using the helicopter and net gun method, they trapped the animals.

Once we caught them, we radio-collared and tagged them. We gave them a series of injections for health reason, and then loaded them in trailers and took them down to release them.

Shawn Gray says this spring they moved 98 female mule deer to the Black Gap Wildlife Wildlife Management Area and to the adjacent El Carmen Land & Conservation Company, which together comprise 135,000 contiguous acres dedicated to wildlife and habitat conservation.

Of those radio-collared animals, we monitor intensively, looking at survival and movement—habitat use. We use all those findings to help improve the habitat and help improve our survival.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Tracking Wildlife Beyond Footprints

Friday, June 23rd, 2017
TPWD Wildlife Biologist, Jonah Evans trains fellow biologists on the art and science of tracking Texas wildlife.

TPWD Wildlife Biologist, Jonah Evans trains fellow biologists on the art and science of tracking Texas wildlife. Photo by Albert Halpren, Texas Coop Magazine.

This is Passport to Texas

A lot of us, when tracking wildlife, search for footprints only.

You know, the tracks, themselves, are the easy part as far as determining something’s been there.

East Texas wildlife biologist, Heidi Baily says the tracks alone tell only part of the story.

In my experience, one of the toughest things for a tracker to learn, is to just take a step back and look at the scene as a whole rather than zooming in on one or two tracks. Sometimes it really helps to step back and look at where the animal’s been going, and what he’s been doing. You get a whole lot bigger picture as opposed to just kind of a snapshot and being able to say, ‘Okay. That’s a raccoon.’

Heidi says when people start opening themselves to fully tracking wildlife—and not just the footprints—they begin to experience the outdoors in new ways.

A lot of times, you may not see wildlife, but tracking just puts it in your mind that you’re surrounded by wildlife whether you see it or not. And, it really gets your brain to churning trying to put yourself in the mind of that animal. It’s a real treat, and a good time to get outside and enjoy it to the fullest.

Enrich your outdoor experience with wildlife tracking. Find more information at passporttotexas.org.

The Wildlife Restoration Program Supports our series.

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

Wildlife Tracking

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
Common animal tracks in Texas.

Common animal tracks in Texas.

This is Passport to Texas

When it comes to wildlife, there’s more of it out there than meets the eye.

Some of them are fairly secretive. A lot of times, we never even see the animal. Looking at the tracks and sign are the only way that we’re able to determine that the animals are present.

Heidi Baily is a wildlife biologist in east Texas. She says tracking is a skill she uses when conducting wildlife surveys.

Wildlife tracking is getting out there and looking for not just the tracks or the imprints left by the feet of the animal, but it’s also getting out there and looking for chew marks on a particular plant. Or, maybe scat—which is the highfalutin name for animal poop. Or a feeding sign, or anything that reveals that something has passed through.

When tracking wildlife, Heidi says, it helps to think like the animal you’re tracking.

The best trackers are the ones who can put themselves in the mind of the animal, and be able to determine where it’s been, what it’s doing and where it’s going. That’s the fun part of the wildlife CSI of it: almost becoming the animal.

Tracking isn’t for wildlife biologists only. Heidi Baily says anyone can track wildlife, starting in their own backyard. Find field guide and tracking app information at passporttotexas.org.

The Wildlife restoration Program supports our series.

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

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Field Guides:

Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks
by Olaus Johan Murie, Mark Elbroch · Houghton Mifflin · Paperback · 391 pages · ISBN 061851743X

Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species
by Mark Elbroch · Stackpole Books · Paperback · 779 pages · ISBN 0811726266