Archive for the 'Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program' Category

2018 Crab Trap Removal

Monday, February 5th, 2018
Dead crab in abandoned trap, San Antonio Bay. Image  Art Morris, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Dead crab in abandoned trap, San Antonio Bay. Image
Art Morris, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

This is Passport to Texas

Commercial crab fishermen use baited wire traps to lure their prey. Sometimes traps end up missing due to storms, or they are simply discarded.

These traps continue “ghost fishing” for months or years—capturing fish and other marine creatures, including endangered species, thus taking an environmental and economic toll on gulf fisheries.

In February of 2002, Texas Parks and Wildlife conducted the first abandoned crab trap removal program. During a 10-day period in February volunteers like you, join Texas Parks and Wildlife staff and partners, in removing derelict traps.

More than 32,000 crab traps have been removed from the gulf since 2002, saving tens of thousands of marine organisms.

This year’s cleanup is February 16th through the 25th. The big cleanup “push” is Saturday, February 17 from 10 to noon. The cleanup is the only time citizens may remove these traps from gulf waters.

Texas Parks and Wildlife facilitates roughly 20 coastal sites, and provides disposal facilities, tarps, gloves, crab trap hooks and other items to help volunteers remove troublesome traps.

To volunteer for this year’s program visit the Abandoned Crab Trap Removal page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Sport Fish restoration Program supports our series.

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

Smith’s Longspur in Decline in Texas

Friday, January 26th, 2018
Smith's Longspur

Smith’s Longspur, Breeding male © Andy Johnson, MB, Churchill, July 2012

This is Passport to Texas

The Smith’s Longspur, a subarctic songbird, is the ultimate “snowbird”. It travels from Alaska and Canada to Northeast Texas where it spends the winter months.

It’s remarkable migration for a little bird the size of a chickadee. And he flies all the way by himself; he’s been doing this for millennia.

Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says based on winter surveys, this grassland species is in decline.

Parks and Wildlife has a project where we go out and we survey for Smith’s Longspurs. There’s several staff involved where we go out every winter and we spend several days looking for Smith’s Longspurs, and talking to landowners. We’re trying to encourage them to leave native prairies for these species, and to be on the receiving grounds for this really neat wintering bird.

Changes in land use can cause a reduction in habitat for this migrating bird.

My hope for the Smith’s Longspur is that it could be with Bobwhite and other grassland birds, poster children for protecting prairies and protecting them in big swaths. A lot of these grassland birds need a lot of real estate. So, we can’t just do two acres here and five acres there. It needs to be hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of acres, for these birds to survive.

Landowners are key to the future of the Smith’s Longspur and other native grassland species.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Get to Know the Smith’s Longspur

Thursday, January 25th, 2018
Smith's Longspur, breeding female. © Andy Johnson, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, July 2011

Smith’s Longspur, breeding female. © Andy Johnson, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, July 2011

This is Passport to Texas

Texas is the place to see migrating bird species in the winter months. Just be prepared for seasonal changes in their plumage. The Smith’s Longspur, for example, is usually a brightly patterned songbird.

In the winter, they lose their bright, breeding plumage and they become very drab.

Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says another factor that makes this species somewhat of a challenge to spot is that it lays low.

They’re grassland skulkers, meaning: they don’t sit up on fence posts or limbs very often, or at all. They really like to sit on the ground in the grass.

Their drab winter feathers make them even harder to spot in the dry brown grasses. But it can be done—if but for a moment.

So, the way to see a Smith’s Longspur is to be in the right part of the state. Maybe Hunt county; that’s a really good place. And, if you had the right grass at the right height—about ankle deep—you’ll kick ‘em up. And there’ll be 50 to 500, and they’ll fly, and they make a rattling sound. That’s really all you get. You don’t really get to look at them very well. When they land back down in the ground near you, they are in the grass and very hard to see.

A decline in the Smith’s Longspur in Texas…that’s tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Managing for Monarchs

Monday, January 22nd, 2018
Monarchs at their overwintering site in Mexico.

Monarchs at their overwintering site in Mexico.

This is Passport to Texas

Monarch butterflies, which are beautiful, are declining. Yet, they’re not especially good pollinators, or a significant food source for other critters. So, is being pretty reason enough to save them?

I think it’s important not to deemphasize how important this is. If you’re ever out on a Texas river in the fall, and you have hundreds or thousands of monarchs coming through – that’s a fabulous natural phenomenon.

You make a good point Ben Hutchins. Ben is Texas Parks and Wildlife’s invertebrate biologist. He says the insects have a practical value in Mexico where they overwinter.

Overwintering monarchs are a really important source of economic income as tourists come from around the world to see them.

Conserving monarchs also benefits other Texas species.

Monarch conservation, benefits a whole suite of other species. So, for example, if you’re managing a landscape to benefit monarchs, you’re also going to be benefitting many other pollinators. They also benefit a host of larger species. For example, if you’re managing habitat – keeping it open as a prairie or savannah – that’s going to be benefitting upland bird species like quail; so there’s really an economic incentive of for being conscious of monarchs when we’re managing landscapes.

Who knew, right? Tomorrow: a citizen science project to help monarchs.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

TPW TV — Mules of the Plains

Friday, December 22nd, 2017
Mule deer buck

Mule deer buck

This is Passport to Texas

The panhandle of Texas is the epitome of rural. And mule deer can be found nearly everywhere. Just ask local, Rodney Geissler.

It’s not unusual to nearly be able to walk plumb up on a mule deer. [Truck door closes] Or drive up on one. If they’re out in the field next to the highway you can stop and take pictures of them [camera clicks].

In fall and winter it’s common to see groups of up to 200 mule deer grazing in wheat fields. And that interests biologists like Thomas Janke.

One of the big questions of this project is dealing with agriculture land versus the rangeland like you see behind me.

Janke is studying how mule deer movements and survival are influenced by panhandle agriculture.

Is there a difference in the nutritional value of the plants? Or is it the deer are picking it just because it’s out here and they have a buffet.

During the week of December 24, the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS will feature a segment on the mule deer study, which shows how they use helicopters to track and trap the animals.

We have deer that are radio collared that we captured back in 2015. The radio collars all transmit a signal. Those radio collars are allowing the helicopter crew to use radio telemetry and locate them.

Check your local listings.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series, and funds mule deer research in Texas.

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