Coastal Fisheries Gets Social (Media)

June 24th, 2016
Crab clutching TPWD Coastal Fisheries hat. Photo by Braden Gross.

Crab clutching TPWD Coastal Fisheries hat. Photo by Braden Gross.

This is Passport to Texas

Social media has improved Texas Parks and Wildlife’s ability to communicate with the public.

I think Social Media is just a great way to network and connect with people.

Julie Hagen is the social media specialist for the Coastal Fisheries Division.

Right now we just have a Facebook page, and we also use the Texas Parks and Wildlife main [social media] pages to also get out some pictures and different videos that we’re doing. But, our Coastal Fisheries Facebook page is a great place for people to come and ask questions; we answer all your questions. Or, just [come by] to see what other people are doing. Tell a story. Like a picture. Send us your own pictures. If you catch a nice fish and you want to show it off, send it to us—we’ll post it on the page.

Visitors to the Coastal Fisheries Facebook page enjoy behind-the-scenes photos of researchers in action.

It’s fun to see what they do. They have very different jobs; they get to go out on the water every single day—collect data. And it’s really interesting to see a different side of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Julie Hagen encourages community among Facebook fans.

I want to create a community on Facebook where people can go and respond to other people’s comments. If they ask a question and an angler knows—‘Oh, where’s the best fishing spot in Rockport?”—well, I’d love someone in the Facebook community to come along and say: “Hey, I’m from Rockport. This is where I love to fish.’ Those interactions are my favorite because sure we can give you some ideas, but there’s so much knowledge people have on their own, and having a space for them to come and share that with other people is really important to us as well.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program support our series.

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

Even Non-Hunters Buy Federal Duck Stamps

June 23rd, 2016
2015-16 Federal Duck Stamp

2015-16 Federal Duck Stamp

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Waterfowl hunters aren’t the only ones buying the federal duck stamp. Non-hunters across the state are spending $25 on the stamp to support conservation.

The federal duck stamp, which was never intended for postal use, is intended for wetland conservation.

Parks and Wildlife non-game ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford.

And even though it’s intended for duck hunters, it’s benefiting so many non-game birds. So, I recommend bird watchers and nature enthusiasts buy a duck stamp.

Hunting is only one way to use the stamp.

It makes a great gift. And for yourself, it’s a great way to go visit National Wildlife Refuges, where there’s an entry fee. That duck stamp will get you and your carload of birdwatchers in for free.

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the winter home of endangered whooping cranes. The land was purchased in 1937 with duck stamp money.

So, just three years after the inception of the duck stamp, it was used to buy the Aransas Refuge at a time when there were only about 15 whooping cranes left. Now we have a little over 300. And so many other birds benefit from the duck stamp. When we’re protecting wetlands for ducks, we’re also saving habitat for grebes and rails and common yellow throats, and lots of shorebirds, and lots of other things that are not game birds, but really benefit from wetland conservation.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program support our series.

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

The Challenges of Dove Surveys

June 22nd, 2016
Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

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Field surveys are necessary when creating management strategies for game species. Some species are easier to survey than others.

Our dove surveys, for instance, have to be done under some pretty finite weather conditions.

Heidi Baily is a wildlife biologist in east Texas. Weather can put a damper on successful completion of surveys.

The winds can’t be blowing all that much. We don’t want to survey right before or after a rain, because it can affect the amount of birds that we see. So, sometimes it makes it tough to actually get them done.

But they do get done…along a 20 mile route.

We’ll get out there to the beginning of our survey line, about a half an hour before sunup. We’ve got a 20 mile route that we run—exactly the same way every year. As a matter of fact, some of the routes have been around for a couple of decades. At the start, we’ll get out of the truck, and we’ll sit, look and listen for three minutes, and we’ll record what we see or hear. Then we’ll drive a mile and we’ll do the same thing. And that process is repeated over the 20-mile route.

Although when we talked, the dove survey was a couple of weeks away, Heidi Baily said she wouldn’t be surprised if this spring’s violent weather impacts dove populations.

Doves build a really flimsy nest, so if you get a good hard wind, or some of these huge hail storms that we’ve been having, even though doves will re-nest—we might have low reproduction this year.

We’ll know more after biologists collect and analyze survey data.

The Wildlife Restoration Program support our series.

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

Guns: Lock ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em

June 21st, 2016

This is Passport to Texas

Experienced hunters and gun owners understand the importance of firearm safety.

Basic firearm safety begins with firearm safety in the home.

Steve Hall, hunter education coordinator for Texas Parks and Wildlife, says Project Child Safe is a program that helps firearm owners maintain high standards of safety in the home.

It’s a long-standing program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and it provides free gun locks to anyone that needs to secure their guns in the home. So, we’ll be able to offer those through Hunter Education, through the Game Wardens, and through many outlets in Texas, because of a donation by the Cabela’s Outdoor Fund to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Hall says Parks and Wildlife will distribute free gun locks to parents when they become available later this summer.

We should be receiving locks this summer in preparation for the busy hunter education season starting late July-August. We’ll have information on those locks [on the website] once Texas parks and Wildlife Department receives them.

Texas Parks and Wildlife offers hunter education classes throughout the year to help would-be hunters—and even non hunters—how to handle and store firearms safely.

Find Hunter Education classes on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Buescher State Park

June 20th, 2016
Biking in Buescher State Park

Biking in Buescher State Park

This is Passport to Texas

Located adjacent to Bastrop State Park, Buescher State Park in Smithville is home to towering pines, picturesque yaupons, deer, raccoons and even mountain lions.

We work as the Lost Pines Complex. And, we work hand-in-hand with our guests. If they come to Bastrop, they’re more than welcome to come to Buescher with their pass.

Adam Bain is site manager at this Central Texas getaway.

We have a scenic corridor; it’s a 12-mile road. A lot of that was burned with the wildfires in 2011, but people still like to take that road between the parks. They also use that for biking; we get a lot of bicyclists between the parks, and they use that road as a bicycling path.

Although lesser known than Bastrop, Bain says Buescher is a popular destination, offering camping, fishing, hiking and mountain biking—something not available at Bastrop.

It is very much a destination. Our revenue has increased over the past four years significantly. Ten to 15 percent a year; that is a big increase. And where do the people come from who visit Buescher? We do get a lot of people from the Houston and Austin areas. And San Antonio as well—Boy Scout groups come from San Antonio. But mainly Houston and Austin.

Next time you’re traveling on Texas Highway 71 between Houston and Austin, Adam Bain invites you to drop by Buescher State Park. Currently the trails are closed due to the wildfire in October of 2015, with plans to have them open this August.

We’re off the road enough that people may not know we’re there. So, come out to Buescher; take in fishing, get on a kayak or go running and hiking on our trails.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.