Lake Livingston State Park, A Great Getaway

March 27th, 2017
A picturesque place to chill at Lake Livingston State Park.

A picturesque place to chill at Lake Livingston State Park.

This is Passport to Texas

City life has its charms, but it’s good to escape the concrete jungle now and then. For Houstonians, Lake Livingston State Park is the perfect getaway.

We’re about an hour north of downtown Houston on US 59. We are here primarily as a water recreation park, although, we do have a lot of trails, and some very beautiful campsites—many of which have just been renovated.

Joel Janssen is a ranger and interpreter there.

Every Saturday, I do several programs for the public. They range from guided hikes, to art programs, primitive fire demonstrations, and even night sky programs—where I take our visitors on a tour of the night sky through mythology. And I wrap up by showing them planets and galaxies and nebula.

Located in the East Texas Pineywoods, Lake Livingston offers visitors wildlife viewing opportunities.

Including deer, raccoons, flying squirrels. We have American mink. And, I just saw a bald eagle here in the park this morning. We have a resident bald eagle population that lives year-round here in the park. So, we’re very good for birders to come up to see the kinds of birds that live in the woods, but also see the shorebirds that are attracted to the lake and to the dam.

Lake Livingston SP hosts a Birds of Prey Program April first. Find details on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, and on tomorrow’s show.

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.

Wildflowers for Truth and Beauty

March 24th, 2017
Spring bluebonnets as far as the eye can see.

Spring bluebonnets as far as the eye can see.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas roadsides will soon  be awash in colorful wildflowers. Dr. Damon Waitt, director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, formerly of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, says these and other native plants have a place in the natural and built landscapes.

Natives provide really important ecosystem services for local wildlife, pollinators.

They filter storm water and rainwater, so they provide all these services to the ecosystem, and they can provide similar services in the built landscape, and reduce things like water use, pesticide use and fertilizer use.

In addition, they have the aesthetic qualities that we want people to learn to appreciate, so they’re not looking for that next exotic ornamental—that they ‘re more interested in finding that next native plant that looks great and functions perfectly in their environment.

There are a lot of people who might look at wildflowers and native plants and say, gosh, how do those fit into my idea of a formal landscape.

That’s something we’re really trying to fight—that concept that if you’re a native plant enthusiast, then your yard must look wild and unkempt. At the wildflower center, we model different design styles using native plants, and you can use native plants in very high designs and very formal designs if that’s the look you’re going for.

Find plants that are right for you at wildflower.org.

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.

NOTE: Due to the rain and warm weather, spring wildflowers started popping out about a month earlier than usual. So get out there soon to enjoy them before they’re gone.

Plants for Pollinators

March 23rd, 2017
Prairie Clover. Image: Russell Graves

Prairie Clover. Image: Russell Graves

This is Passport to Texas

It’s springtime, and a perfect time for planting a garden for pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds.

Even a few native flowering plants will draw a multitude of winged wildlife to your yard. Monarchs and other butterflies, bees, and even hummingbirds swarmed the few flowering plants I installed in my side yard last year.

What a thrill it was to come up the driveway each evening after work to a battalion of butterflies flitting through my garden.

This month I’m going install plants that will bloom from spring to fall, and thrive in the dry clay soil and sunny location I have in mind. These plants include: the Pasque flower, which is a perennial that gets about a foot tall, forms clumps, and blooms in April.

The Pale purple coneflower, which is a 2 to 3 foot tall perennial, and one of the earliest-blooming coneflower species.

Purple prairie clover is a care-free perennial I’m considering. A midsummer-bloomer, it attracts insects like mad. And it’s one to 2 feet tall and just as wide.

A species of Liatris, Tall Blazing Star, is a late-summer to early-fall bloomer that grows 1 foot wide and 3 to 4 feet tall. And, finally, the aromatic aster, a small shrub that blooms in September and October, will provide fuel for a few late season pollinators just passing through.

Pollinator gardens are fun and rewarding. Plant one.

That’s our show…For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

Stay Calm and Carry on — It’s Only a Black Bear

March 22nd, 2017
Friendly neighborhood black bear.

Friendly neighborhood black bear.

This is Passport to Texas

Black bear are threatened in Texas. And what might their biggest threat be?

That really is people.

Nobody intentionally threatens them, of course. But Texas Parks and Wildlife Mammologist Jonah Evans says because the black bear population is sparse across the state, we don’t know how to behave…when our paths do cross.

What we can be doing is working to make Texas a friendly place for bears to live, by educating people how to live with bears, so that bears do not become a nuisance. And to teach people that bears are not the big, scary animals that they think they are. They are relatively safe compared to domestic dogs, for example.

One way bears become a nuisance is when they associate people with food, and get into “trouble.”

We did have that happen in 2011 when all those bears were here. We had a number of bears get in trouble. They got used to getting into trash cans. Once a bear learns that people equal food, it’s really hard to teach it otherwise. That particular bear, we relocated it, and it immediately got into trouble again, so we had to trap it. And it’s living out the rest of its days in the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville.

Jonah Evans says Texas Parks and Wildlife’s goal is to ensure all wildlife lives a wild life. If you see a bear, contact your local Texas Parks and Wildlife office.

The Wildlife Restoration Program program supports our series and funds diverse conservation projects in Texas.

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

Why the Black Bear BOOM Went BUST

March 21st, 2017
Black bears snacking on deer feed.

Black bears snacking on deer feed. Image: Larry Meyers.

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife lovers were optimistic with increased reports of black bears in West Texas in 2011 and 12. Mammologist, Jonah Evans, says the drought drew animals across the Mexican border; yet, once the rains fell, so did reports of bears.

Yes, it was a blip as the result of the drought—but that’s the way that dispersal happens. And that’s the way that bears recolonize: in pulses. So, they’ll pulse out into the landscape, try to find little places where they can survive.

Evans says bears that relocate take a risk, and many do not make it. He adds that bears follow the food. So I asked about the feasibility of creating bear-attracting habitat in West Texas.

They want big oak trees making lots of acorns, or pecan trees, or fruit trees, or things like that. And those are things that take many, many years or even decades to establish. With white-tailed deer, you can put in a food plot, and next the next year, you’re feeding deer. It’s not that simple with bears.

Then I asked about relocating black bears to suitable habitat—as we’ve done with eastern wild turkeys.

Given that Texas has so much private land and the bears travel so far, it’s a very tricky issue to release bears somewhere in Texas where they won’t have the possibility of becoming a nuisance on a neighbor’s property.

Jonah Evans says the agency works to support natural recolonization of black bears in Texas.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds Black Bear research in Texas.

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