TPW TV — Hop for the Future

August 18th, 2017
Collecting data on Kangaroo Rat.

Collecting data on Kangaroo Rat.

This is Passport to Texas

According to Dr. Randy Simpson, kangaroo rats are…

They’re about the handsomest rodent that you can find.

The problem is, you can’t find them. At least not many of them, anyway. Simpson is Wildlife Biology Program Director at Texas State. During a Texas Parks and Wildlife TV segment airing next week on PBS, graduate students, including Silas Ott, survey the species near the Texas/Oklahoma border.

So, it does seem to be pretty rare geographically. It’s only been found in 11 counties in Texas. And within the past 20 years, it’s only been found in five of those 11 counties.

Ott and his cohorts locate fresh burrows and set traps and cameras. Dr. Simpson.

Are we seeing just the last vestiges of populations that are hanging on? We don’t know. I think that that’s the reason Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service want to find that out.

Nathan Rains is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He’s assisting Texas State, and says the agency helped to fund the research through its grant program.

It’s obviously declining. We don’t have a lot of great information on this species, so we’re trying to learn as much as we can. But it’s a species we’re concerned about, and it’s been a concern for awhile.

Catch the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV segment Hop for the Future next week on PBS. Check your local listings.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series funds kangaroo rat surveys and management in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

ID and Dispatch the Cactus Moth

August 17th, 2017
Photo credits: (top) Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org; (mid) Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org; (bottom) CMDMN

Photo credits: (top) Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org; (mid) Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org; (bottom) CMDMN

This is Passport to Texas

Prickly pear cacti are economically important to Texas and Mexico. They’re also the larval food of the cactus moth, a voracious nonnative species that’s heading westward toward our state.

As of 2009 it’s south of New Orleans. So, it’s just over 200 miles from the Texas border.

Invertebrate biologist Michael Warriner says the larvae of this prolific South American moth species can decimate prickly pear populations. The adult insect is non-descript and difficult to identify, but the larvae is easier to recognize.

Looking for the larvae or evidence of feeding damage is the best thing to look for. The caterpillars themselves are a bright orange to red coloration with black bands or spots. The larvae spend most of their time inside of the prickly pear pad, and they basically hollow it out. So the pad, as the larvae feed on it, will become transparent and they’ll eventually just collapse.

Researchers are developing methods of managing the moth. Until then, if you see infested plants…

You can still control it by removing the infested pads and that would help. Disposing and burning them. Or simply enclosing them in some kind of plastic bag to heat up the larvae and kill them.

Find links to more information about the cactus moth at passporttotexas.org.

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

Cactus Moth: a Prickly Situation

August 16th, 2017
Map from presentation by Kristen Sauby, from her presentation to the  Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting.

Map from presentation by Kristen Sauby to the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting.

This is Passport to Texas

There’s a moth making its way to Texas from Florida whose larvae feed exclusively on prickly pear cactus.

The cactus moth has proven to be a really effective eradicator of prickly pear.

Invertebrate biologist, Michael Warriner, says Australian officials imported the cactus moth—native to South America—in the mid-1920s as a biological control against the invasive, nonnative coastal prickly pear.

And over a few years, it didn’t totally eliminate it, but it reduced it substantially. So, it’s proven to be one of the most successful biological control agents, as far as insects go.

The moth, discovered in the Florida Keys in 1989, may have arrived on imported prickly pears, and since then has spread up to South Carolina and as far west as Louisiana.

So, the concern is that if it makes it to the southwestern United States and Mexico that it could have a similar impact and eradicate or reduce prickly pear; and the fact is that—for Mexico especially—prickly pear is a major agricultural commodity in the tens of millions of dollars in terms of value. And it’s worth millions of dollars in the US, too: for agriculture and biodiversity and landscaping.

Tomorrow: How to identify and prevent the spread of the cactus moth.

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

LBJ — In His Own Words

August 15th, 2017
LBJ and Lady Bird enjoying the wildflowers in his beloved Texas Hill Country.

LBJ and Lady Bird enjoying the wildflowers in his beloved Texas Hill Country.

This is Passport to Texas

Even though Lyndon Baines Johnson spent many memorable years in Washington DC, the Texas Hill Country held a special place in his heart.

Here is where I would always return, to the Pedernales River, the scenes of my childhood. There’s something different about this country, from any other part of the nation.

LBJ often credited these pristine surroundings of his youth as a major influence in his life and presidency.

It is impossible to live on this land without being a part of it. Without being shaped by its qualities. This molds the character of the people here. But it is also a bold and beautiful land, where the air is clear and the water is pure and the wildflowers flashing in the sun

And it is where he returned when he left the White House.

I guess every person feels a part of the place where they were born, he wants to go back to the surroundings that he knew as a child and this is my country, the Hill Country of Texas.

The LBJ State Park and Historic Site, located near Johnson City, gives visitors a chance to experience the land which President Johnson held dear.

There’s something about this section that brings new life and new hope and really a balanced and better view point after you have been here a few days.

Learn more about the LBJ State Historic Site, log on to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Landscaping to Save Water

August 14th, 2017
Cottage Garden, WaterSavers Lane. Photo: Pam Penick.

Cottage Garden, WaterSavers Lane. Photo: Pam Penick, from her blog: Digging — Cool Gardens in a Hot Climate.

This is Passport to Texas

It’s possible to conserve water and have a lush landscape. And they prove that point every day in San Antonio.

The San Antonio Botanical Gardens is home to six miniature houses on Water Savers Lane, which showcase unique landscapes that feature water-saving designs. Sir Oliver Smith, a master naturalist, describes the typical landscape, complete with a water thirsty lawn.

This is what most people have. They have the traditional hedges at the door and all that manicuring you have to do every week. So this is probably what we don’t want if you want to save on money and save on grass and save on water.

For comparison, he points out an attractive landscape that replaces turf with groundcover.

People like this look; it’s a little less maintenance. And you’re replacing some of the lawn with Asiatic jasmine, which takes no water.

While the jasmine isn’t native, the others are. Native plants generally require less water to survive.

Everyone thinks native plants are just a sticky agarita and the yuccas and the sotals. But all the other things in this garden are native. Vitex and desert willow and redbud and there are a lot of other things that do very well with almost no water.

Check out the Wildscapes plant guide on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and discover which plants thrive in your area.

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.