Archive for January, 2009

Texas River Otters

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

What do zoos and East Texas rivers have in common? Both are playground to the river otter!

We have a lot of water, rivers. Full of fish, full of crawdads. It’s just an ideal habitat out here. It’s just that you’re just generally not going to get to see one.

Gary Calkins is District Leader for the Pineywoods Ecological area.

It’s not like a deer that you can drive by and shine a spotlight. Otters stay primarily in the water. They will come out on land, but it’s only in little specific areas. And so unless you know their behaviors and what areas to go look for sign coming up onto the land. It just makes it really tough to find them.

Imagine, then, trying to get a head count…Every three years, Parks and Wildlife biologists conduct surveys under the 254 bridges in East Texas to track the population and distribution of river otters.

Someone will crawl under that bridge and look in the sand or mud for tracks or scat. And then we’re gonna take a subset of those 254 bridges and instead of surveying them once [during the survey period] we’ll go back repeatedly. We’ll also do transects a hundred meters upstream and downstream and look for sign. And through a big statistical formula you can tell if there are no animals there or if you are just missing finding them.

And finding them is worth the while. Calkins says they’re nature’s answer to the comedian, and in some instances, they’ll actually kind of show off for you.

That’s our show…with research and writing help from Sarah Loden… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Crazy Ants: Affecting Flora and Fauna

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

The Raspberry crazy ant, which is a tramp ant, doesn’t build mounds.

Tramp ants nest under any object on the ground.

Colonies with millions of members mostly nest on the ground, not under it; this makes them annoying to man. Yet, Mike Quinn, an invertebrate, says they can be deadly to flora and fauna, too.

They feed on aphids that are also pests on plants. So, they can dry out the vegetation in an area. They can drive out other ants. Any ground nesting bird is potential prey. Any small mammal on the ground is potential prey., They can asphyxiate chickens. They can get into the nostrils of cattle. It’s such that when the ant is at its peak, from June to November, pets may not want to go outside. Kids don’t want to go outside. You know, we can calculate the economic damage that it may potentially bring, but the ecological damage could be incalculable.

If we are not cautious, we could inadvertently help to expand this exotic species’ range.

They’d be in nursery stock. Round hay bales. Any container that moves could potentially further spread the crazy ant.

You’ll find additional information about Rasberry Crazy Ants on our website,; while you’re there, we invite you to leave a comment about this or other shows on our blog.

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

Crazy Ants: Infesting Texas and Beyond

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

The Raspberry crazy ant has infested at least eleven counties in Texas, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.

Crazy ants are tropical ants that need warm temperatures and high humidity. And so the conditions are favorable from Houston to Florida.

Mike Quinn is an invertebrate biologist. Colonies have multiple queens and ants number in the millions and possibly billions; they even drive out other ants. And if you want to hear something really crazy…

A&M has surveyed homeowners that had the fire ant and then had the crazy ant, and they almost all say they would rather have the fire ant back.

Having dealt with a fire an infestation inside my home, it’s hard to imagine anything worse.

Well, the fire ant can be controlled. But the difficulty with the crazy ant is that the only chemical that can control it is rather toxic. A lot of pesticides could be spread that harm the environment and not bring the crazy ant under control. Anybody who has this ant should contact a professional.

Although this rice grain sized, reddish colored ant is usually just annoying to humans, it can prove devastating to flora and fauna. We’ll discuss that tomorrow.

If you want to discuss this topic, we invite you to go to and leave a comment.

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

Movie of Rasberry Crazy Ants on the Ground [need QuickTime]

Crazy Ants: What’s in a Name?

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

They have names like Pharaoh, sugar, and fire. And now we have another name for one of their kind: crazy.

Crazy ants are very erratic and fast moving. So, they act like they’re crazy, essentially.

Mike Quinn, an invertebrate biologist, says the Rasberry crazy ant, named after the Texas exterminator who identified it in 2002, has covered a lot of ground.

It’s already spread to the Louisiana border, and may already be beyond. Crazy ants are tropical ants that need temperatures and high high humidity. So, the conditions are favorable from Houston, back to Florida. And it could easily spread through that whole region in somewhat short order.

We know very little about this alien species.

We do not know how it got here. We do not know where it came from. We do not know much of its biology. We are truly at the beginning stages of understanding this ant.

What we do know is the species has multiple queens, and produces super colonies of millions of ants. Typical of ants, they’re drawn to electrical devices…with potentially devastating results.

They can shut down chemical facilities. They can potentially shut down an airport. They can shut down NASA. This ant is something to be reckoned with.

More about crazy ants tomorrow.

That’s out show…for Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW-TV: Spreading His Wings

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

This is Passport to Texas

At a Corpus Christi housing project, the imagination of a young boy takes wing. See his story this month on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Television series. Writer producer, Ron Kabele. [NOTE: This segment will actually air in February, not January.]

This is about a 14 year old boy who lives in a housing project, his name is Joe. I heard about Joe from Ken Rice, a coastal biologist, and he said this kid loves to look at birds, and he looks at the birds at the housing project.

One day I was walking and I looked back here and there were just birds flying inside the couch and they’ll go behind it for some shade. And they got some of this wood for their nest…some of this, too…but I think they’ll put this around their nest, inside, makes it softer.

Even though Joe has fished all of his life, he’d never seen the rookery islands. So, one of the things that Ken Rice does is he takes people out on these environmental type classes. And Joe and some of his friends from Glen Moss Village went out. Whoa.

Dude, the birds over there. Look! There’s a pink one.

An exposure like this isn’t enough to turn into wanting to become a biologist, but, when they see a bird, they understand maybe how the bird is a part of nature, and how they are a part of the environment, too.

Thanks Ron.

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