Archive for May, 2011

Mysterious Playa Lakes

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

Playa lakes, which form in shallow depressions in the earth, are common in the High Plains of Texas, but are uncommon as water bodies go.

Well, with a playa lake, when a drop of water falls, it goes into the middle of the lake basin and that’s where it stays. This water may work its way down into the Ogallala Aquifer, or it may evaporate, but each playa lake is the lowest point in its own watershed.

Bill Johnson, is a waterfowl and wetlands biologist in Canyon, Texas, and says the water you see in the playa today, may not be there in a few months’ time.

Playas tend to go wet and dry. And there’s nothing wrong at all with a dry playa. We’re a semi-arid region, and our evaporation rate is much, much higher than our rainfall rate.

In fact, if a playa were wet all the time, says Johnson, it would not be nearly as important to waterfowl.

When a playa goes dry, it causes the germination and growth of moist soil plants. These plants are generally annual plants—such as the smart weed, or barnyard grass. Now these plants are very productive, and they produce the seeds that ducks eat. If these playas didn’t dry up, then they would have an entirely different pant community that wouldn’t be as productive—they just wouldn’t produce as much food.

Information about playas is at

That’s our show… with support from the Wildlife Restoration Program… providing funding for wetland conservation through the Private Lands Enhancement Program.

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

State Park Pass

Monday, May 30th, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

The Texas State Park Pass is still the best deal around, and our State Park guide, Bryan Frazier, has details.

54—It’s still only $60 dollars for 12 months, and it waives the entrance fees to more than 90 state parks in Texas for you and whoever is with you in your vehicle. You get discounts on anything you buy in the state park store, and you get a handful of discount coupons for your camping and overnight fees. And so, with this program, it’s a plastic card that fits in your wallet and goes wherever you do. And as long as the cardholder is present, you swipe it when you get there. You can use your discount even on your first visit when you purchase your pass. It’s fulfilled on site at the park. Overwhelmingly more people buy them in the spring, getting ready for the summer. And so we want to encourage people to do that. If they go more than a couple of times to a state park it will by far save them some money—depending on how many people go with them or how long they stay. It’s a great value. The money that you spend on your park pass goes directly to help us with our park operations. But, again, it’s a ticket to getting outside and enjoying the parks across Texas from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast.

Thanks Bryan.

That’s our show for today…with funding provided by Chevrolet…building dependable, reliable trucks for more than 90 years.

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

Bison Factoids

Friday, May 27th, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

You know that bison, referred to as buffalo by some, are big animals. In fact, they’re the largest land mammal in the US, with the bulls weighing in at two thousand pounds and cows half that much. They might be stocky, but don’t challenge one to a foot race—you’ll lose.

07— It may look like they’re big, huge, lumbering animals, but a bison can run 35 miles and hour; that’s pretty fast.

Donald Beard is park superintendent at Caprock Canyons SP, where visitors can view the official Texas state bison herd.

10—[bison grunting] They’re like people they have different personalities. You’ll have an animal that’s really curious and want to come up to you to see what’s going on. Then you’ll have some that want to stay back and don’t want to be a part of it. [ambiance at end]

The newly expanded bison enclosure at the park, allows visitors to get close to the animals—but if you get too close, the bison will let you know.

14—When they’re agitated, they will raise their tail into a question mark. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the saying ‘Let’s high tail it out of here?’ That came back from the 1870s when settlers would see those tails go up in that question mark; they knew it was time to get out of the way.

The park has plans to eventually expand the bison’s territory to encompass the majority of the park. Get more information about the Texas State Bison herd at

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

Caprock Canyons: State Bison Herd

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

Caprock Canyons State Park is home to the official Texas State bison herd.

07—This bison herd was started by Charles Goodnight back in the 1870s during the slaughter of the American Bison.

Tens of millions of southern plains bison once thundered across the land, including Texas, but in the late 1800’s they were nearly hunted to extinction, says park superintendent Donald Beard.

14—They were slaughtering millions of these animals; and Mrs. Goodnight would listen to the calves bleat in the nighttime, and so they rounded up a few calves and, uh, that was the beginning of the herd. And they’ve been here at Caprock Canyons ever since.

The State Herd numbers just under 80 animals; genetic testing supports the claim they are all that remain of the southern plains subspecies.

In an effort to give visitors a better look at these examples of living history, park staff doubled the acreage in the animals’ enclosure, to include the area around the visitor’s center.

13—So our goal is to expand their territory here in the park and have a unique experience to where when you come in the park, you are in the habitat with the bison.

Eventually, bison will have access to the majority of the park. Learn more about Caprock Canyons SP when you go to

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

Dispatching Fire Ants

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

The AgriLife Extension service estimates the impact of red imported fire ants in Texas at $1.2 billion annually. These insects wreak havoc in urban, agricultural and wildlife areas posing threats to plants and animals. Because of that—they must die.

12—Generally what we recommend is a broadcast bait over the whole entire yard in the spring and in the fall, and that dramatically cuts down on the amount of fire ants that you see popping up in-between those times.

Entomologist, Elizabeth “Wizzie” Brown is with AgriLife Extension and much or her work focuses on fire ants. She says the broadcast baits take time, but are effective. Impatient and desperate homeowners have tried homemade treatments for hopefully quicker kills to allow them to enjoy their outdoor spaces again.

28—Club soda was a big one. People were asking me about this, so that’s when I did my testing and it didn’t work. Used coffee grounds are another one—a lot of people were using that to treat fire ant mounds; Again, I didn’t find that that one worked. Ground cinnamon….. This year I’m hoping to test cayenne pepper and oak ash. I had somebody bring oak ash to me; he says that he uses it all the time and that he doesn’t have any fire ants and so we’re going to test that one out and see what happens.

We have links to information about managing this biting pest at

The SFWR program supports our series and helps to fund the operations and management of more than 50 wildlife management areas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.