Archive for May, 2015

The Glory of Rat Snakes

Friday, May 29th, 2015

This is Passport to Texas

Texas’ state herpetologist loves talking about snakes.

03-Today I’d like to talk to you about the Texas rat snake.

See what I mean? Dr. Andy Gluesenkamp wants to help Texans develop an appreciation for this native reptile.

14- The Texas rat snake is the most commonly encountered snake in Texas, and they occupy a wide range of habitats. This snake is harmless; they’re completely non-venomous; they don’t attack people–in fact they’re major rodent predators; hence, the name: rat snake.

Rat snakes bear an uncanny resemblance to rattlesnakes which, as we know, are venomous.

18-[opens with rattling] Probably the best way to tell a rat snake from a venomous snake in Texas is look at the head shape; pit vipers, which includes copperheads, cottonmouths and rattlesnakes, they tend to have a very chunky head with steep sides to the face. Whereas, if you look at the head of a rat snake, the head tends to be more rounded and less angular.

Andy says rat snakes get a bad rap, but they deserve our appreciation.

08- I’d like to point out their primary diet is mice, rats and other rodents. That’s a pretty beneficial snake to have around.

See Andy Gluesenkamp and his pal the rat snake next week on a segment of the PBS Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series. Check your local listings.

That’s our show–Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

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

Wild Turkeys in the Cross-timbers Eco-region

Thursday, May 28th, 2015
Turkey gobbler and hen.

Turkey gobbler and hen.

This is Passport to Texas

Using state of the art satellite technology, Texas Parks and Wildlife wildlife biologists–in conjunction with researchers from the Institute of Renewable Natural Resources at TX A&M–collect data from radio collared Rio Grande wild turkeys to develop accurate maps and recommendations for landowners who wish to manage for the species.

18- And so, we can see areas that [turkeys] avoid; we can see areas that they like to spend a lot of time. And, then we can actually take those maps and go out in the field and take pictures and take vegetation measurements on the exact spots where these birds were.

Biologist, Kevin Mote, says the technology can determine a bird’s position to within a few feet, which is important to know during nesting season.

13- By following that mother hen around while she has those chicks, and collecting information on the habitat that she used during that time frame, helps us better understand what they need to survive.

What they need to survive is healthy habitat, and landowners remain vital to ensuring its vigor. While the data Mote and his team collect helps, he says there is always more to learn.

12-No matter how much we learn, they’re still one of God’s creatures and we’re just not going to know everything there is to know. We know so much, but they’re still a wild animal, and they’re still just a wonder.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Radio Telemetry and Wild Turkeys

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

This is Passport to Texas

Biologists knew Texas’ historical drought of 2011, in tandem with wildfires at Possum Kingdom SP, affected Rio Grande Wild Turkeys. But how?

06—Our biologists didn’t have much to draw on as far as experience in handling these situations.

Biologist, Kevin Mote.

08— None of us had ever lived through that; and there was really nothing even in the textbooks or the literature to tell us how to proceed from there.

These events became the impetus for a research project that traps and fits turkeys with state of the art transmitters before releasing them to monitor their movements and determine habitat preferences and needs.

21—We can put out numerous transmitters, and it sends a signal up to a satellite, and it collects an exact fix within six to ten feet accuracy. And we can collect eight to 10, 15 or 20
locations everyday on multiple birds without any human effort [to manually track them].

Prior to that, it took more manpower for less return. From this data, biologists form a snapshot—over time—of the turkey’s actual home range.

13—So, we overlay that over soils maps, highway maps, vegetation maps: all the things that we know affect the behavior and the movements of these birds.

Kevin Mote says biologists use this data to improve their ability to assist private landowners who wish to manage for turkeys.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Turkeys in the Cross-Timbers Eco-region

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015
Cross-timbers Eco-region

Cross-timbers Eco-region

This is Passport to Texas

Texas Parks and Wildlife is into the fifth year of a long-term research project in the Cross Timbers ecoregion–in North central Texas–that explores habitat needs of Rio Grande Turkey.

15-And the reason we’re doing that is because a high priority goal of our division, and a very important part of our wildlife biologist’s jobs in the field, is to work with our landowners who want to manage their property for wildlife.

Wildlife biologist, Kevin Mote, says the Rio Grande is the largest upland game bird in Texas.

17- There’s a lot of interest from landowners and definitely sportsmen, so it’s a high priority species. And not only that, when you manage for habitat that is good for wild turkeys, it is also managing that habitat for a whole suite of other native species.

Data on this bird exist for the SE US and other areas of Texas, but not for the Cross-Timbers region, says Mote.

21- And so, we were extrapolating concepts, theories, and practices developed in other states, if not other parts of Texas. And so, sometimes, the devil is in the details. We wanted to find out exactly how Rio Grande wild turkeys were making a living on the habitat in the cross timbers.

Biologists have been trapping birds and fitting them with GPS collars.

04-We do have to trap them every winter and fit them with transmitters.

Tomorrow: New radio telemetry technology improves data collection.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Cross-timbers & Praries Ecoregion

Early travelers through north Texas coined the name “Cross Timbers” by their repeated crossings of these timbered areas that proved to be a barrier to their travel on the open prairies to the east and west. This area in north and central Texas includes areas with high density of trees and irregular plains and prairies. Soils are primarily sandy to loamy. Rainfall can be moderate, but somewhat erratic, therefore moisture is often limiting during part of the growing season. Also known as the Osage Plains, it is the southernmost of three tallgrass prairies. It varies from savannah and woodland to the east and south, into shorter mixed-grass prairie to the west. As in the rest of the Great Plains, fire, topography, and drought maintained prairie and established the location of woodlands.

The “Cure” for Feral Swine

Monday, May 25th, 2015
Feral Hogs at the Kerry Wildlife Management Area

Feral Hogs at the Kerry Wildlife Management Area

This is Passport to Texas

It’s ironic that sodium nitrite, a preservative used in sausage-making, might one day aid in the control of feral swine in Texas.

11- Sodium nitrite gives cured meat a red color, improves the flavor; we eat it all the time in bacon, ham and any cured meat.

Biologist Donnie Frels works out of the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. Sodium nitrite can reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. Humans and most mammals have an enzyme which efficiently reverses this process: swine cannot.

10- We are attempting to take advantage of that and exploit that in order to use sodium nitrite as a possible control measure in feral swine.

Exotic feral hogs compete with native wildlife for food and destroy habitat. Researchers are working with professional chemists to stabilize the sodium nitrite so they can successfully place it into a “bait matrix”.

12- Which can then be used in a specific feeder which only hogs can gain access to. That way we ensure that other non-target animals are not exposed to the toxicant bait.

Researchers at the Kerr have been investigating sodium nitrite as possible control for feral swine since 2010 (in a secure 12 acre research facility); while it looks promising, Frels says it may be several more years before an effective toxic bait is available commercially.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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