Archive for September, 2019

Alligator Gar and Thermonuclear Weapons Testing

Thursday, September 12th, 2019
Alligator Gar

Alligator gar: What a lovely smile.

This is Passport to Texas

Here’s a fish story about alligator gar, a curious biologist and thermonuclear weapons testing.

We’ve done a lot of work recently on the alligator gar. Being able to accurately age these fish is important. Because it tells us not only how long they live, but how they grow and in what years they were produced.

Dan Daugherty is a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Fish have structures called otoliths that are like the bones in our inner ear – they accrue a layer of calcium carbonate each year of the fish’s life. If you remove the otolith and section it, you can see growth bands like the rings on a tree stump. Count the rings and estimate of the age of the fish. We estimate that some Alligator Gar caught in recent years at over 60 years old. But counting that many rings on a small structure is difficult. So, to verify our ages, we turned to radiocarbon.

You may know it as Carbon-14. But how is it used to age this fish?

Radiocarbon, or carbon-14, is a rare carbon isotope, naturally occurring at about 1 part per trillion. However, thermonuclear weapons testing in the 1950’s released massive amounts of this isotope into the environment, which was absorbed by all organisms at that time. Given that some of these fish were estimated to be over 60 years old, they would have hatched around that time. And, if the fish were truly that old, then we should measure high levels of radiocarbon in their otoliths. When we analyzed the radiocarbon concentrations in the otoliths, they matched the levels found in the environment in the 1950s, confirming the accuracy of these Alligator Gars’ age.

Now that’s a fish story for the ages.

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

State of Texas Longhorn Herd

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019
Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorn

This is Passport to Texas

The longhorn is a true Texas icon. This distinctive breed has played a role in Texas’ heritage.

In the early 20’s Frank Dobie and a couple of other ranchers decided that the longhorn was so important that the state needed a herd.

Jim Cisneros is park superintendent at San Angelo State Park where a portion of the herd lives.

They took about 10 or 12 years and they went around all over Texas – down into old Mexico until they put together a good enough herd of historically correct animals as they could. And they gave the herd to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

In 1969, the Texas Legislature officially recognized the State of Texas Longhorn Herd. Currently the herd numbers about 200 animals. Groups of them are located at various state parks and historic sites.

We work real hard on getting the right bulls to keep them historically correct.

Bill Guffey is the herd manager at San Angelo SP.

The state herd is managed just like anybody else would. We breed them, vaccinate them, brand them and cull them just like any other place.

Get to know the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd at San Angelo State park.

We provide a tour. We call the cattle up to the gates and we talk a little about the cattle where they come from, the history, their importance, and how they shaped Texas.

Learn more about Texas Longhorns on the TPW website. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Dealing with Snakes

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019
Albino Garter Snake

Albino Garter Snake

This is Passport to Texas

What should you do if you see a snake around your home?

You can run into a snake anywhere. I’ve seen snakes in downtown Houston.

Like all animals, snakes need food and shelter, so if you’re attracting these unwanted guests, you may need to make a few changes to your immediate environment. Paul Crump is a natural resources specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

We recommend that you modify your yard to minimize the attractiveness of your yard to snakes. You can do things like remove any brush piles, old fence posts, or a shed that’s falling apart. Remove the objects that snakes are seeking cove under.

Snakes often settle near an abundant food source. For many snakes, that means small rodents. Minimize close encounters of the snake kind by making areas around your home unappealing to mice and rats: cover open trash bins, clean up debris piles and keep your lawn trimmed.

We encourage people to take a look at their environment and see what they can do. [Eliminate] things like bird food or deer corn, any of that kind of stuff that could be attracting rodents or other things.

Avoid the urge to kill any snakes that you may see. Snakes play a key role in the balance of nature. If you give a snake some space, more than likely you won’t see it again.

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

TPW TV–Adult Onset Hunting

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

In a deer blind on a mentored hunt for adults.

This is Passport to Texas

During fall hunting season we join with friends and family in the field. Skill and luck ensure that we bring home quality protein for the table. But not everyone has someone to teach them, which is why TPW offers mentored hunting programs.

We have lots of youth hunting programs around the state. But there just aren’t many opportunities for adults.

Until now, says Justin Dreibelbis, who oversees private lands and public hunting at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

So this is an opportunity for them to come out, take part in a hunt, learn from experienced hunters and be able to take those skills back to their friends and families so they can go hunting.

In an upcoming segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series we follow a group of adult-onset hunters, including first-time hunter Kristen Rodgers.

It was great; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a deer on my side but had an amazing mentor. It was quite an experience. It was something if anybody else out there really wanted to do, I would highly recommend it. It took the scary away from hunting, and for me it kind of gave me that knowledge to make me a little more comfortable I guess.

The mentored hunt segment is on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Television series the week of September 8 on PBS.

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

Avoid this Violation in the Field

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Texas Hunter Education certificate. Never go hunting without it.

This is Passport to Texas

What’s the most frequent violation Texas Game Warden encounter in the field?

That’s hunter education and it’s a preventable one.

Aaron Sims is a Texas game warden.

That’s something that’s been mandatory for a long time now.

The 70th Texas Legislature made hunter education a requirement in 1987. Hunters born on or after Sept. 2, 1971 must successfully complete the course.

“I know how to use guns. I’ve been shooting them all my life. Why do I have to go through another class?” And I’ll tell them that’s a very small portion of the hunter education class. The other part is why it’s important. Why we have these laws. Conservation, ethics; something that might not be unlawful may be unethical. We have to have respect for the animals when it comes to hunting or fishing.

The Hunter Education program strives to produce safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved hunters.

All we want is for them to get compliant. Take the class, learn the good information and pass it along to your children. If an adult is already certified and they have a young son or daughter that wants to go through it. We always encourage them. If you would like to go sit through the class with them and learn with them and maybe they can ask you questions because its more comfortable. We definitely encourage parents to attend classes with their children

Find hunter education information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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