Archive for the 'Habitat' Category

Horned Lizard Decline

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019
Horned Lizard

A very handsome Texas Horned Lizard.

This is Passport to Texas

Once a common sight in Texas, horned lizards are in decline. The past three decades of urban development coincide with their disappearance.

Not a coincidence at all. And although there’s no single smoking gun in the decline of horned lizards, generally urbanization is a common factor.

Andy Gluesenkamp is Director of Conservation at San Antonio Zoo, where he developed and oversees a horned lizard breeding program. Urbanization is just one impact.

There have been other, less obvious impacts. Like the introduction of non-native invasive grasses. [It] fundamentally changes the landscape from a lizard’s perspective. A lot of the grasses that we would look at and think that’s perfectly normal Texas grassland habitat, is kind of like an impenetrable bamboo thicket for these guys.

Such habitat changes mean lower diversity and density of arthropods, the lizard’s prey base. And then, there’s the red imported fire ant.

Although they’re not a deal-breaker for horned lizards, they’re not good for horned lizards. And a lot of places where horned lizards used to occur, there are now too many red imported fire ants for them even to get stablished in those places anymore. The red imported fire ants tend to eat the young as soon as they hatch out of the eggs.

Horned lizards from the San Antonio Zoo breeding program will be released back into the wild. But that takes planning. Details next time.

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

San Antonio Zoo’s Horned Lizard “Factory”

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
HORNED LIZARD

Texas Horned Lizard

This is Passport to Texas

The horned lizard, or horny toad, is a charismatic creature and beloved by Texans of a certain age.

Mostly people my age. So, anyone that wasn’t around in the eighties probably hasn’t seen a horned lizard in the wild.

That’s Dr. Andy Gluesenkamp, Director of Conservation at San Antonio Zoo. Let’s just say he’s not a millennial. Andy heads up a horned lizard breeding program at the zoo, which is where I visited him in early October of last year.

We are in the main room of the conservation center. And if you look around the walls, there are rack after rack of ten-gallon aquariums. Each one with a Texas horned lizard in it. And this is what I like to call the beginning of our horned lizard factory.

You might wonder why we need a horned lizard factory—or breeding program—for the Texas State Reptile. Truth is: the little critters are getting scarce.

Although horned lizards are still doing really well in parts of their range, they’ve disappeared from about a third of their range in Texas. And that just so happens to be that portion of Texas where most Texans live.

Urbanization and the introduction of non-native grasses impact horned lizard populations. Andy Gluesenkamp says once lizards reach maturity, they will be released into areas that can support them.

We receive support in part from RAM Trucks: built to serve.

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

Time to Get Your Birding Team Together

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019
Great Texas Birding Classic

Great Texas Birding Classic

This is Passport to Texas

Now in its 23rd year, the statewide, Great Texas Birding Classic remains one of the premier birding events in the world. It offers tournaments for every skill level.

[Like] the general naturalist who’s just getting started and knows a few birds could easily do the Big Sit. There are people that are really avid birders and keep lists and travel for birding, and they might choose to do a Big Day or a Big Week. There are youth tournaments for the kids who are just getting started and have some mentors who are helping them along the way. And then there are some mixed age tournaments that I think are a lot of fun for families to do. So there truly is something for everyone.

Shelly Plante oversees nature tourism at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Find details about the tournament at birdingclassic.org. The Classic runs from April 15th through May 15th. Money raised from fees goes to fund habitat conservation projects.

We have funded acquisition projects. We have funded restoration projects—which is invasive species removal and restoring habitat back to its natural state with native species. We’ve done enhancement projects for birders, which is putting in boardwalks or bird blinds or pavilions. So, we have done a lot of projects throughout the state of Texas.

Sign up at birdingclassic.org for updates; register your team by the April first deadline. Do it for the birds.

We receive support from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve

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

TPW TV–Blanco River Recovery

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

TPWD TV week of March 10, 2019

This is Passport to Texas

When a forty-foot wall of water thundered down the Blanco River on Memorial Day weekend of 2015, it claimed 13 lives, destroyed hundreds of homes, and ravaged the land along the banks. The recovery process for humans and nature continues.

The flood of 2015 caused massive devastation to the Blanco River landscape, there was a loss of a lot of vegetation, a lot of trees, a lot of soil scour, and what we see here is an eco-system in recovery.

Ryan McGillicuddy is a Texas Parks and Wildlife conservation ecologist with Inland Fisheries.

Healthy native stream-side vegetation provides a number of ecological functions including bank stability, because its roots are deep and strong.  It also provides a water quality function by filtering run-off and pollutants, but also, importantly, this healthy stream-side vegetation is also an extreme benefit to our fish and wildlife populations.

Healthy stream-side vegetation benefits our fish and wildlife populations, including the Guadalupe Bass. At one time this fish had been pushed completely out of the Blanco River system by non-native small mouth bass. But through management and restocking, it’s rebounding.

We’ve been able to document that the fish that we’ve stocked are now reproducing in the wild, so it’s been a pretty remarkable success story.

Experience the story of the recovery of a community, a river and wildlife on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series the week of March 10 on PBS.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Becoming a Texas Master Naturalist

Thursday, January 17th, 2019
Photo from the Texas Master Naturalist Facebook Page

Photo from the Texas Master Naturalist Facebook Page

This is Passport to Texas

There’s a training program for people with a passion for nature. It’s called the Texas Master Naturalist Program.

The Texas Master Naturalist Program is a volunteer based training program; we develop a corps of well-informed volunteers that provide education, outreach and service around the state in the beneficial management of natural resources and the natural areas within Texas.

Mary Pearl Meuth (MOYT) is the program’s coordinator. They train roughly 700 volunteers annually, and have training sessions annually.

Our curriculum that is used for the training, has 26 chapters in it. So, they march through those 26 chapters all with a large context of the state of Texas, but then developed even more within their local ecosystem.

Once trained, volunteers provide 40 hours of community outreach, and take 8 hours of advanced training annually. The program’s not just about taking or facilitating classes. It’s also about discovery.

Quite a few of our Master Naturalists have identified new species of plants or new species of animals located within the state of Texas.

Are you ready to help Mother Nature, and to make a name for yourself – or a new species? The Texas Master Naturalist program can help. Find a training session at txmn.org.

That’s our show…brought to you in part by RAM Trucks. Built to Serve.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti