Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Dead Zones Tell No Tales

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico

This is Passport to Texas

Every year the Gulf of Mexico endures Dead Zones. Areas of low-oxygenated water where animals suffocate and die.

The condition is called hypoxia, and scientists estimate this year’s dead zone could be one of the largest ever, already at nearly 8,000 square miles just off the coast of Louisiana and Texas.

An abnormal number of spring rains and floods saturated the Midwest, leaving farmland unsuitable for planting. The nitrogen and phosphorus-rich fertilizer with which farmers had prepped the land washed directly into the Mississippi river.

This bumper amount of fertilizer along with urban runoff created an explosion of phytoplankton growth at the coast.

And while Phytoplankton are the foundation of the aquatic food chain, too much phytoplankton decomposing at once can completely devoid the water of oxygen.

The impact is deadly on any aquatic life that cannot easily swim away such as shrimp, crabs, clams and oysters. Those that do survive can be toxic table fare for humans.

Task forces at the state and federal level are continually working to monitor and reduce the number of nutrients entering the Gulf. Scientists are hopeful on-going research will help shape environmental policy, that in turn can reduce the size of dead zones.

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

Great Comeback for Whooping Cranes

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Whooping crane pair at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

This is Passport to Texas

The majestic Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America and has a wingspan of seven and a half feet. But even with its impressive size, the Whooping Crane nearly became extinct, and in 1970 the bird was listed as an endangered species.

They are still federally listed as endangered. The population will be classified as such until they get around a thousand.

Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Once we get to that thousand population number the US Fish and Wildlife Service will readdress the status of the bird and potentially delist it. And that’s the ultimate goal is protect enough habitat and have enough birds that we can keep them off the list.

That habitat is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. Due to massive conservation efforts over several years, the Whooping Crane population once in the teens, now number the hundreds.

The outlook for the Whooping Crane is very positive. Just through years of successful reproduction, good wintering habitat down here, they’re on their way to total recovery.

That’s good news, and validation that conversation and management of Whooping Cranes will ensure survival of the species.

Whooping cranes began their fall migration south to Texas in mid-September.

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

TPW TV–Swift Saviors

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
Nesting chimney swift.

Nesting chimney swift.

This is Passport to Texas

Chaetura [KAY-tura] Canyon… is a chimney swift sanctuary of sorts, found in the growing city of Lakeway…just west of Austin.

Their numbers are declining dramatically, they’re down by probably fifty, sixty percent since the sixties here in the United States. And [in] Canada they are on the threatened and endangered list; they’ve lost ninety percent of their chimney swift population.

Paul and Georgeann Kyle, who oversee KAY-tura, say chimney swifts are unable to perch or stand upright, and so they rely on a type of habitat that’s been disappearing.

Historically they roosted in large hollow trees, and those are not allowed to stand anymore. They then moved into the brick chimney’s, but now most of those are aging and many are being capped or torn down.

In an upcoming segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series we meet the Kyles, and learn how they’re helping to save these small, endearing black birds by building them towers for roosting and raising young.

The perfect home for Chimney swifts, it’s a nice rough surface, little grooves for them to hold on to, attach their nest. Ya basically anybody that can use a few power tools and read a tape measure can build one of these chimney swift towers and just one structure can make a real big difference in the breeding success of the birds.

Learn more about the Kyle’s work with chimney swifts the week of September 29 on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

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.

Return of the Black-Capped Vireo

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
This black-capped vireo male is a passerine species.

Male Black-capped vireo.

This is Passport to Texas

Not long ago the tiny masked bird known as the Black-capped Vireo nearly became extinct. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species as endangered in 1987. But rigorous habitat recovery efforts have finally changed that listing.

Good news for the Black-capped Vireo is that it was recently delisted.

Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Now we’re in a phase of what we call the post-delisting monitoring. So Parks and Wildlife is involved in continuing the count of Black-capped vireos to make sure that the numbers are still steady and increasing but not decreasing.

Cliff believes we’ve become better at understanding what makes a healthy Hill Country ecosystem.

I think the one thing our agency has learned is better deer management. We’ve relayed that to a lot of our landowners that we work with, and you can drive around the Hill Country and see who’s doin’ it right. But I think that’s the big thing is finding that balance of where you can have your agriculture, your deer, and your Black-capped Vireos and everybody lives in harmony, and we’ve found that sweet spot and it’s really working.

Now it’s up to us to hand down our lessons learned to the next generation so that the Black-capped Vireo is never endangered again.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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