Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Wild Turkeys Making Comeback

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
Wild turkey in Palo Duro

Wild turkey in Palo Duro

This is Passport to Texas

Unregulated hunting and loss of habitat nearly caused Turkeys to disappear from Texas. Jason Hardin, Turkey Program Leader at TPW, says thanks to hunter and landowner support, bag limits and a restocking program, they’re making a comeback.

In Texas, we’ve been working hard since the 1930s and 40s to put turkeys back on the landscape in Texas. We’ve been tremendously successful with the Rio Grande—500 to 600-thousand birds in the state today. But with the Eastern sub-species, we haven’t been as successful.

Nevertheless, TPW and its partners continued eastern turkey restoration efforts in the state.

In 1979, we brought our first eastern wild turkeys over from Louisiana—put them in Tyler County—they did pretty good. In 1987, we worked with the National Wild Turkey Federation, their Making Tracks program. We started working with lots of states, bringing turkeys into east Texas. Using what we referred to at the time, using a block stocking approach.

That involved releasing 15 – 20 birds at five to 10 locations in a county; they’d work in that county for two years, and then move to the next.

During the latter part of that block stocking era—mid-nineties, Dr. Raul Lopez was doing some research, and he found that we were doing two things that he thought we could improve on: we could put larger number of birds on the ground—increase that up to 70 or 80 [birds]; he referred to it as super stocking.

The second area for improvement was the habitat into which they released the birds. More on that tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration Program Supports our Series.

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

NOTE: Find our 30 minute podcast on turkey conservation, turkey calling and cooking wild turkey when you visit Under the Texas Sky.org

Identifying Good Horned Lizard Habitat

Thursday, March 21st, 2019
Horned lizard

Horned lizard

This is Passport to Texas

Urbanization and invasive species are two impacts that’ve led to the decline of the iconic Texas horned lizard. The San Antonio Zoo plans to eventually release lizards from its captive breeding program into the wild.

Management is the first step in this process.

Andy Gluesenkamp is Director of Conservation at the zoo. He says he and his staff will consider environmental factors before releasing lizards onto a property.

One is: are they within the historic range of the species. Two is: are there horned lizards there now? This is a really important question. Because if there are horned lizards on that property, then that’s really a matter of managing existing populations. And I tell landowners that they are much better off than having to try and start anew and establish a population where one doesn’t exist. Other criteria are the size of the parcel; is there enough habitat for the lizards that—if we get a population established—that it will not just persist. The idea for them is to metastasize out into other habitat. And so, we’re putting lizards back onto the landscape, and not just on parcels of the landscape.

Andy Gluesenkamp says he uses high-resolution satellite-based maps from the Texas Parks and Wildlife GIS department to help assess whether areas have quality habitat for newly minted lizards.

We receive support in part from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve

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

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.

Dark Skies Over the Devil’s River

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Devils River State Natural Area – Del Norte Unit. Photo: Jerod Roberts

This is Passport to Texas

If you haven’t already heard, let me tell you: Devils River State Natural Area was designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark-Sky Association.

It is the only Dark Sky Sanctuary in Texas, and only the sixth International Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world! Let that sink in a moment. Devils River SNA is one of the darkest and most ecologically fragile sites on the planet.

The designation brings further awareness to the Devils River and its surrounding landscapes as irreplaceable resources that should be preserved for future generations to appreciate.

Located in southwest Texas, Devils River SNA is far from cities and is home to one of the most pristine rivers in the state. It lies in the cross section of three ecological regions making the site a biologically diverse habitat for plants, fish and native wildlife—including a rare salamander and several protected fish species.

It joins Big Bend Ranch State Park, Copper Breaks State Park, South Llano River State Park and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, as the fifth park to hold a prestigious IDA Dark Sky designation in the Texas State Park system.

Learn more about the dark skies of Texas on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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