Archive for the 'Research' Category

Wild Dogs in the City

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

A study of urban coyotes is underway.

This is Passport to Texas

Coyotes are widespread throughout Texas.

In any county, in any city, in any suburb—there’re going to be a few coyotes.

Texas Parks and Wildlife urban wildlife biologist Kelly Simon says we have abundant data on rural coyotes, but less on urban coyotes.

In urban areas they act a little differently. And so, we’re hoping to get an idea of not only the home ranges, for example, but also what prey items they might consume, and also what they might show us about the toxins that might be in the environment.

Toxins such as poisons we use to kill rats—primary prey of coyotes. TPWD is undertaking a year-long study of urban coyotes with Huston Tillotson University in Austin.

So, one of the things that the students at Huston Tillotson are looking at are the presence of toxins in the blood of the coyote, as well as in the fur and the footpads of the coyote.

Students trap, test and place radio collars on the animals.

So, we have the traps monitored with a device that sends out a text message and lets us know that an animal has been snared. Our goal is to get to the trap within 30 minutes, so the animal is immobilized for no more than 30 minutes in the field.

Better data means improved management strategies. This spring, we’ll follow students and teachers into the field as they work with the coyotes, and feature their work on our new podcast Under the Texas Sky.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.
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For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Welcoming Bighorn Sheep Back Home

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018
Relocating Desert Bighorn Sheep, photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

Relocating Desert Bighorn Sheep, photo by Earl Nottingham, TPWD

This is Passport to Texas

There’s a special quality about Far West Texas; and, as Froylan Hernandez can tell you. When Desert Bighorn Sheep are on the landscape, it’s awe-inspiring.

When I’m up on top of Elephant Mountain, my first glimpse of them, it’s overwhelming. Even if it’s just a single animal.

Hernandez is Desert Bighorn Sheep Program Leader for Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Historically, the native Texas Desert Bighorn Sheep occurred in about 16 mountain ranges out here in the Trans Pecos. Mainly due to unregulated hunting, diseases associated with the introduction of domestic sheep and goats, and net wire fencing – they brought the demise of the Desert Bighorn. And by the early 1960s, they were all gone from Texas.

For more than fifty years, Texas Parks and Wildlife and partners have worked to restore the Bighorn to its home range in Texas.

Luckily, the population in Texas is now big enough, we’re using those sources to transplant the animals to Big Bend Ranch State park.

And Big Bend Ranch SP superintendent Ron Trevizo welcomes them to a new home on the range.

When we started talking about the release coming in – to release the Desert Bighorn Sheep at Big Bend Ranch, I’m like – Yea, that’s great!

See how agency biologists translocate Desert Bighorn Sheep when you check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube Channel.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series.

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

Genetics and Smart Bass

Friday, October 19th, 2018
Probbly not the smartest bass in the lake.

Probably not the smartest bass in the lake.

This is Passport to Texas

Researchers discovered that catching a bass may have more to do with the genetics of the fish than the skill of the angler.
A genetics experiment conducted on largemouth bass at Heart of the Hills Research Center in Kerrville, had researchers attempting something unusual. They wanted to find out if genetics, passed down through generations, played a role in whether a fish would take a baited hook.

For the experiment, researchers placed 110 bass in a large pond. Each time they caught a fish, they marked it, and then returned to the pond.

At the end of four weeks, ten percent of the bass had been caught three or four times…while 20 percent had never been hooked. These two groups were then placed in separate ponds and allowed to breed amongst themselves. In the end, the offspring of fish that were easily caught… were much more easily caught… than were the offspring of fish that had been hard to catch.

The differences became more noticeable with each successive generation, thus proving that the likelihood of a fish being caught on rod and reel is in fact an inheritable trait.

Now you have something fascinating to tell people at the next gathering you attend.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Netting Songbirds for Research

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018
Golden-Cheeked Warbler

Golden-Cheeked Warbler

This is Passport to Texas

Mist-nets are tools used by ornithologists and biologists that allow them to trap birds, to collect information. The data helps them to understand and manage species.

The net’s mesh is so fine that it doesn’t even register as a barrier, and so birds end up flying directly into it. While they become entangled, they rarely sustain injuries.

Once entrapped, biologists take special care to gently extract their feathery captives, and waste no time identifying the species, its sex and its estimated age. Biologists do not handle the birds more than is necessary.

When researchers employ mist-nets, it’s often so they can trap birds for banding. They may target threatened and endangered birds like the golden-cheeked warbler. The hope is that at some future time, another scientist will capture the previously banded bird and gather more data, such as where it came from and where it’s traveled along its life’s journey.

Mist-netting by Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists takes place throughout the year on wildlife management areas and in some state parks. From time to time, the bird-loving public is invited to participate in the process.

Keep an eagle eye on the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for these and other opportunities to join biologists in the field.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series, and provides funding for the operations and management of Texas’ Wildlife Management Areas.

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

Talkin’ Turkey via Wildlife Restoration

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
Turkey release.

Turkey release.

This is Passport to Texas

In the 1930s, it became evident that certain game animals were in decline due, in part, to unregulated overharvest.

In 1937, the Federal Government passed the Pittman-Robertson Act, thus creating an excise tax on the purchase of ammunition and hunting equipment.

Today, millions of dollars of funds generated by these taxes are used to manage and restore both game and non-game species.

One of Texas’ ongoing restoration projects involves the eastern wild turkey. Historically, the species occupied nearly 30 million acres in eastern Texas, but unregulated overharvest of both turkeys and timber led to their near extinction from that region. In 1942 there were fewer than 100 eastern wild turkeys remaining.

From 1979 to 2003, Texas parks and Wildlife Department translocated an estimated 7,000 wild-captured birds into 58 counties in central and east Texas, eventually seeing the population climb to 10,000–which is slow progress.

In 2014 the agency began a “Super Stocking” initiative, translocating 80 eastern turkey at a time at selected sites. Production and survival of the birds has vastly improved with this method. Thus, creating a brighter future for this big bird in Texas.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and provides support for the translocation and surveying of eastern wild turkey.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti