Archive for the 'Research' Category

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.

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

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.