Archive for the 'Research' Category

Aoudad Sheep Study

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
Aoudad Sheep

Photo by Glen Mills, TPWD

This is Passport to Texas

Aoudads, also known as Barbary Sheep, were originally imported to Texas from North Africa as game animal over 50 years ago. But for native species like Mule deer and Desert Bighorn Sheep, the ever-increasing Aoudad population has become a threat.

They pose, not only a competition threat, as far as competition for resource, but they can also be socially disruptive.

Froylan Hernandez is Desert Bighorn program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife. His team initiated a tri-species study to determine if Aoudads could also introduce a disease threat.

This is the first project of its kind of Bighorn Sheep, Mule deer and Aoudad. We’re looking at some of these areas that have Aoudad infestations and taking tissue samples and investigating potential diseases that could pose threats to our native wildlife.

Disease aside, the sheer number of Aoudad have already changed the landscape.

Sometimes we’ll see them in herds of two to three hundred in one herd and so they can definitely degrade the habitat rather quickly. And it’s almost like a gravel bed out on the hillside. It’s peeled, I mean essentially bare ground.

The study will provide valuable information to biologists and help educate landowners on the importance of managing Aoudad populations.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Rebuilding Texas’ Oyster Habitat

Thursday, June 27th, 2019
Sampling Gulf Oysters

Sampling Gulf Oysters

This is Passport to Texas

Texas has been one of the country’s top oyster producing states since the late 1800’s. Oysterman, Mauricio Blanco has worked the Port Lavaca region for over 30 years.

It’s been a pretty good place over the years. We got so much salt in our blood. That’s what I love to do

But, declining limits on commercial harvests have been signaling a problem for years.

Most oyster reefs are operating on the border of sustainability. Everyone realizes that something needs to be done.

Bill Rodney is a costal ecologist

They’ve been suffering from a number of stressors including drought and hurricanes. On top of that, there’s a lot of fishing pressure being put on.

A historic restoration plan is now in place to rebuild the reefs. A new law requires oyster dealers to recycle their old shell or pay a restoration fee.

The key to restoring the habitat is putting fresh cultch out there. Cultch can be any material that oysters can grow on.

Crushed limestone and recycled oyster shells make an excellent substrate for oyster larva to attach to and grow into spat, which are baby oysters

The site will be closed to commercial harvest for two years, allowing the baby oysters time to grow to adulthood. By the fall, there should be millions of baby oysters growing on this rock out here.

The sport fish restoration program supports our series.

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

Hatchery Raised Red Drum and Spotted Sea Trout

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

CCA Incubation Room. Image courtesy of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine.

The CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi produces juvenile red drum and spotted sea trout for release into Texas bays. They do it by tricking wild brood stock.

We put them through a 150-day light and temperature cycle to condense their year down and get them to spawn when we want them to.

Ashley Fincannon is Hatchery Manager

It’s volitional spawning so they are just freely spawning freely in the tanks at night. When the eggs are fertilized, they are buoyant, and they end up at the top of the tanks and end up going in to our egg collectors.

We take those eggs into our incubator room where we hatch them out. They are pretty rapidly developing fish so if we had fish that spawned last night, by this afternoon around six, those fish would be hatching out, they would be feeding on their yolk sack, by three days, they have consumed their yolk sack, their eyes are formed, their mouth is formed, their gut is formed and they are ready to go out and eat.

On the third day, we stock them to our outdoor rearing ponds where we grow them out about 35-40 days where they reach that targeted 35-40-millimeter mark for size at release.

Go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website to learn more about the hatchery or to plan a visit; search for CCA Marine Development Center.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Humble Fish Garners New Appreciation

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019
Fishing for catfish is a family affaire.

Fishing for catfish is a family affaire.

This is Passport to Texas

Nobody will dispute that largemouth bass is the favorite sport fish among Texas anglers.

Today in Texas about 50% of our anglers say they prefer largemouth bass.

Yet, Dave Terre, chief of inland fisheries research and management, says largemouth bass has an unlikely rival.

About 20 percent of anglers prefer fishing catfish in Texas.

The humble catfish is gaining in popularity. That’s because unlike largemouth bass, catfish are better able to survive and thrive when water levels—and dissolved oxygen levels—are low, such as during drought.

We’re trying to study catfish more intensively to determine how we can make fishing for catfish even better.

Texas Parks and Wildlife developed a management to guide the future of this sport fish in Texas.

Most people in Texas – when they think of a fish, they think of a catfish. I think that’s the honest truth. Bass get more notoriety, but catfish are very important and I think a perfect fish to start new anglers on fishing, and to get a new generation of Texas interested in fishing.

Three of ten species of catfish in Texas provide important fishing opportunities to anglers: Channel, Blue, and Flathead. Find the Catfish Management Plan on the TPW website..

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series and funds fisheries research in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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