Archive for the 'Research' Category

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

Mule Deer Antler Restrictions

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
Mule deer at sunset.

Mule deer at sunset.

This is Passport to Texas

When Mule Deer season opens mid-November hunters must abide by antler restrictions on bucks in six counties in the southeast panhandle.

We’re using the same model as the white-tailed deer.

Restrictions implemented in the early 2000s in six east Texas counties for white-tailed bucks prevented hunters from taking very young animals from the landscape. The experiment saw an increase of bucks, and more natural buck age structure and sex ratios.

Shawn Gray is the state’s mule deer program leader. For white-tail bucks hunters use an inside spread restriction.

But, for mule deer—to protect the age classes that we want to protect, and to allow hunters harvest of the animals that we would like for them to harvest—instead of an inside spread, we’re going to use an outside spread of the main beam.

Which is ear tip to ear tip. There’s a 20-inch minimum restriction on the outside antler spread of the main beams on mule deer bucks.

And, we’re going to monitor that through voluntary check stations. Also, through our population surveys to see if we can improve our age structure of the buck segment of that population over there.

When hunting is not a factor, natural selection determines which bucks reach maturity. Antler restrictions on mule deer bucks are in Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Motley, and Hall counties

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds Mule Deer management in Texas.

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

“Citified” White-winged Doves

Monday, September 24th, 2018
White-winged dove

White-winged dove hanging out in a suburban backyard.

This is Passport to Texas

White-winged doves, originally associated with the Lower Rio Grande Valley, have expanded their range. Changes in land use practices sent the species farther north into urban areas. Suitable habitat kept them there.

Probably 80-85% of the white-wing dove population in Texas is associated with urban and suburban areas.

Nesting white-winged doves prefer established residential neighborhoods with large live oak, pecan, and ash trees. The availability of consistent food and water sources (birdbaths and bird feeders) make the living easy. Owen Fitzsimmons, Texas Parks and Wildlife’s web-less migratory game bird leader says Texas Parks and Wildlife staff conducts yearly urban dove surveys. He encourages citizens to share their observations of the species, too.

That being said, there are a number of citizen science information collection methods—things like eBird. That’s something that is not run by states or by fish and wildlife service, but it’s something I guarantee, that everybody looks at. It’s a very valuable information source. So, while we don’t have citizens of Texas doing the urban dove survey, I encourage them to report whatever they find on eBird. You know, because, that information is looked at as well.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds research on White-winged Dove Density, Distribution, and Harvest.

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

TPW TV –Game of Gobblers

Friday, September 21st, 2018
Turkey release.

TPW biologist Trevor Tanner releases a Rio Grande turkeys on Price 77 Ranch near Blooming Grove, Texas

This is Passport to Texas

When European settlers started coming to East Texas, turkeys were thriving. But those settlers quickly changed the landscape.

Around 1925, a hunter could harvest up to 25 turkeys a year. By the 1940s there were less than 100 eastern wild turkeys throughout East Texas. Over-harvest as well as habitat decline really led to the demise of the population.

Kyle Hand is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Natural Resource Specialist. In the 1970s, the agency started a program of bringing wild trapped turkeys from other states to Texas. The program looked promising. Over the next 20 years, more than 7000 eastern wild turkeys were stocked in East Texas.

Now we’re using a super stocking strategy where we release 80 turkeys onto one area of good habitat in hopes that the population will grow from there.

Thanks to the success of these stockings, hunters like Terrence Jackson of Houston have an opportunity to enjoy spring turkey hunting in parts of East Texas.

When I’m on these turkey hunts, basically I love to get away from the busyness of Houston and work and the crowdedness. The sound of the birds, the quiet in the morning and walking through the woods. It’s something that pulls at you.

Experience an East Texas turkey hunt the week of September 23 on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Northward Migration of White-winged Dove

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018
White-winged dove.

White-winged dove.

This is Passport to Texas

At the turn of the last century, white winged dove populations in Texas were robust. Found mostly in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, their numbers declined as agriculture took root there.

They [farmers] took out a lot of native habitat—your brush and shrub species that are native to South Texas. That’s where the birds bred and roosted, so they required that habitat. A lot of that was wiped out for agriculture. So, through the 20s and 30s and 40s, we saw a big decline in the white-wing population in Texas.

Citrus dominated the landscape. Owen Fitzsimmons is Texas Parks and Wildlife’s web-less migratory game bird leader. As citrus groves matured, the doves rebounded.

They like open areas with large mature stands of trees—and citrus groves were perfect for that. So white-winged doves quickly colonized those citrus groves.

Hard freezes in the 40s & 50s, and again in the 80s devastated the citrus groves, and also the doves.

So, the white-winged dove population fluctuated up and down through the middle of the century.

In the 80s, urban expansion moved northward along the I-35 corridor and white-winged doves followed.

They’re found throughout Texas, now. They’re found all the way up into Oklahoma. They’re breeding in Kansas and Missouri. Northward expansion is unlimited at this point.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds research on White-winged Dove Density, Distribution, and Harvest.

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