Archive for the 'Wildlife' Category

Pronghorn Restoration and Rural Economy

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018
Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife biologist Shawn Gray finds pronghorns fascinating, and hopes you will, too.

The pronghorn is a unique mammal of North America; it’s the only one found in its family. It’s the fastest mammal in North America. It’s a big game species.

Gray is the pronghorn program leader and oversees the Pronghorn Restoration Project. Because it’s is a game species, hunting them should pick up as their population grows, thus benefitting local communities.

In 2008, we issued probably like 800 buck only hunting permits. And, shoot, in 2009 or 10, we were issuing less than 100. And there’s a lot to that. Not only is it the money that they get for trespass access for hunting, but the hunters come into the local communities and spend time and spend money. So, there’s a lot of those economic impacts as well with a much reduced pronghorn population out here.

The Trans-Pecos pronghorn population dipped below 3K in 2012, and Gray says through translocation and natural reproduction, they hope to see the number rise to 10K.

Most of the local communities in the Trans-Pecos really miss the pronghorn. And they really want to see pronghorn back on the landscape at numbers that they are used to seeing.

With the continued success of the restoration project, they may get their wish.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds pronghorn restoration in Texas.

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

Re-homed on the Range

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018
Pronghorn capture and release.

Pronghorn capture and release.

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife biologist, Shawn Gray, stays busy most days in his role as Texas Parks and Wildlife pronghorn and mule deer program leader in the Trans Pecos.

I get to oversee the management and research for the two species for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

This includes orchestrating the restoration of these species to their native range. Last year, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department successfully relocated 109 pronghorn.

Our surplus populations are located in the Northwest and Northeast Panhandle. We take animals from healthy populations there to boost our local populations in the Trans Pecos that have in recent years seen historic decline.

Texas Parks and Wildlife worked with partners to redistribute the animals.

Translocation has been one of the management tools we’ve been able to do to help those populations rebound. There’s a whole suite of things that we do to improve populations. And, of course, we always need help from Mother Nature to make all those things work for us.

Drought was a leading factor in the pronghorn’s decline in the Trans Pecos, but Gray says the reasons are more complex than that alone. After trapping the animals, each received a health checkup; some were fitted with radio collars.

Through time and our management practices, the populations have been responding well.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds pronghorn restoration in Texas.

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

TPW TV — Mules of the Plains

Friday, December 22nd, 2017
Mule deer buck

Mule deer buck

This is Passport to Texas

The panhandle of Texas is the epitome of rural. And mule deer can be found nearly everywhere. Just ask local, Rodney Geissler.

It’s not unusual to nearly be able to walk plumb up on a mule deer. [Truck door closes] Or drive up on one. If they’re out in the field next to the highway you can stop and take pictures of them [camera clicks].

In fall and winter it’s common to see groups of up to 200 mule deer grazing in wheat fields. And that interests biologists like Thomas Janke.

One of the big questions of this project is dealing with agriculture land versus the rangeland like you see behind me.

Janke is studying how mule deer movements and survival are influenced by panhandle agriculture.

Is there a difference in the nutritional value of the plants? Or is it the deer are picking it just because it’s out here and they have a buffet.

During the week of December 24, the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS will feature a segment on the mule deer study, which shows how they use helicopters to track and trap the animals.

We have deer that are radio collared that we captured back in 2015. The radio collars all transmit a signal. Those radio collars are allowing the helicopter crew to use radio telemetry and locate them.

Check your local listings.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series, and funds mule deer research in Texas.

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

Protecting Pelicans from Deadly Downdrafts

Thursday, December 21st, 2017
Brown Pelicans (and seagulls).

Brown Pelicans (and seagulls).

This is Passport to Texas

Winter evenings, when north winds blow, brown pelicans perish along SH 48 between Brownsville and South Padre. The highway bridge, concrete barriers, and changing tides, contribute to downdrafts that cause the birds to crash onto the roadway enroute to their roost at Bahia Grande.

It’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on there.

Over the last year more than a hundred the birds died on SH 48. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, TxDOT, USFWS, nonprofits and citizen groups, have joined to develop solutions, says Laura Zebehazy, program leader for Wildlife Habitat Assessment at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

They’re putting up temporary signage to ask the traveling public to slow down. Be aware: there’s pelicans on the road. DPS is getting involved. There’s folks who volunteer to flag people down to get them to slow down if they know a bird is on the roadway.

Earlier, TxDOT installed poles on the bridge, which forces the birds to fly higher.

Now, they’re actually putting these flashing lights [on the poles] so the birds can see. All of these things trying to encourage the birds to move up as much as possible so, they can maybe avoid that tornado of winds that makes them fall to the roadway.

If you find yourself driving that stretch of road at dusk this winter, slow down; save lives.

The Wildlife restoration Program supports our series.

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

The Problem With Pelicans

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017
Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

This is Passport to Texas

You’re driving the posted 75 MPH speed limit on SH 48 in south Texas. It’s winter. Dusk. You’re crossing the bridge. Suddenly, you see a pelican on the road; you barely miss it.

What happened?

In winter, what’s been happening at the Gamin Bridge—at SH 48 in Bahia Grande—is strong northerly winds come through at dusk, when pelicans are coming from the coast; they want to go roost on the Bahia Grande, [but] the way the bridge as well as the concrete barriers is engineered, it’s creating these wind vortexes that—if they don’t get high enough loft—makes the birds lose loft, and they crash into the roadway.

Laura Zebehazy, program leader for Wildlife Habitat Assessment, studies the impacts of roadways on wildlife, known as road ecology. Researchers believe the structure of the SH 48 Bridge, along with the fluctuating tide, may impact the wind, and the pelicans’ fate.

It is contributing, but now there needs to be further research that looks at what can we do to the bridge and those concrete barriers that’s the most effective to alleviate the number of pelicans that are being impacted.

We’ll learn more about that tomorrow.

The Wildlife restoration Program supports our series.

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