Wildlife Management Field Day for Coryell, Hamilton & Lampasas Counties, Texas

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is hosting a multi-county Range and Wildlife Management Field Day May 6 in Coryell County for landowners interested in managing both wildlife and livestock on their ranches. The multi-county field day is from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Harman School Community Center, located about four miles off of Farm-to-Market Road 580 on Harmon Road, and the field portion will be from 1-4 p.m. at the Hannah Ranch following lunch.

“Many landowners in Texas are beginning to see the value in managing for wildlife on their ranch,” said Brian Hays, associate director of the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and a speaker at the program. “Landowners interested in wildlife management and habitat can take advantage of various incentive programs to diversify their income through good land stewardship for livestock and wildlife.”

Pasquale Swaner, AgriLife Extension agent for Coryell County, said various AgriLife Extension staff will discuss turkey and quail biology and management, feral hog biology and abatement, and rangeland evaluation during the morning session. A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department expert will speak on wildlife management planning and Proposition 11, which allows landowners to retain their agricultural property tax valuation for wildlife management. A U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service expert will discuss proper brush management techniques such as dozing, prescribed fire and herbicide application. Continue reading

Suburban Deer Management in Pennsylvania

White-tailed deer are a enjoyed by landowners and hunters in rural areas, but this is not so much the case in suburban and urban settings like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In fact, many cities across the US are starting to take a closer look at increased suburban deer management programs. Not because they want more deer, but because they need less. They are simply trying to cope with overabundant deer populations.

Whitetail are a prolific species that does well in areas where hunting is non-existent, and that type of land is increasing because of suburban development, many of which include greenbelts where deer thrive. Add to the good habitat, few natural predators in these areas the fact that city ordinances and property owner associations ban hunting and the whitetail numbers just keep going up, up and away. The time for a new deer management plan has arrived:

Source: “In urban deer management, the Game Commission is falling on its face,” said Robinson resident Randy Santucci, president of Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania. “Just jacking up the doe permits doesn’t solve the problem — it’s up to 61,000 in 2B.”

At a recent meeting with the Board of Game Commissioners, Santucci presented ideas intended to help the agency to “reduce the urban deer population.”

Did he say “reduce?” For years, Unified Sportsmen has aggressively attacked the Game Commission’s deer management plan on the grounds that too many deer were being killed, asserting that the agency didn’t have the backs of Keystone State hunters. Twice in the last decade Unified challenged the agency in Commonwealth Court in unsuccessful bids to reverse the intentional reduction of the deer population.

In what could be seen as a softening of tactics, Unified Sportsmen’s president is now proposing ideas that would help the Game Commission to trim deer populations in urban areas. Santucci said he understands the irony.

“This is something from outside the box,” he said, “to help address the economic impact of hunters no longer going to camps in the mountains where there used to be lots of deer, and problems in the suburbs where they have the opposite problem of too many deer.”

The Texas Wildlife Tax Valuation: Not an Exemption, But an Option

Ag Property Taxes & Wildlife Management

Landowners that currently have an ag tax valuation on their property may consider the wildlife tax valuation. Taxes paid because of property ownership to the State of Texas, county or other entity can affect your ability to manage your land as you choose. These expenses should be at the forefront in planning whether you are thinking of buying land or planning next year’s management activities. The ag tax valuation for wildlife management is a viable way for land owners to maintain the low tax rate, but many Texas landowners know nothing about it. It’s not difficult to make the switch to wildlife, but is it for you?

Property taxes are decreased by having an agricultural valuation or a wildlife valuation when compared to a residential or commercial valuation. That said, just because you can meet the requirements for the wildlife tax valuation does not mean that you should convert your land. Think about your short and long term goals for the property, then choose the path that makes sense for you.

Wildlife Tax Valuation

Land is often degraded when managed simply to receive an ag tax valuation. If this sounds like the case on your property, and it is of concern to you, then the wildlife tax valuation may be right up your alley. Landowners that switch ag lands to lands managed for wildlife for tax benefits should have a genuine interest in native plants and/or animals. Please consider your original purpose for the land before managing in a new or unknown way.

Land Trusts and Conservation Easements for Plants, Animals

Land trusts work with private landowners to create conservation easements that conserve or preserve the land into the future. While the landowner can retain ownership of the land, he or she voluntarily and permanently restricts certain uses such as land conversion. Several tax benefits can be associated with conservation easements: income tax deduction, reduced estate taxes, and possibly lower real estate taxes.

The amount and type of tax benefits depends on a variety of factors, so contacting tax professionals and land trust experts is important before making a decision on your land. To learn more about the tax implications of conservation easements, and to find a land trust near you, visit the Texas Land Trust Council website.

Estate Taxes

Estate taxes paid by those who inherit land are expected to fluctuate greatly over the next few years. These taxes should be considered when doing any kind of estate planning as they may affect your heir’s ability to keep the land as you intend it. The federal government collects estate taxes and information can be found by contacting the IRS.

Bobcat Habitat: Do Bobcats Live in the City?

Can Bobcats Live in Urban Areas

“Bobcats have learned to thrive in urban areas and will always be a part of our urban wildlife community,” said Derek Broman, TPWD urban wildlife biologist in Dallas. “The goal of this research effort is to answer important questions about urban wildlife to help DFW area cities and counties improve communication to their residents about how wildlife and people can co-exist.”

Researchers, wildlife managers and local government officials from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Utah State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service-National Wildlife Research Center, and Welder Wildlife Foundation have begun a study on the ecology of bobcats in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The purpose of the study is to better understand how bobcats live with humans in highly urbanized landscapes. Continue reading

Texas Mule Deer Hunting: CWD Check Stations

Hunters than plan on mule deer hunting in West Texas should be aware of the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) check stations that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has established for the 2013-14 season. Wildlife biologists are reminding mule deer hunters and landowners in far West Texas about the protocols developed as part the TPWD CWD management plan.

The mule deer plan includes mandatory check stations for harvested mule deer taken inside the CWD Containment Zone, which covers portions of Hudspeth, Culberson, and El Paso counties. The wildlife management plan was implemented after CWD was detected in tissue samples from two mule deer in far West Texas during the summer of 2012. Those were the first cases of CWD detected in Texas deer. Ongoing monitoring will track the spread of CWD. Continue reading

Mountain Lions and Deer Kills – Predators of Whitetail

There are many predators of the white-tailed deer, but none is as exciting or mysterious as the famed mountain lion. Mountain lions are big cats that can effectively take down any size deer, buck or doe, both sick or healthy. A mountain lion requires about 8 to 10 pounds of meat per day to survive. The lion’s diet consists of mule deer, elk, small mammals, livestock, white-tailed deer and even pets.

Generally speaking, mountain lions prefer deer. Research has found that mountain lions can kill a deer about every 9 to 14 days, but in some locations it has been found that a lion kills as many as two deer per week, especially in hot weather. This is because many other secondary predators and scavengers move into to consume what the lion has left, forcing the lion to hunt sooner than it would have consumed the kill by itself.

Mountain Lions are Predators of Deer

Source: “Once mountain lions inhabited the entire US it was believed that whitetails were a big part of their diet. Today, most mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, solely inhabit the Western US, where they prey upon the mule deer. However, in the Northern US and other isolated areas, mountain lion still stumble upon a few whitetails from time to time. Whitetail deer are also beginning to more westward and as a result, may become a larger part of the mountain lions diet in a few years.

Once it spots a deer, the mountain lion will quietly stalk it until it slowly closes the distance to within about 10 yards. Then, with a swift charge, it will pounce on the deer’s back, attempting to sink its sharp teeth into the deer’s neck. The weight and strength of the lion, along with the delivered wound, render the deer dead in a few minutes. Mountain lions usually attack from above in an effort to knock the deer on the ground.

Immediately after killing the deer, the lion will usually expose the guts and eat them. It will then drag the carcass to a safe hiding place where it will feed on it over the course of a few days. On average, a mountain lion needs to kill a deer every 4 to 6 days.

Although they are capable of killing the largest bucks with ease, mountain lions will usually target younger, weaker, and malnourished deer first. This helps the lion conserve its energy, especially during the winter, when energy is precious. A lion will only attack a large deer if it absolutely must.”

Mountain lions usually carry or drag their prey to a secluded area under cover to feed. As one would expect, drag marks are frequently found at fresh kill sites. Lions generally begin feeding on internal organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs first. They typically enter through the abdomen or thorax when first consuming a kill, but some feed on the neck, shoulder or hindquarters first. At many lion kills sites, the stomach of the deer will be removed and found buried nearby.

Mountain lions frequently try to cache their kill by covering it with soil, leaves, grass and sticks. Lions may eviscerate prey and cover the viscera separately from the rest of the carcass. Even where little debris is available, bits of soil, rock, grass or sticks may be found on the carcass. Mountain lions are efficient predators of deer and have no problem taking mature bucks. They are strong and can move their kills quite a substantial distance.

Impacts of Brush Management on Wildlife and Habitat

The overabundance of unwanted or undesirable brush is one of the biggest factors plagues Texas landscapes. Brush uses water, decreases grass cover and can be costly to maintain. It is, however, good for wildlife for both food and cover, but it still is only valuable in moderation. Too much of anything always becomes a problem. Property owners and habitat managers have a chance right now to enroll in the latest webinar discussing the management of brush.

Brush Management: Unintended Consequences & Habitat Management

Class Description: Since the inception of removing unwanted vegetation from rangeland there have been unplanned responses, both positive and negative. These unintended consequences have accompanied the evolution of vegetation manipulation through the eras of eradication, control, and management. Applications, as well as methodology, has had it’s surprises. The manager needs to learn from history, understand the ramifications of his actions, and to properly plan management systems.

Presenter: Dr. Wayne Hanselka
Date: Thursday, November 7, 2013
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM CST

Credit: 1 TDA Pesticide CEU – Integrated Pest Management

Interested landowners and property managers can register for the brush management class here. It should be a chance to get some great information about range and wildlife and habitat manipulation.