A great story about restoring coastal prairie for bobwhite quail and other grassland species made it’s way onto the front page of the Houston Chronicle over the weekend thanks Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The story profiled Jim Willis, WW Ranch owner and founder of the Wildlife Habitat Federation, a wildlife co-op involving multiple landowners. The project shows how restoring native grasses aids not only quail, but dozens of other grassland wildlife species, including the most endangered bird in Texas, the Attwater’s greater prairie chicken.
The landowner federation is creating a seven mile long corridor connecting restored habitat on the 224-acre WW Ranch with the 10,000 acre Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, which offers prime habitat for quail and other species. For these reasons, the project is being upheld as a model effort, drawing diverse support from groups like Audubon Texas, Sand County Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many others. We can only hope that restoring native habitat and quail management really catches on in Texas.
White-tailed deer have an excellent sense of sight. With a deer’s eyes positioned in the skull to allow for over 300 degrees of viewing, they don’t miss much. Deer have the ability to notice any out of place and an acute night vision that aids in their nocturnal activities. Hunters of whitetail know not to look a whitetail in the eye if they are nearby. Whitetail deer vision is outstanding and they will bust you in a heartbeat! Hunters soon realize that they must watch a deer’s body, not its eyes.
Humans have decent vision I suppose, but it does not compare to that of a white-tailed deer. Have you ever noticed how they almost always seem to see you before you see them? Part of that is their excellent sense of hearing, but even if you are still, they will pick you up. Of course, I have had deer walk within just yards of me, stopped to look at me, and then continued on their way. If a deer has not seen you move, then they may become concerned, but rarely alarmed — unless they smell you! So to sum up, deer have outstanding vision, but it really does not compare to their nose.
A break in inclement weather conditions, as well as a day full of family-friendly activities, welcomed about one thousand visitors and community leaders who turned out for the grand opening of Resaca de la Palma State Park this past Saturday. The new park is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and is named for the shallow, flooded oxbows that existed before reservoirs changed the Rio Grande, preserves 1,700 acres of disappearing native riparian and wetland habitat in the ever-growing metropolitan area of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It’s the largest of the three state parks in the nine-site World Birding Center network and underscores the region’s renown as a premier birding destination, an area home to more than 500 avian varieties, including locally popular species such as the green jay and the chachalaca.
TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, State Parks Director Walt Dabney and various other staff members and local dignitaries spoke to the crowd. The day included a ribbon cutting to commemorate the official opening of site facilities, mariachi bands, an art display and contest from local students, interpretive tours for birding, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, and various exhibits and activities that included everything from Buffalo Soldiers and the Gladys Porter Zoo to the Last Chance Forever birds of prey show. With the opening of Resaca de le Palma, eight of the nine World Birding Center sites are now complete and open to the public, with the final site still under development at South Padre Island.
Badgers really are solitary animals. The typical population density is about 12 animals per square mile. Badgers are nocturnal, meaning they are mainly active at night. During the winter months, they tend to be inactive. However, badgers are not true hibernators, but spend much of the winter in cycles of torpor that usually last about 29 hours. During torpor body temperatures fall to about 48 degrees F and the heart beats at about half the normal rate. They emerge from their dens on warm days in the winter. Badger behavior is physical as well as physiological. Badgers are digging machines. Their powerfully built forelimbs allow them to tunnel rapidly through the soil, and apparently through other harder substances as well. There are anecdotal accounts of badgers emerging from holes they have excavated through blacktopped pavement and even two inch thick concrete!
Badger burrows are constructed mainly in the pursuit of prey, but they are also used for sleeping. A typical badger den may be as far a 9 feet below the surface, contain about 30 feet of tunnels, and have an enlarged chamber for sleeping. Badgers use multiple burrows within their home range, and they may not use the same burrow more than once a month. In the summer months they may dig a new burrow each day. That is just a bit about badgers!
Texas’ newest state park, and the last of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) three World Birding Center sites, opens this Saturday in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Resaca de la Palma State Park near Brownsville will host a grand opening celebration Dec. 5, though it opened quietly months ago. The 1,200-acre park near the southernmost tip of Texas is the largest of the nine sites that comprise the World Birding Center, a project begun by TPWD in partnership with local communities a decade ago, now nearing final fruition. South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, the final wing of the WBC, is under construction and slated to open in spring 2009. The other World Birding Center sites are: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park (WBC headquarters), Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Estero Llano Grande State Park (Weslaco), Harlingen’s Arroyo Colorado, Old Hidalgo Pump House, Quinta Mazatlan (McAllen) and Roma Bluffs.
Not a state park in the traditional sense (there is no overnight camping), Resaca de la Palma caters to bird watchers, butterfly enthusiasts and other nature lovers who seek an up-close view of wildlife in a natural setting. Like Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley, Resaca visitors must park at the visitor center and walk, bicycle or take the free tram into the park. The park’s centerpiece is a restored resaca (an ancient coil of a river bed once filled by Rio Grande floodwaters), but it also includes marshes, dense thorn-scrub, and mature palm and ebony forests. The new state park was made possible in large part by increased funding provided by the Texas Legislature in 2007, which helps pays the salaries of 14 full-time and part-time employees, among other expenses. Interpreting the park story for the visiting public is a major focus, with staff and exhibits, trails and observation decks, guided tours and other activities, all designed to teach visitors about the area’s unique natural and cultural resources.
“For an inexpensive, entry-level fishing experience the entire family can enjoy, it doesn’t get much easier than winter rainbow trout fishing in Texas.”
So begins the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) news release announcing this year’s schedule of winter rainbow trout stockings. Beginning on Dececember 3 and continuing until mid-March, the department will stock upwards of 260,000 hatchery-reared rainbow trout at 119 sites across the state. TPWD has been stocking rainbow trout each winter since the 1970s. The complete 2008-2009 Rainbow Trout Stocking Schedule is on the TPWD Web site at this page. Here anglers can find stocking locations, stocking dates and driving directions to each site. Among the winter trout stocking sites are 13 Neighborhood Fishin’ locations in city suburbs across the state. These spots get trout stocked every two weeks in the winter, but catfish are also stocked there in the summer, making them year-round family fishing destinations. Details are on the Neighborhood Fishin’ Web page, which lists the urban area, lake or pond, driving directions, and a TPWD name and contact phone number for each site.
This month in Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine readers can meet the urban bobcat and learn how it has adapted successfully to life in the suburbs. The magazine also uncovers the mysteries of Enchanted Rock, exploring the legends and history behind the enigmatic landmark. To gear up for the holidays, the 2008 Gear Guide by Russell A. Graves offers must-have items for a nature lover’s wish list. In Legend, Lore, & Legacy, Wyman Meinzer takes a thoughtful look at how hunting has changed in recent decades. Three Days in the Field takes Larry Bozka to Port Mansfield — the ultimate sleepy fishing village. For kids (or anyone else) who may wonder where animals call home, the Keep Texas Wild education section explores how animals create shelter.