Monthly Archives: June 2009

The Wildlife Exemption and Management

The wildlife exemption is the most misunderstood valuation in Texas. First, it really is a valuation, or the rate at which a property is taxed. Many county appraisal districts do not realize the intention of the wildlife exemption or wildlife valuation or whatever you want to call it. No matter how you slice it, the widlife exemption is all about protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat in Texas.

One of the main goals of the wildlife exemption legislation is to protect animals that are native to Texas. This is a key component in converting land that from an ag exemption (1-d-1) to a wildlife exemption. Land may qualify for wildlife management use if it is instrumental in supporting a sustaining breeding, migrating or wintering population. A group of animals need not permanently reside on the land, provided they regularly migrate across the land or seasonally live there. Continue reading

Texas Flounder

Southern Flounder

The southern flounder is the most abundant flatfish along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Flounder stay in mostly shallow water during warm months and then migrate through cuts and passes to the Gulf to spawn during the fall and winter. The flounder is an ambush feeder and will wait patiently for something to eat. They create an ambush spot by lying flat on the bottom and waiting for unsuspecting bait to swim by.

Tidal water moving through small cuts or rocky areas are excellent places to find feeding flounder. They sometimes bury themselves under sand or silt as they wait for food to enter their area. The prime fishing season is during the “flounder run” in the fall. This period takes place from roughly October through November. Gigging is a popular method for taking flounder.

Gigging is done by either wading with a spotlight or lantern and “gigging” or spearing the fish with a gig (multi pronged) as it lays waiting for its dinner. But instead, it’s your dinner! Flat bottom boats with an air motor or trolling motor are usually used for gigging flounder.

Flounder laying in sand along the Texas Gulf

Flounder have a laterally compressed body (fish lies on its side rather than on the abdomen) and always looks up. The flounder is capable of changing its color pattern to match the bottom color, ranging from blackish-brown to light- gray or a mottled coloring. The down side is white. Young flounder feed on crustaceans, while older flounder eat mostly fish.

In Texas, flounder must be at least 14 inches long to keep, and each person may keep 5 fish per day, but check the current fishing regulations before you head out fishing.

Horrible Deer-Auto Accident Photos

Deer-Auto Collisions are Big Money!

Deer are beautiful animals. Thanks to state natural resource departments and regulated hunting throughout the United States, white-tailed deer herds are at all-time highs. And although just about everyone loves watching deer, record deer herds do not register well with everyone. In fact, some people outright despise them.

Deer-auto collisions cost millions of dollars each year. As a result, deer are not very well liked by auto insurance companies, nor the drivers that hit them. They have a whole different idea about deer management. But everyone that buys auto insurance either directly or indirectly pays for deer damage caused to autombiles. When it comes to hitting deer as they cross the road, a driver can lose more than just money. Continue reading

Texas Battles Giant Salvinia at Caddo Lake

Photo of Giant Salvinia 

During the first in week of June, in partnership with the Cypress Valley Navigation District and the Caddo Lake Institute, the Inland Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) launched an offensive against giant salvinia on Caddo Lake. “We are at a tipping point with giant salvinia coverage on Caddo Lake,” said Craig Bonds, TPWD’s regional director for inland fisheries, in a department news release. “If we don’t get on it heavily, we could lose this battle and experience increased levels of giant salvinia, to the point where we won’t be able to control it. We will never eradicate it. This is going to be an on-going fight.” The battle against giant salvinia is being fought mainly by the herbicide boats and a mechanical harvester that gobbles up the plant from the surface of the water and carries it to shore for disposal.

Salvinia-eating weevils are also in use on several lakes, but results are slow. TPWD and Cypress Valley Navigation District crews will be on the lake applying Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved herbicides until about June 12. Each of the five spray boats operating can cover about 40 acres per day. While efforts to combat giant salvinia are expensive–$64,000 for herbicides alone for the current operation–experts say the cost of doing nothing would be greater. Continue reading

Hinton Added to Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame

Paul Hinton was elected to the Texas Fishing Hall of Fame 

On Saturday June 6, 2009, Paul Hinton of Hemphill was inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Congratulations go out to Mr. Hinton for his selection! He was honored for his contributions as a communicator and educator due to 20 years of service as the Texas founder and director of East Texas Get Hooked on Fishing, Not Drugs. Following retirement from the insurance industry, Hinton began a new career as an outdoor writer and educator, concentrating his efforts on introducing kids to fishing as an alternative to drugs. Hinton introduced thousands of children to fishing while partnering with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to also teach boating and water safety and fish identification. A TPWD video documenting his work will become a permanent exhibit in the Texas Freshwater Fishing Center Hall of Fame area.

Economic Impact of Hunting in Texas

Economic Impact of Hunting in Texas 

Many Americans don’t know it, but North American wildlife, woods, and waters have been managed, conserved, and protected for many decades primarily because hunters have pushed for it–and helped pay for it. In 1938, Congress created the Pittman-Robertson/Wildlife Restoration federal aid program. In 1950, federal lawmakers followed up with the Dingell-Johnson/Sport Fish Restoration program. Since then, federal taxes on sporting goods created by these laws have provided $9.5 billion for state-based wildlife conservation. This highly successful conservation model has made possible the restoration and management of deer, turkey, game fish and a host of other game animals, many of which have come back from severe depletion around 1900 to record abundance today. By focusing on the habitat that sustains all wildlife, hunter-driven conservation has also benefited threatened and endangered species and nongame animals. It is only recently that non-hunters have come to appreciate the economic impact of hunting.

The economic impact of hunting is big. Texas hunters are a major economic force, with an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Sportsmen support more than twice the jobs in Texas than Dell Computer Corp., Lockheed Martin, Electronic Data Systems and Dow Chemical Co. combined (106,000 jobs vs. 49,000). In 2006, there were 1.1 million hunters (residents and nonresidents), hunting a total of 14 million days in Texas. Of the total hunters in Texas, 978,697 were state residents and 122,589 were nonresidents. Continue reading

White Nose Syndrome in Bats

Bats can get white nose syndrome 

Scientist and doctors are aware of the serious potential threat posed by the fungal disease known as white nose syndrome to bat populations. Many are coordinating with partner groups like Bat Conservation International and others and considering actions to protect bats across the United States. Most agencies are attempting to prevent people from transporting fungus spores which could infect bats. White-nose syndrome has not yet been detected in many states, so everyone should consider preventive measures to protect bat colonies before problems arise. The syndrome has killed hundreds of thousands of bats in many U.S. states and can kill up to 95 percent of bats at a single site once infected.

Texas, including the cave-rich Edwards Plateau region in the central Hill Country, is one of North America’s most important regions for bats. Texas has more public bat-viewing locations than any other state. That includes the largest known bat colony in the world, Bracken Cave near San Antonio. The Lone Star state also boasts the US’ most famous urban bat colony, the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin. So although white nosed syndrome has not been documented in Texas bats, below are some key points about bats and why it is important that this bat illness not invade local populations. Continue reading