Spring 2011 A publication of the Wildlife Division—Getting Texans Involved
The Texas Hill Country
Hills and canyons, grasslands and forests – these are what we often think of as the Hill Country. The diversity created by the changing geographic and floral features contribute to a very diverse wildlife community. In this newsletter authors from a wide variety of backgrounds contribute articles on managing your landscape to maintain that valuable diversity. Deer to hummingbirds, the diversity of the Hill Country is reflected, and one quickly sees the complexity of managing land in central Texas.
Managing for Wildlife Diversity
through Deer Population Control
By Kevin Schwausch
Diversity is a key element in maintaining healthy wildlife habitats. It is critical to provide the basic elements required for all wildlife species: food, water, cover, and space. These elements together make up wildlife habitat and are the building blocks on which diverse habitats are formed. In the Hill Country exotic and native deer have the potential to impact diversity of native habitat. Excessive white-tailed or exotic deer populations can eat native vegetation faster than it can grow, ultimately reducing the quantity and quality of both the food and cover components of native habitat. Proper management of deer populations is a necessary element to achieving healthy, diverse wildlife habitats.
Umbrella Species of the San Marcos River
By Jackie M. Poole
It doesn't seem logical to think of an aquatic ecosystem as needing an umbrella. Aquatic systems need water, right? But Texas wild-rice is the umbrella species of the San Marcos River. Because Texas wild-rice requires a certain amount of water flowing over its leaves at all times to survive, this ensures that many other rare and endangered species in the San Marcos River will survive also. Any species with habitat requirements that fall within those of Texas wild-rice will be protected by the Texas wild-rice umbrella.
Introducing Our New Small Game Program Director
The Wildlife Division did not have to go far when they began looking for a new Small Game Program Director – Dave Morrison was sitting in a cubicle in Austin waiting for the call.
A graduate of Louisana Tech where he achieved Baccalaureate and Masters degrees, David brings a wide variety of skills to the table. He worked with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries before coming to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2000. Dave has held a variety of positions during his career in wildlife management including wildlife technician at wildlife management areas, district biologist, program director with the wildlife management area program while in Louisiana. Dave came to Texas Parks and Wildlife as our Waterfowl Program Leader in 2000. Congratulations, Dave.
Edwards Aquifer Endangered Species Protection
By Cindy Loeffler
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff from several divisions has been hard at work protecting rare species associated with the Edwards Aquifer as part of a process called the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP). The EARIP is an open, voluntary, collaborative, consensus-based stakeholder process with a goal to help recover federally listed threatened and endangered species that depend on the Edwards Aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer extends 180 miles from Brackettville in Kinney County to Kyle in Hays County and is the main source of drinking water for over 2 million people in south central Texas as well as an important source of water for agriculture, industry and recreation. In addition, the Edwards Aquifer is the source of San Marcos and Comal Springs, two of the largest springs in the Southwestern U.S. These springs are the headwaters of the San Marcos and Comal Rivers and provide important baseflows, especially during drought, to the Guadalupe River and Estuary. There are currently eight federally-listed species that depend directly on the Edwards Aquifer system: the fountain darter, San Marcos salamander, San Marcos gambusia, Texas blind salamander, Peck's cave amphipod, Comal Springs dryopid beetle, Comal Springs riffle beetle, and Texas wild rice. The San Marcos gambusia, last collected in the wild in 1983, may already be extinct. The primary threats to the aquifer-dependent listed species are the intermittent loss of habitat from reduced springflows, water pollution, and competition from non-native species. There are many other rare species associated with the Edwards Aquifer that are not currently federally-listed that will likely benefit from actions taken to protect the eight species being addressed by the EARIP.
Government and Real Estate
By Andy Winter
Enter the Critters
On my last visit to Friedrich Wilderness Park near the outer edge of San Antonio, a male Golden-cheeked warbler sang above the parking lot. To the north of me, the roar of a bulldozer signaled the triumph of a new spec home. To the east, Interstate 10 growled from the early morning commute, and just behind my truck, a sign proclaimed "Thousands of pounds of dog poop wash into your water supply every year. Gulp." The inexorable thought crossed my mind that this poor guy doesn't stand a chance. How could he? With a projected loss of 458,000 acres of hill country habitat over the next 3 decades, sensitive species like the golden-cheeked warbler, the black-capped vireo and cave-dwelling invertebrates face an uncertain future. At the same time, economic growth is sorely needed to stimulate the lagging effects of The Recession. For many, growth equals development. For many critters, development equals despair. The challenge in central Texas is how to accommodate both economic development and habitat conservation without compromising either.
Review by Mike Krueger
Stanley, Jim. 2009. Hill Country Landowner's Guide. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN – 13: 978-1-60344-137-7
After I moved to TPWD's Kerrville office in April, 2007, some of the first non-TPWD folks I came in contact with were Jim and Priscilla Stanley as they worked to maintain the wildscape in front of our building as volunteers with the Hill Country chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists (TMN). It didn't take too many interactions with Jim and Priscilla around the office and at various meetings and programs to realize that these folks were something special in regard to how completely they've immersed themselves in volunteering with several nature-based non-profit organizations such as TMN. But most impressive is their dedication to learning as much as they can about the ecology of the Texas Hill Country in the relatively short time that they've lived here. Their broad-based knowledge of ecological concepts, including plant identification, hydrology, soils, herbivore population management, and habitat management, exceeds that of many of even the most long-term residents of the region and rivals that of many of us natural resource professionals who at times tend to be a little too single-issue focused. And I have no doubt that their desire and dedication to continue learning even more is non-stop.
Hummingbird Research Near San Angelo
By Charles Floyd
The Hummer House has long been noted as a special place for hummingbirds. Although it has some unique records for West Central Texas and a hummingbird species list much longer than expected for this area, it is the presence of large numbers of Black-chinned Hummingbirds that make it famous. When the term "large numbers" is used, it signifies swarms of these delicate birds coming and going from strings of feeders like bees around a bee hive. It means hundreds and even thousands of hummingbirds living and nesting among great oaks of the ranch year after year. At the end of 2010, hummingbird researchers had banded 11,800 plus Black-chinned Hummingbirds at this site. More than 1900 have been banded in a single year and 608 have been banded in a single day when a group of hummingbird researchers gathered at the ranch.
Hill Country Bluebird Trail
By LeAnn Sharp
When we look into our nestboxes we hope and expect to find Eastern Bluebird nests, their beautiful blue eggs, bare skinned new hatchlings or young spotted fledglings. On our trail though we usually see an over abundance of Ash-throated flycatchers nesting. We are always happy to open a nestbox and find the nests, tiny eggs and young of other small cavity nesting birds such as Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse and Bewick's Wren. People in other areas of Texas may also find Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren or Western Bluebirds in their nestboxes. Those with nestboxes from College Station to East Texas may also find the yellow Prothonotary Warblers in their nestboxes. Any species of cavity nesting birds are welcome in our nestboxes; except the dreaded House Sparrows. These are not native and they are harmful to native birds. It's ok to remove their nests from your nestboxes, or trap and dispatch of these bad birds. House Sparrow Spookers and Trap info is located on the Texas Bluebird Society (TBS) web site.
Habitat Cost Assistance Programs
for the Texas Hill Country
By Chuck Kowaleski
Anyone who tries to improve habitat on their property finds out that it's an expensive process. What if you could find a partner willing to pay a portion of those costs and provide you with free technical assistance? There are several state and federal agencies that do just that. They include the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency that provides assistance primarily for agricultural operations but also assists landowners with wildlife habitat improvement, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) who has a special set of conservation programs targeting environmentally sensitive land, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Partners for Wildlife Program which focuses primarily on migratory birds, candidate, threatened or endangered species and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's (TPWD) wildlife division field staff who provide technical assistance on wildlife and habitat issues and have a small amount of cost share assistance available for at-risk species. Each of these programs generally offers between 50-75% cost share and each has its own set of rules and requirements.
The Agricultural Tax Appraisal
Based on Wildlilfe Management Use
By Linda Campbell
Texas is known for its wide open spaces, plentiful resources, natural beauty and of course abundant wildlife. These open spaces are important to the people of Texas because they provide aesthetic and economic benefits through ecosystem services like recreation, water supply, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling. In order to preserve open space lands and their value to all Texans, qualifying properties may be taxed at a lower rate based on productivity rather than market value. This open-space appraisal (1-d-1) is based solely on the primary use of the land.
The Wildlife Management and Research
at the Pantex Nuclear Weapons Facility
Embracing National Security, Native Habitat, and Wildlife
By Jim Ray
Given its mission, it is hard for an outsider to grasp the commitment that the nation's primary maintenance and disassembly facility for the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile displays for native habitat and wildlife. But it's true, and I often proclaim that I am the biologist for the "most secure wildlife management area in the world."
Humming in the Texas Hill Country
By Mark Klym
"I was told by a birder that the only hummingbirds I would find in the Hill Country are Black-chinned." That was how a recent conversation began. I quickly pointed out that that simply is not the case. Of the 18 species found in Texas (23 in the United States), sixteen species have been recorded in the area generally described as the Edwards Plateau! A seventeenth species, the Magnificent Hummingbird, has occurred just off the south east edge of this region leaving only the Berylline Hummingbird as really undocumented in the area.
Getting Kids Outdoors
Through the Texas Youth Hunting Program
By Linda Campbell
For eight years I have been participating in what is billed as the "Largest Youth Hunting Event in the World." We figure that if it is the largest in Texas, it must by the largest in the world. This year the annual Cave Creek Wildlife Management Association SuperHunt hosted 59 youth hunters and well over 200 total participants, including landowners, parents and volunteers. Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP) partnerships with Austin Woods and Waters Club and Safari Club International-Austin made the hunt possible.
Did You Know?
- Diversity is a combination of not just the different species present, but also the numbers of individuals within these species that are present?
- Habitat basics: food, shelter, water, space?
- Native deer and/or exotic species can impact wildlife diversity by altering habitat?
- Deer populations in the Texas Hill Country are estimated as approaching one million animals?
- White-tailed deer are primarily browsers, eating the stems and leaves of woody plants?
- The Edwards Aquifer extends from Kinney County to Hays County?
- The Edwards Aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for over 2 million people?
- Texas Wild Rice ensures habitat for several other rare and endangered species by requiring a certain flow of water over its leaves at all times?
- A banded Black-chinned Hummingbird residing near Christoval is known to be 9 years old?
- Ash-throated Flycatchers and other birds are known to use nestboxes designed for Eastern Bluebird?
- 17 species of hummingbird have been documented in the region generally described as the Texas Hill Country?
Introduction to Texas
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This 10" full-color identification wheel is a helpful reference to keep nearby when you watch the hummingbirds. Sixteen hummingbird species are featured, all of which have been documented in Texas! For each bird, the wheel tells you its range in North America, Habitat Type, and distingishing features of both males and females.
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