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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-10-07                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Oct. 7, 2005
Game Wardens, Parks, Wildlife Areas Cope in Rita's Aftermath
AUSTIN, Texas -- Dozens of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens continue to deliver food, water, medical assistance and peacekeeping support to East Texas counties still reeling from Hurricane Rita. Meanwhile, the number of state parks temporarily closed by Rita is down to four from about 20 two weeks ago. State wildlife management areas remain open, but fall hunters are being urged to use caution.
Since the storm made landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border Sept. 23, close to 200 Texas game wardens from across the state have been working the rural backroads of deep East Texas. About 60 wardens not normally stationed in the region are still there and expected to stay for weeks.
The Rita operation is markedly different than Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where Texas game wardens used their flood rescue training and equipment to pilot airboats down streets that had become canals and pluck people from rooftops and second story windows. With Rita, they are assisting sheriff's deputies, local police and other authorities with another game warden asset-knowledge of the rural backwoods and experience getting to and helping people in remote areas.
"Rita involved primarily wind damage in some very rural and remote areas in deep East Texas, whereas Katrina did more damage with water and flooding in urban settings," said Col. Pete Flores, TPWD law enforcement director. "Because of our versatility, we were able to respond to both. We had the equipment and know-how that was appropriate for operating in the deep East Texas Pineywoods. Our knowledge of the area also made the Rita search and rescue and peacekeeping mission more efficient."
Where Katrina grabbed and held international news headlines for weeks with stories centering on urban New Orleans, public attention for rural counties coping with Rita's aftermath seems to have dissipated more quickly.
"Rural populations are more scattered and broad, not as large and concentrated as in the cities," Flores said. "But needs of the people are the same. They need help, and we'll provide it, under the direction of our governor."
Game warden efforts have focused on the five hardest hit Texas counties--Jasper, Tyler, Newton, San Augustine, and Sabine--where electrical power has yet to be fully restored. The lack of power and lighting has increased the likelihood of nighttime looting and crime. As a result, game wardens have been on 24 hour patrol in places like Jasper County.
"Last Saturday night we made 17 arrests in Jasper County for things like drugs, thefts, disorderly conduct, basic everyday law enforcement," said Maj. Robert Carlson of Rusk, who has helped lead TPWD's Rita field operations. "It's what game wardens do every day in their home counties."
Alongside the peacekeeping effort, wardens have spent hundreds of hours delivering essential humanitarian aid to people in remote areas.
"Our most important contribution has been getting to the people out in the county and providing MREs [meals ready to eat] and water," Carlson said. "We've been unloading trucks and Huey helicopters full of food and water. We would order them out of the State Operations Center in Austin and they would come in on National Guard copters. They would fly in to the Jasper airport and we would load trucks and spend the day passing them out."
For example, on Sept. 28 alone, game wardens delivered 2,992 bags of ice, 1,540 MREs and 778 cases of water to rural residents in the five county region.
"One man in Sabine County had a disease where he can't sweat and had to be kept artificially cool, and he didn't have any legs," Carlson said. "Game wardens went by and checked on him daily until they could get him to a hospital. Another lady in her 80s didn't have the strength to hand crank her generator and she had an invalid husband, and the wardens would go by and help her. That's two people that I know would not be here today if not for our game wardens."
At other times, a small gesture could make a big difference in the lives of people struggling to cope in Rita's wake.
"Two game wardens went to Walmart to buy crayons and coloring books for kids they met while patrolling last night, and they're going to deliver those tonight," Carlson said. "In some areas, we've been going door-to-door just to make sure people are safe."
In addition to law enforcement authorities, TPWD Wildlife Division District Leader Gary Calkins of Jasper and a group of 12 district wildlife employees provided Hurricane Rita disaster relief assistance at the request of the Jasper-Newton-Sabine Counties Multi-Jurisdictional Emergency Management Center to help search for people affected by the hurricane in Jasper County. Under Calkins' leadership, this group of 12 worked for several days under adverse conditions, clearing fallen trees and debris from 20 miles of Jasper County roads and checking house-to-house on the welfare of residents impacted by storm winds and power outages.
The lack of power has also hampered efforts to assess damage and begin cleanup and repairs in Texas state parks. Four state parks are still temporarily closed because of Rita, including Martin Dies, Jr., Sabine Pass Battleground, Sea Rim, and Village Creek. These parks are tentatively scheduled to reopen sometime in 2006.
"Right now we're mainly in a security mode, keeping our sites secured and people safe," said Jerry Hopkins, state park regional director for southeast Texas. "After Rita hit, we were anxious to get cleanup crews into the parks. But midstream we had to refocus because we had employees in parks with no water, no food, no gasoline-it was a learning experience. Now we're focused on securing those sites until power is restored and we can begin cleanup and repair. Without power you don't have water and wastewater, you can't run electric tools-it's a crucial first step."
Another regional concern is simply getting state park employees back to work.
"About half of our region employees are on emergency leave," Hopkins said. "In some cases they have no home, since park residences were destroyed. In other cases there's no place to work or no way to get food, water and gasoline in the work area."
For the latest information about state park temporary closures, people should phone the TPWD state park Customer Service Center reservations line at (512) 389-8900. A complete list of state parks, including a statewide map and regional maps showing park locations, is on the TPWD Web site.
Several TPWD wildlife management areas are also assessing Rita damage and beginning cleanup. The J.D. Murphree WMA near Port Arthur is currently accessible to the public, although the office is closed. Public waterfowl hunts scheduled there for November are expected to take place assuming power is restored. The office is currently in minimal operation using portable generators.
"Our staff are making huge sacrifices to live and work on Murphree WMA while their families are scattered across the state living with other family members and friends because they have no electricity at their homes in the Port Arthur area," said Len Polasek, TPWD Wildlife Division regional director.
Polasek said Murphree WMA employees are in the process of surveying damages to the marshes within various WMAs, but the effort is being hampered due to the limited quantity of airboat fuel on hand. The staff has so far been unable to access and check facilities at other WMAs in southeast Texas, including the boardwalk at Lower Neches WMA in Orange County and hawk tower at Candy Abshier WMA on eastern Galveston Bay.
All of TPWD's WMAs and public hunting units remain open to the public, but with a cautionary warning that hunters and other visitors use common sense and good judgment to stay clear of possible unreported hazardous debris. The TPWD is still assessing damage to WMAs in deep East Texas north of Beaumont-Port Arther, especially the extent of blown down trees which may require timber salvage actions in coming months.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Oct. 7, 2005
Quail Hunting Outlook Bright for Parts of Texas
AUSTIN, Texas -- Quail hunters have enjoyed the rewards of ideal range conditions and above normal bird production during the last couple of years. Although hunting prospects are still favorable heading into the 2005-06 season, they probably won't measure up to recent years in a few locales where it has gotten dry over the summer.
Except for the Rolling Plains region, which continues to shine thanks to lush habitat and above normal bobwhite quail production, expectations this season should be tempered, according to state wildlife biologists, due to hot and dry conditions throughout much of the southern and central parts of Texas.
"I think we got spoiled the last two years with cool, moist summers and we're not likely to have that again for awhile," said Robert Perez, quail program leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "Given the base of birds, with carryover from last year, we should have an average year. But, an average year in Texas is still better than most anywhere."
The statewide quail season runs from Oct. 29-Feb. 26. The daily bag limit is 15, 45 in possession. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The bag limit is the maximum number that may be killed during the legal shooting hours in one day.
Ideal quail production occurs in years that remain wet and cool during the spring and early summer months because it extends the window of opportunity for reproduction, according to Perez. He noted hens typically would make as many nesting attempts as conditions allow until they pull off a successful clutch. This year, conditions became hot and dry from late spring through September over a good portion of the state, which could have an impact on extended nesting success.
"Based on field reports, Texas had a regular spring with moisture and quail paired up on time," he noted. "Emily provided some needed moisture in July, but that moisture didn't stay around long. I wouldn't say it's been an extended hatch, but we had a hatch."
South Texas is truly a semi-arid region where much of the annual variation in bobwhite quail populations can be attributed to the timing and amount of rainfall. Over much of South Texas, especially the western half, there was not enough soil moisture (significant rainfall events) to result in successful nesting, Perez noted. The eastern and northern portions of the region did receive enough spring moisture for normal spring nesting to occur and in areas under proper range management should have huntable numbers of bobs. TPWD field staff reported very little production in the mid to latter parts of the summer.
"Based on numerous reports, the best bobwhite hunter opportunities will be found in the pockets of good quail habitat under proper range management, which received adequate rainfall," he said. "I would recommend looking for healthy stands of native bunch grasses and an abundance of forbs."
Much of the Rolling Plains region of Texas experienced excellent range conditions for the majority of the spring and summer. There were was also a good amount of carry-over birds from last season and nesting conditions remained good to excellent over most of the summer. There are plenty of forbs (weeds) and insects (chick food) on the ground and hunting conditions should be excellent. Numerous field staff reported seeing differing size classes of broods throughout the summer, indicating a significant reproductive effort.
Bobwhite hunter opportunities should be plentiful, especially in the southern half of the region, which received the most favorable weather conditions.
In addition to the Rolling Plains region, the Trans-Pecos has received a third year of timely spring and summer rains. As a result, the number of scaled quail observed during annual TPWD quail counts is the highest for the region since 1981. Field staff report excellent production over the better part of the summer and are expecting an excellent season.
The western edge of the Edwards Plateau transitions into the Trans Pecos in an area called the Stockton Plateau where above average scaled quail production has been reported, as well.
Elsewhere around the state quail numbers in the Cross Timbers increased slightly from last year but still remain far below the long-term average for the region. During the past decade, cumulative effects of changes in the quality and quantity of bobwhite habitat have negatively impacted the abundance of quail at the regional level. However, there a certainly hunting opportunities at the local level where good quail habitat remains, especially in the westernmost counties of the region.
TPWD quail surveys also indicate bobwhite numbers in Gulf Prairies are also below the long-term average, but do not reflect bobwhite abundance in the southern Gulf Prairies (south of Victoria) where there are still larger landholdings of native rangeland. According to field reports these areas should have an above average quail crop.
For those who don't have access to private land or are on a budget there are ample opportunities to take part in the upcoming quail season on public land. Wildlife biologists at the Chaparral and James Daughtrey Wildlife Management Areas in South Texas predict there will be quality quail hunts early in the season. The Matador and Gene Howe WMAs in the Rolling Plains are predicting above average public hunting opportunity.
Public hunter opportunities can also be found at Elephant Mountain and Black Gap WMAs in the Trans Pecos. "If you did not get a chance to chase some blues last year, you definitely have another shot at it this year," said Perez. "Sturdy boots, dog boots, and a lot of stamina are recommended."
Access to hunting at these WMAs and others is available with the purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit, which can be bought wherever hunting licenses are sold, online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/licenses/online_sales/ or by calling toll free (800) 895-4248. There is a $5 convenience fee for online and phone purchases.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Oct. 7, 2005
Monarch Butterfly Migration Indicates Species Recovery
AUSTIN, Texas -- The cool front that blew through Texas this week brought the leading edge of the annual migration of millions of monarch butterflies traveling south to their Mexico wintering grounds, and early indications are the monarch population has finally recovered from the severe snow storm that struck overwintering colonies in 2004.
Scientists say monarch numbers stayed at low ebb though the unusually cool summer of 2004, but due to favorable breeding conditions this summer, they appear to be at or above their 11-year population average.
"Hundreds to thousands of monarchs have been streaming by east of Sonora, Texas since Oct. 3," said Mike Quinn, an entomologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, who said recent cool fronts also brought clusters of roosting monarchs to the Abilene area and earlier reports had monarchs moving through Wichita Falls.
"We almost always get reports of good numbers of butterflies from Wichita Falls, Abilene, San Angelo, to Del Rio as these cities sit atop the center of the monarch's Central Flyway though Texas," said Quinn, "but what's really exciting is that were now getting reports of thousands of monarchs as far west as Midland and Odessa. Donna Kelly reported an estimated 20,000 monarchs at a pecan orchard about 30 miles southeast of Midland on Oct. 1. When large numbers of monarchs are reported outside of the core of the Central Flyway, which indicates the butterflies are having a really good year."
The number and distribution of monarchs flying south through Texas appear to confirm predictions by Chip Taylor of the Monarch Watch program based at the University of Kansas that this winter's monarch population "may even exceed the long term average."
Early last week the bulk of the monarchs were still north of the Red River. But Quinn believes the recent cold front "should accelerate their movement on down and give us a better indication of this year's population size."
An ultralight airplane decorated as a monarch butterfly is currently tracking the monarch's migration through Texas. The plane crew (nick-named Papalotzin, Aztec for "royal butterfly") started their journey in southeastern Canada and will end up at the butterfly sanctuaries in central Mexico. The objective of pilot and tracking crew is to increase awareness of the challenges that the monarchs face throughout their astonishing journey to Mexico and back.
The next three weeks represent the last opportunity to assess the migration size before the butterflies all move into Mexico. Scientists are urging the public to help assess the strength of the monarch migration through Texas by reporting when and where double-digit or greater numbers of monarchs are seen this month. Scientists are this year asking people to please not report sightings of individual butterflies, but instead to focus on reporting larger monarch groups. Monarch group sightings may be reported to Quinn by e-mail (Mike.Quinn@tpwd.texas.gov), or by phone at (512) 912-7059.
---
On the Net:
Monarch Watch: http://www.monarchwatch.org/
Papalotzin ultralight project: http://www.papalotzin.com/
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Oct. 7, 2005
Video Can Help Hunters ID Whooping Cranes This Fall
AUSTIN, Texas -- The endangered whooping crane may be the state's most famous "winter Texan." This year as biologists and bird-watchers anticipate the arrival of another record population on the Texas coast, Texas Parks and Wildife Department is offering a new tool for sportsmen to help protect whooping cranes and other similar birds.
"Be Sure Before You Shoot" is a video training tool designed to help goose and sandhill crane hunters make correct identification in the field and avoid take of nongame birds.
Last winter, the Texas flock of whooping cranes, which is the only remaining natural wild flock of whooping cranes in the world, made headlines when it passed the 200 bird mark for the first time since counts began in the 1930s; however, the celebration was marred by an incident in Kansas where a group of sandhill crane hunters pled guilty recently to illegally taking two adult whooping cranes. The two birds later died in captivity.
Shooting deaths of whooping cranes are rare (seven whoopers from the Texas flock are known to have been shot since 1968), due in large part to efforts by state and federal agencies to make sportsmen and other citizens aware of the protected status of the whooping crane. While brochures and web sites have been used to educate hunters and the public in the past, "Be Sure Before You Shoot" is the first product to offer side-by-side identification tips for sportsmen in a video format.
This year biologists anticipate more than 230 whooping cranes, including up to 34 chicks, may reach their wintering grounds on the Texas coast. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock of whooping cranes, which nests in the Northwest Territories of Canada and winters on the mid-Texas coast in the Rockport-Seadrift area, once numbered as low as 15 birds in 1941.
According to Lee Ann Linam, TPWD biologist, "The success story for this endangered species is truly remarkable and is due to cooperative efforts over many years by federal agencies, states, private conservation organizations, private landowners, and sportsmen. However, due to a variety of hazards, migration is the most vulnerable period for whooping cranes. We hope that this video will help increase the safety margin just a bit as whoopers make that 2,500 mile trip south from Canada."
Hunters and bird watchers should be on the lookout for whooping cranes migrating through Texas from mid-October through mid-December. Their migratory path can range from the eastern half of the Texas Panhandle, through the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and south through Austin and Central Texas. Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America, standing nearly five feet tall. They are solid white in color except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched. During migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. They nearly always migrate in small groups of less than six birds, but they may be seen roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller gray sandhill crane.
Anyone sighting a whooping crane is asked to report it to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112 x4644. Sightings can also be reported via e-mail to mark.klym@tpwd.texas.gov. Copies of the 17-minute "Be Sure Before You Shoot" DVD are available for $10 (including shipping) from: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 3000 So. IH-35, Suite 100, Austin, TX 78704. Checks should be made payable to TPWD Nongame Fund. For more information on the video contact Lee Ann Linam at 512-847-9480 or leeann.linam@tpwd.texas.gov.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Oct. 7, 2005
West Texas, Coastal Teens Claim Top Whiz Bang Honors
AUSTIN, Texas -- High school students from Abilene, Knott and Port Lavaca walked away with top shooting honors after 15 leading youth shotgun shooters from 4-H Shooting Sports Clubs across Texas competed in the Whiz Bang state finals at Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo on Sept. 30.
This year's winners were Michael Hahn of Port Lavaca in the senior category; Logan Gaskins of Knott near Big Spring in the junior category; and Miles Rand of Abilene in the sub-junior category.
The top three winners were awarded Browning Gold Sporting Shotguns, courtesy of Browning Arms. Beaumont attorney Mark Faggard also provided custom-made Montana Silversmith belt buckles for each of the top three winners.
Total prizes to all contestants were valued at more $15,000 in supplies and equipment donated specifically for the event. Browning Arms also provided three additional Gold Sporting shotguns for three 4-H Shooting Sports Clubs represented at the shoot. Numerous other prizes that went to all participants included gift certificates for choke tubes courtesy of Briley Manufacturing of Houston and three automatic trap machines courtesy of La Porte, Promatic and Atlas. An additional manual trap machine was provided by Lincoln Traps. Shooting glasses were provided by Decot Hy-Wyd Sport Glasses and a custom gun case was given by Americase. Each of the fifteen finalists were provided with five cases of ammunition from Fiocchi, Winchester and Remington.
Charlie Wilson, Mobile Shooting Range coordinator for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, developed the Whiz Bang more than 12 years ago. About 25 events are hosted by TPWD each year across the state, and the top shooters are selected in three categories.
This year, there was a shoot-off in each category for the first time. Winners were announced and awards were presented by Kim Rhode, Olympic Doubles Trap Gold Medalist. The top three winners and their parents were guests at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo Friday night banquet courtesy of Dallas Arms Collectors Association, Inc.
The sub-junior group consisted of Dustin Butler, Boerne; Judson Chevalier, Coahoma; Chris Clark, Crockett; Kyler Ford, Burleson and Miles Rand, Abilene. Junior contestants include Harrison Chevalier, Coahoma; Logan Gaskins, Knott; J. Henderson, Mansfield; Joseph Rogers, Roanoak and Leo Ybanez, Corpus Christi. Rounding out the senior level participants were Dylan Burg, Stonewall; Michael Hahn, Port Lavaca; Tony Held, Clyde; Mark Minihan, Boerne and Joseph Schreiber, Spring Branch.
At least 10 participants from previous Whiz Bangs have gone on to shoot in collegiate level competition, and 15 have participated in Junior Olympic and International competitions.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
Oct. 7, 2005
Stay Tuned
Information from Texas Parks and Wildlife is available on radio and television, as well as the newsstand.
Radio
Passport to Texas, TPWD's radio series of weekday, 90-second stories, is broadcast on more than 100 Texas stations. For more information, visit the Web.
Video News
TPWD provides video news reports that run in newscasts on numerous Texas stations, as well as on cable and satellite outlets around the nation.
Television
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web.
Magazine
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is always available on newsstands throughout the state and by subscription for $19.95 a year. To subscribe, call (800) 937-9393 or order online.
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On the Net:
Passport to Texas: http://www.passporttotexas.org/
TPWD on PBS: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/tv/
TPW Magazine: http://www.tpwmagazine.com/
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