Tag Archives: Texas Wildlife

Wild Cat in Neighborhood Turns out to be Mountain Lion

No automatic alt text available.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that a mountain lion was captured in a Laredo subdivision on February 25.  The secretive cats are rarely seen in the wild – much less observed in urban areas.  The lion was tranquilized after being located in the Santa Rita subdivision.  The cat has been turned over to the State Game Warden who will assess its condition and likely release it back into the wild in a more remote location.

Photo from the Laredo PD’s facebook page.  Nice of them to cover the lion’s head to protect its privacy rights.

Today in Texas History – October 19

From the Annals of the Vandals – In 1889, H.S. Barber carved his name in Devil’s Sinkhole near Rocksprings. The 350 foot deep sinkhole was first encountered by settlers years before, but Barber was the first known person to explore the cave.  The vertical cavern is the largest known single-chamber cavern in Texas. The cave opening is a shaft approximately 50 feet wide with a 140 foot vertical drop into the cavern. The shaft widens to a diameter of over 320 feet and reaches a total depth of over 350 feet. The cave is home  to more than three million Mexican free-tail bats.  It is now part of the Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area and can be visited by making advanced reservations.

Your Daily Dose of either Fascination or Disgust

And no Red, isn’t talking about the Trump Administration.  He is looking at photos of a mysterious sea creature that washed up on the Texas coast near Texas City  in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Preeti Desai of the National Audubon Society spotted the creature while assessing damage from the storm with other conservationists.  She posted pictures on Twitter asking biologists to clear up the mystery.

The most likely identification appears to be that the animal was a fangtooth snake-eel, also known as the tusky eel, which is native to the Gulf of Mexico. The Daily Mail has the full story.

Must Kill Turtle Before Turtle Kills Me

Terry Wayne Washington of Austin has been charged with cruelty to a non-livestock animal and unauthorized taking of wildlife after beating a snapping turtle to death with a claw hammer.  Washington was fishing with a friend in Austin’s Lady Bird Lake when he snagged the 40 pound reptile.  Washington was apparently annoyed that the turtle had been chasing away fish and decided to dispatch it with the tool at hand.  According to witnesses, Washington struck the snapper at least ten times finally crushing its skull.  Washinton would like have escaped trouble but for Geoffrey Frank who was jogging on the hike and bike trail around the lake and caught the last few blows on his cell phone.

After turning himself in, Washington claimed self-defense and that he was protecting himself from the raging reptile – claims which are belied by the video evidence.   Now Red has seen a few snappers in his time and you don’t want to mess with them.  But if you can’t out run a speeding turtle, then maybe you should consider staying at home.

Birds Gone Wild

2016web_email.png

The Great Texas Birding Classic celebrates its 20th version this year.  The event has changed over the years, but it is a great opportunity for the amateur birder to strut his or her stuff.  The Palestine Herald Tribune has the details.  The event is open to anyone and you can sign up here.  The deadline is April 1, so don’t miss out on the worm.

Next month, hundreds of birders will flock to the coast, forests, prairies and mountains of Texas to compete in the nation’s biggest, longest and wildest bird watching tournament. The registration deadline for the 20th annual Great Texas Birding Classic, which runs from April 15 to May 15, is April 1.

Since the Classic started 20 years ago, a lot has changed. The competition has expanded statewide to record participation, and it’s no longer just for experts since new categories appeal to budding naturalists and avid birders alike.

Competitors can choose from more than 40 tournament categories to test their birding skills, participating for as little as half a day or as long as a week in a statewide tourney. Participants form a team and compete in such categories as the Big Sit!, in which birders must remain within a 17-foot-diameter circle to count their birds. Other categories include a sunrise-to-noon event, youth-only tournaments, a human-powered contest and one tournament held entirely within Texas state parks.

Today in Texas History – October 30

From the Annals of the Wilds –  In 1984, Pres. Ronald Reagan signed the Texas Wilderness Act of 1984 establishing five new wilderness areas in East Texas. The five were the Big Slough Wilderness Area, Indian Mounds Wilderness Area, Little Lake Creek Wilderness Area, Turkey Hill Wilderness Area and Upland Island Wilderness Area.  These areas were preserved from logging and development and now serve as islands of wilderness in Texas’ National Forests.  In 1979, the  Secretary of Agriculture had recommended the establishment of three wilderness areas totaling 10,712 acres. Texas congressman John Bryant sponsored legislation that would have set up ten wilderness areas in Texas covering 65,000 acres, but the bill went nowhere until citizen support expanded in the district of Congressman Charles Wilson, where three of the wildernesses lie. Wilson agreed to a compromise of five wilderness areas totaling 34,700 acres. That compromise was made possible by the willingness of lumber giant Temple-Eastex to trade some of its land inside Upland Island and Indian Mounds for Forest Service land outside.

Imagine a Republican President today signing a bill that creates wilderness areas.

Bastrop Chickens Out?

Red was unaware that Bastrop had a free-range chicken sanctuary.  But the formerly bucolic tolerance of the fearless fowl is waning as residents complain of chicken overpopulation, noise and chicken waste.  Residents of Bastrop having led the charge against Jade Helm 15, now have something real to complain about.  Red has observed that the greatest myth about roosters is that they crow at dawn.  They crow all the damn time. The Wall Street Journal reports on chicken controversy.

A flock of feral chickens has been protected by law in Bastrop since 2009, given free rein to roam on a stretch of a paved road named Farm Street.

On a recent afternoon, cars slowed as roosters and hens crowed and clucked and strutted across the street, which is lined with bright yellow signs declaring, “Slow: Farm Street Historic Chicken Sanctuary.”

The flock is believed to date back to bygone farms in this town of 7,856 people some 30 miles southeast of Austin. The birds are beloved by the neighborhood, and when the city attempted to round them up, Farm Street residents pushed for sanctuary status.

Now, however, some in Bastrop are squawking. The birds are proliferating and migrating to other parts of town, where their all-night crowing and indiscriminate release of avian feculence isn’t considered charming.

Mayor Ken Kesselus has a message for the chickens who wander beyond the Farm Street sanctuary: You’re fair game.

A “bad rooster” responsible for flower-bed scratching and other offenses personally spurred the mayor to action last December.

“I organized a posse,” says Mr. Kesselus, a 68-year-old retired Episcopal preacher, “but we didn’t have any luck.”

The problem was that it was a “senior posse,” he says, and the bird easily flummoxed the older men for hours with his ability to scamper and fly. Undeterred, Mr. Kesselus returned the following day with some neighborhood teens and a fishing net. It took some effort, but they got their prey, he crows.

City council member Kay Garcia McAnally, author of the chicken ordinance, says the birds shouldn’t be blamed for straying from Farm Street.

“Unfortunately, they can’t read the signs,” she says.

Photo from www.365bastrop.com

Cricket Season is Almost Here

Red remembers walking around the Capitol Building on a hot September night many years ago and it seemed the whole façade was swarming with crickets.  Red had flashbacks to that invasion of the giant grasshoppers movie that scared the living daylights out of him on one of his first sleepovers.  The experts claim that conditions might be just right for another massive cricket invasion in the next few weeks.  KXAN has the details.

 It’s the time of year when people will hear more chirping as crickets start to pop up around Central Texas.  “The best indication of a cricket outbreak is past history and in the past, Texas has experienced big cricket outbreaks,” explained Alex Wild, Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas. He said those outbreaks in past years happened when there was a lot of food for crickets to eat, followed by a dry summer and then rain at the end of summer.

“Only time can tell, it looks like it might be a good season, but until we see the washes of crickets piling up on our porches, it’s going to be hard to predict,” said Wild.

Exterminators like Joe Cantu, Vice President of Operations for Bug Master, said they tend to see more cricket activity between August and September. “It’s one of those pests where nobody wants to have around. It’s a nuisance pest, they’re overwhelming, they really smell, so the phone starts ringing,” said Cantu.

Experts suggest people control the lighting around their homes and businesses because crickets are attracted to the lights at night. Cantu said the critters will harbor in cracks and crevices during the day. “If you see them during the day pretty active, that’s a big problem,” said Cantu. “There’s a heavy pressure of crickets if you start seeing a lot of them during the day.”

“I don’t know what people’s issues are with crickets, I personally find them charming, but generally I don’t think businesses like having insects washed up in big numbers around their entrances,” said Wild.  “Sometimes if they’re are enough of them, they’ll pile up after mating when they’re at the end of their life cycle, they’ll just pile up and the bodies will pile up and that can lead to some pretty bad smells.”  Wild said crickets are, “harmless animals, they don’t bite or sting, it’s mainly just the nuisance of having things around that you weren’t expecting.”

One place where they may be unexpected are football games where the crickets are attracted to the lights.  “They might have just wanted to see the game but I’m not going to speak for the crickets,” said Wild jokingly.

Photo from Premium Crickets  – who knew?

Today in Texas History – May 11

From the Annals of Bass Fishing –  In 1964, construction began to create what would become the largest reservoir in Texas.  The building of the Toledo Bend Dam on the Sabine River eighty miles north of Beaumont would ultimately create the Toledo Bend Reservoir. The reservoir takes in parts of four Texas Counties (Newton, Sabine, Panola, and Shelby) and two Louisiana Parishes (Sabine and De Soto). The lake is the largest in the South, and the fifth largest by surface area in the United States  The dam was built Texas and Louisiana, without any assistance from the federal government.  When completed in 1969, the Toledo Bend Reservoir provides water for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational purposes, as well as hydroelectric power and flood control for the lower Sabine.  The lake is most famous for its bass fishing opportunities and hosts numerous tournaments.