Hill Country Wildlife
Wildlife and plants in this region include the Texas map turtle, white tailed deer, bats, wild turkeys, bluebonnets, and the unique Guadalupe bass.
The official state fish is the Guadalupe bass. It was chosen to represent the state because it is truly unique to Texas and not found anywhere else on Earth! Although it is called a “bass,” it actually is a member of the sunfish family. This species is generally greenish in color and lives in small streams. At its largest, the Guadalupe bass weighs about three and one half pounds. It is found in parts of the San Antonio, Guadalupe, Colorado, and Brazos Rivers.
The white-tailed deer is a game animal hunted in Texas. By allowing the deer to be hunted, thee deer population can be kept in balance with its food supply. The state is over populated with these deer. An estimate puts the deer population at four million! The deer eat twigs, plants, fruits, and nuts. Male deer (bucks) grow antlers and shed them between December and March. New antlers are grown by the following year. The underside of the deer’s tail is white, hence its name. The tail is usually raised up, showing the white underside when the animal starts to leap away.
The wild turkeys of this region are sometimes called Rio Grande turkeys because this is the location of the only remaining population of wild turkeys in the state. The turkeys we eat at Thanksgiving are grown on farms and are white. The wild turkey has brown and gray feathers and lives in wild, unpopulated areas.
The types of bats found in the Hill Country are Brazilian Free-tailed Bats. They primarily live in caves during their time in Texas, which is spring through mid-July, and then they begin migrating back to Mexico and South America. The new fledglings, born in June, stay until fall then they too migrate south. This species of bats have broad ears, large feet, and half of their tail hangs free, hence its name. Their fur is short, velvety, and reddish to black in color. These bats are also called “house bats” because they will also roost in any space that is dark, dry, and hollow, such as roof overhangs, attics, and spaces between buildings. They are the official state flying mammal of Texas. These Free-tailed bats eat insects. Take care if you encounter any of these bats, as they are known to carry rabies.
Bluebonnets, the official state flower, are found in abundance along highways and on private land particularly in the Hill Country. It is a spring wildflower from the lupine family. Its common name, bluebonnet, probably came from the nineteenth century settlers that came to Texas. The flower is similar in shape to the “bonnets” or hats typically worn by women in that century.
The Texas map turtle is found only in the Colorado River and its tributary streams within the Edwards Plateau of the Hill Country. Females grow larger than males, sometimes reaching up to 7 inches in length. However, it is still the smallest species in the map turtle family. This turtle is dark olive to brown in color with yellow-orange to orange line markings on its shell, head, limbs, and tail. The underside of its head has three yellow or orange spots. The pattern of lines or markings resemble the lines on a map, hence its name. The Texas map turtle eats small shell creatures, such as snails, also plants, and insects. The temperature determines the gender of hatchlings, lower temperatures produce males, and higher temperatures produce females. These turtles are strong swimmers and enjoy basking in the sun.