Eye on Nature - Texas Parks and Wildlife E-Newsletter

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Spring 2012          A publication of the Wildlife Division—Getting Texans Involved

The Trans-Pecos

The western region of Texas is a land of great diversity. Desert lowlands give way to mountain forests and canyon lands with rugged sides and seasonal streams. This landscape diversity presents some interesting challenges to the land manager, and the authors of our spring newsletter explore the plants, animals and fishes that are found in this unique region. Scroll down to find guidance, reports and a surprising historical perspective of the wildlife of the Trans-Pecos.

Pronghorn Problems in the Trans-Pecos


By Shawn Gray

Pronghorn are unique, highly specialized, icons of the prairie. Being the only remnant species of a family that evolved millions of years ago, pronghorn are the ultimate symbol of perseverance and adaptation. However, recent population declines in the Marfa Plateau are putting the pronghorn's perseverance to the test.

Pronghorn Problems in the Trans-Pecos

Understanding the Plants
A Landowner's First Step in Wildlife Management

Trans Pecos Landscape

By Philip Dickerson

After 28 years in the natural resource field you get to see a lot changes take place. Many advances have been made and much knowledge learned. But it's still somewhat surprising to me that folks will purchase a property on the internet without having seen it or without having reasonable knowledge of the plants that occur there. In my opinion, the plants have a lot to do with potential wildlife values and property values.
Understanding the Plants

Mountain Lions in Texas

Mountain Lions in Texas

By Jonah Evans

Large predators inspire awe, excitement, and fear. While many people are intrigued by their strength and prowess, others are more wary of the potential danger to humans and livestock. Efforts to exterminate large predators were once widespread, with federal bounties offered for numerous species. Of the 6 large predators (gray & red wolf, grizzly & black bear, jaguar, and mountain lion) known to have occurred in Texas when Europeans first arrived, all but mountain lions were wiped out of the state. Black bears have made a modest comeback in the last few decades by crossing over from neighboring states and Mexico.
Read more of Mountain Lions in Texas

Staffing Changes at Texas Parks and Wildlife

By Mark Klym

Fall of 2011 brought some interesting changes to the Wildlife Diversity Program at Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Read more about Wildlife Diversity Program

The Desert Bighorn Sheep Restoration Effort:
A Work in Progress

Bighorn Sheep

By Froylan Hernandez

Historically, the native Texas desert bighorn sheep occupied 15-16 mountain ranges in the Trans-Pecos region. In the 1880s, an estimated 1500 bighorns inhabited these mountain ranges and possibly 2500+ prior to 1880. However, by the mid-1940s they had disappeared from much of their native mountain ranges. And by the early 1960's, the native bighorns had been extirpated. Their demise is attributed to unregulated hunting, the introduction of domestic sheep and goats that competed with bighorns for resources, domestic sheep/goat diseases that bighorns had not been exposed too, and net-wire fencing that impeded natural movements in search of food and water.
Read more the Bighorn Sheep

Fishes of the Texas Desert

By Stephanie Shelton and Gary Garrett

Fishes of the Texas Desert

Organisms of the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas present biologists with some of the most fascinating examples of how to exist in an extreme environment. Unfortunately, they also present us with some of the most formidable challenges to resource conservation and ensuring survival of these sometimes rare species. The mission of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is to make sure that future generations of Texans can count on healthy, intact ecosystems such as the Chihuahuan Desert, but we could not do it without the many partners we work with (e.g., state and federal agencies, NGOs and universities) and most importantly the stewardship of the private landowners of Texas.
Fishes of the Texas Desert

San Solomon Springs Cienega

By Mark Lockwood

San Solomon Springs Cienega

Although Balmorhea State Park is best known for the spring-fed pool, it is also an import conservation area. San Solomon Spring flows at a rate of at least 15 million gallons a day and prior to the construction of the pool by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in the 1930s this spring formed a large ciénega. These desert marshes provided important habitat for a wide variety of aquatic organisms. San Solomon Spring is home to a number of species of conservation concern including two fishes and three invertebrates that are either listed as endangered or threatened or are candidates for listing. This makes the 45-acre Balmorhea State Park a very important conservation area.
Read more of San Solomon Springs Cienega

Saltcedar Beetle and The Rio Grande

By Kristi Drake


The life of the Rio Grande starts in Colorado as a clear, spring and snow-fed stream in the high elevations of the San Juan Mountains. Cold and crisp, its water rages down the middle of New Mexico to El Paso and Cuidad Juárez. A drastic change in flow occurs here as the Rio Grande starts to form the 1,248 miles of International Boundary between Texas and Mexico.
Read more of Saltcedar Beetle and The Rio Grande

21st Century Dinosaurs - Horned Lizards in West Texas

By Lee Ann Linam

Horned Lizard

What looks like a miniature dinosaur, has horns on its heads, spikes on its sides, can harvest rainwater with its scales and squirts blood from its eyes? Everyone (or at least every Texan) knows that's a horned toad!
Horned Lizard

Vegetation Changes

By Calvin Richardson

Considerable information about historical Trans-Pecos landscapes (prior to Anglo settlement) has been accumulated from survey records, journals, photographs, and various other records from early explorers of the region.
Vegetation Changes

Volunteering at the Big Bend Ranch State Park:
How I Got Here

By Gary Nored

My journey to this place began over 20 years ago on the Rancheria trail. I'd been hiking and exploring West Texas for many years then, and the trail passed through country I'd wanted to see for many years. It was a long hike for a city guy who worked a sedentary job, but I wasn't worried. Had I not already hiked the South Rim and spent two nights there with three days' water? Had I not hiked the famous Dodson Trail that circles the entire southern portion of the Chisos mountains, and lived to tell of it? Pshaw! Piece of cake.
Read more of Volunteering

On The Back Porch
What we do: Work as a Trans-Pecos Wildlife Biologist

By Billy Tarrant

Several years back, during a social event at a TPWD Wildlife Division Staff Meeting, I subjected many of my unprepared coworkers to an impromptu poll questioning their professional desires. My question was simple: "As a wildlife biologist, putting all other personal conflicts aside, what part of Texas would you most want to work in?" Without exception, each of my victims responded that the Trans-Pecos would be their first choice. And, without exception, they each followed that up with several personal conflicts that would prohibit them from ever working in the Trans-Pecos.
Read more of Work as a Trans-Pecos Wildlife Biologist

Did You Know?

  • Did you know that grasslands were once widespread in west Texas?
  • Did you know that Texas is home to three species of horned lizards?
  • Did you know that beetles are now being used to help control salt cedar in Texas?
  • Did you know that the Desert Bighorn Sheep population in Texas may be as high as 1100 individuals?
  • Did you know that Texas is home to two diverse mountain lion populations?

Wild Stuff!

Introduction to Texas Turtles Ad
Introduction to Texas
Turtles Booklet

Send an email request to mark.klym@tpwd.state.tx.us


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