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Fall 2013          A publication of the Wildlife Division—Getting Texans Involved

Forty Years of the Endangered Species Act

In 1973, President Richard Nixon signed a law that has been a cornerstone of endangered species management in the United States since that day. Like it or hate it, the Endangered Species Act has served to guide species and habitat management, leading to such success stories as the Whooping Crane, the Bald Eagle and others. In this newsletter, field biologists and program staff discuss how they have worked with the Endangered Species Act to benefit wildlife in Texas.

Contentious Coalitions for a Conservation Conundrum

Kerr WMA Vireo Surveys

By Donnie Frels

Some things just go together - biscuits and gravy, hot coffee on a cold morning, camp fires and old friends. It seems easy and comfortable to relate these associations, almost natural. Other things just don't mix Aggies and Longhorns, ex-wives and girlfriends, Seinfeld and Newman. Most folks would put hunters and birders in the latter category although I might disagree. Having experienced both activities and associated with each group, I often hear of hunters enjoying the art of bird watching, albeit most are novices, while sitting in a deer blind enjoying the antics of a cautious road runner or curious green jay. However in my unscientific survey, it seems fewer birders participate in hunting or appreciate the positive ecological impacts regulated hunting activities may produce. In one particular instance, hunters will have a key role in the recovery efforts of an endangered Texas songbird.

Kerr WMA Vireo Surveys

An Endangered Bat with a Tequila Connection

Mexican Long Nosed Bat

By Jess Lucas

Most people have few encounters with bats - they may be seen flying overhead at dusk, drinking from ponds and pools, or if you're lucky, you may have seen them roosting in a tree, cave, or old building. While some might not consider seeing a bat a positive sign, some cultures believe bats to be a symbol of good fortune and luck. Whatever your belief, bats are an ecological wonder, providing pest control, seed dispersal, and pollination around the world.
Mexican Long Nosed Bat

Photo © Carson Brown

The Endangered Species Act Helps Restore the Endangered Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle

By Donna J. Shaver, Ph.D.

When I began working with the Kemp's ridley sea turtle restoration effort at Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS), Texas in 1980 the population was plummeting. Several agencies and many people were working together to try to save the species, but some feared that it could already be too late. Fortunately, all these years later, the Kemp's ridley population has increased and the outlook for the population is much more optimistic, thanks in large part to the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).
Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle

Texas Prairie Dawn Conservation Success in Houstlandia

Texas Prairie Dawn

By Jason Singhurst

Texas prairie dawn (Hymenoxys texana) or prairie dawn is a member of the sunflower family and a globally rare endemic plant (found nowhere else but Texas). Prairie dawn is a small, slender tap rooted annual with 1-7 stems that ranges between 1.5 to 7 inches tall. The plants are erect to spreading and usually leafless below branches. The plants arise from a rosette in late December or January with somewhat fleshy leaves. The yellow flowering plants bloom from late February through April.
Texas Prairie Dawn Conservation Success in Houstlandia

Threatened and Endangered Fishes of Texas

Devils River Minnow

By Gary Garrett and Megan Bean

To a great extent, the Endangered Species Act works as intended and helps us to address issues of threat and work to avoid losses to our natural resources. Not only does the ESA provide legal protection, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service convenes teams of experts (Recovery Team) to assess status and make recommendations for protection and recovery.
Devils River Minnow

Photo © G. Sneegas

Bald Eagle Recovery in Texas

Bald Eagle in Flight

By Brent Ortego

The Bald Eagle is the national symbol of the United States and one of the most charismatic birds in Texas. It is a species that when observed, people still will stop to watch. It gives them a touch of wilderness. It is also a species which almost disappeared from Texas as a nester. This is its story.
Bald Eagle in Flight

From Fatmuckets to Pimplebacks

By Marsha May

Texas Pimpleback

There was once a time in Texas when all its rivers and streams supported dense populations of freshwater mussels. These invertebrates were the greatest biomass in these systems. Now many of their populations are dramatically in decline or gone, not only in Texas but nationwide. So why are mussels that look so much like rocks, so important? Well, these amazing bivalves serve vital functions in aquatic ecosystems, and one of the most vital functions is as a natural vacuum cleaner.
Read more of Texas Pimpleback

The Attwater's Prairie-Chicken and the Endangered Species Act

By Mike Morrow and Terry Rossignol

Historically, Attwater's prairie-chicken (APC) populations approached 1 million individuals on an estimated 6 million acres of coastal prairie along the Gulf of Mexico. Today, less than 75 free-ranging individuals remain in two isolated populations: the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (APC NWR) in Colorado County and on private lands in Goliad County. Both of these populations have been supplemented with captive-reared birds.
Read more

Houston Toad Habitat Enhancement Projects in Bastrop County: 2009-2012

By Meredith Longoria
originally in the LIP Bulletin Summer 2013 used with permission.

The Houston toad has experienced monumental challenges and historical lows in population between 2009 and today. The Lost Pines area of Bastrop County (approximately 124,000 acres) still supports the largest remaining population of the federally endangered Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis), despite the rapidly changing conditions of the county's landscape.
Read More

The Recovery of the Brown Pelican

By Brent Ortego

The Brown Pelican can be found everywhere along the Coast. They can be observed sitting on most docks, panhandling at fishing piers, and diving for fish over the bay and Gulf. They have great abilities at gliding just over the waves and are the third most abundant colonial waterbird nester on the Texas Coast.
Read More

A Mystery Solved Leads to a Recovering Species

By Mark Klym

The majestic Whooping Crane with its amazing 8 foot wingspan is the largest of our North American birds. This amazing bird once populated the grasslands of central North America in numbers as high as 1500 birds at the turn of the 20th century. By 1949 this amazing population had declined to 31 birds, and the lone remaining resident Whooping Crane in neighboring Louisiana was taken into a breeding program to protect her genetic line.
Read more

The Back Porch
Recovery and the Endangered Species Act

By Mark Klym

It was early evening and we were nearing the end of a long ride. As we were driving across a long stretch of highway, a juvenile Bald Eagle chose to swoop gracefully down and glide almost effortlessly in front of the car - "drafting" off the vehicle in front of us and keeping pace with us as we both wound our way through the mountains.
Read more

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?
  • Did you know that historically fire was the prime element in controlling brush encroachment in Texas?

Wild Stuff!


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