|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-06-14                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
June 14, 2004
Powers Inducted Into Texas Fishing Hall of Fame
ATHENS, Texas -- For his ongoing efforts as a spokesman, role model and mentor for physically challenged outdoorsmen, Michael "Shorty" Powers has become the newest member of the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Powers was recognized here at the recent Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Budweiser ShareLunker Banquet.
For the last 35 years, Powers has built a reputation across the state for his "can do" spirit in promoting fishing and hunting participation among the physically challenged. An avid bass angler, Powers has organized numerous fishing derbies over the years, including his Caddo Lake National Bass Championship Tournament for the physically challenged and his annual Bachman Lake Extravaganza. His organization, Turning P.O.I.N.T. (Paraplegics on Independent Nature Trips), is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Powers has served on several advisory committees, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's state parks and freshwater fisheries groups and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation's national advisory board.
In addition to Powers' induction into the Hall of Fame, several others were recognized for their fishing achievements this past year as part of the Budweiser ShareLunker Awards program.
The Budweiser ShareLunker season ended April 30 with 15 largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more entered into the program. One fish was caught, marked and released, only to be caught and entered into the program for the second time. Another angler likely released his chance to become the first to "fourpeat" and submit four fish to the program in the same year.
This year's overall Angler of the Year honors went to Jason Reyes of Humble for his 15.1-pound largemouth entry caught from a private lake north of Houston on Feb. 20.
Once again, Lake Fork led all water bodies for the most entries in the program with seven, bringing the total number of Budweiser ShareLunkers from this trophy bass factory to more than 220.
"We had a couple of high points this year," said ShareLunker Program Director David Campbell. "We had two water body records, including the 14.64 out of Casa Blanca; that lake surprised me the most. You don't expect smaller lakes like that to contribute but it shows that they can produce. Rumor is there were several more caught on that lake, but the anglers didn't know about the program."
Campbell said he continues to be impressed with the distribution of entries into the program, with quality bass being landed from a variety of different lakes throughout the state.
One unusual entry this year was actually a repeat ShareLunker. The fish was first caught on Lake Fork last year and the angler opted to have it released into his private lake. This year, the angler caught a big bass from his private lake, but didn't think it was the same fish and entered it into the program. Identification pit tags implanted in the fish proved it to be the same one he caught the year before.
The Budweiser ShareLunker Program is headquartered at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center here. The visitor center is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday with daily tours of the hatchery. Additional information about the Budweiser ShareLunker Program, rules and regulations, and previous entries is available online (http://tpwd.texas.gov/fish/infish/hatchery/tffc/).

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
June 14, 2004
Reyes Honored As Sharelunker Angler of the Year
ATHENS, Texas -- Jason Reyes of Humble was honored at a banquet May 29 at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center for having caught the largest Budweiser ShareLunker of the 2004 season
A total of 14 anglers entered 15 largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more in the program. Richard Mims of Laredo caught two big bass from Lake Casa Blanca in January.
Each angler received ShareLunker clothing, a certificate and a fiberglass replica of their trophy made by Lake Fork Taxidermy. Reyes also received a lifetime fishing license for being the Texas resident entering the largest fish in the program.
At the banquet, ShareLunker program director David Campbell expressed TPWD's thanks for anglers' support for the program and called them "the finest conservationists in the state."
Also honored during the evening was Michael ("Shorty") Powers of Terrell, who was inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in recognition of his work involving physically challenged people in outdoor activities.
Photographs of the evening's events, including all the honorees, may be viewed on the Budweiser ShareLunker Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/fish/infish/hatchery/tffc/sharelunker.htm).

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
June 14, 2004
Texas Plans to Protect Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
LUBBOCK, Texas -- A working group committee of representatives from ranching and farming organizations, environmental groups, state and federal biologists, private landowners and others has completed a Texas plan to conserve the black-tailed prairie dog and its grassland habitat. The species is currently a candidate for possible listing as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The management plan created by the Texas Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Working Group sets a goal to have 293,129 acres of occupied prairie dog habitat in Texas by 2011. This represents one percent of the original available habitat in Texas as estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Preliminary estimates indicate there is currently 150,000 to 170,000 acres of occupied prairie dog habitat in the state, with a final inventory to be completed this summer. This acreage figure is based on aerial photo interpretation and subsequent ground truthing from county roads.
"Part of the good news in Texas is we have more than twice the occupied prairie dog habitat than was originally thought, which was around 68,000 acres based on a 1991 study," said Derrick Holdstock, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's black-tailed prairie dog program coordinator.
"It's also important to note that regardless of the final decision on whether to list the prairie dog as threatened, the State of Texas and our partners in the working group are committed to implementing this management plan," Holdstock said. "It really doesn't matter whether it is on or off the list in terms of the Texas plan."
Work to develop the Texas Black-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation and Management Plan began in 1999 following petitions by environmental groups for the USFWS to list the black-tailed prairie dog as threatened. The Texas working group is part of a multi-state effort to restore the species.
The Texas plan has six goals: (1) Determine the current population size of black-tailed prairie dogs in Texas and establish a long-term monitoring program, (2) Develop and implement an effective education and outreach program, (3) Develop management options and guidelines that conserve prairie dogs at long-term sustainable levels, (4) Review and make recommendations for regulatory changes in the status of black-tailed prairie dogs, (5) Identify research needs and establish a research program that facilitates long-term viability of black-tailed prairie dogs in Texas, and (6) Implement the plan.
"We don't want to prevent listing the prairie dog as threatened," said Roger Haldenby of Plains Cotton Growers, a working group member. "We want to preclude the need to list the species by taking steps to make sure it remains part of the landscape and ecology of the plains."
The 25-member working group represents diverse stakeholders, from environmental groups like the Texas Panhandle Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy to agriculture interests like the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Farm Bureau. (See plan for complete list.)
Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are important for healthy grassland ecosystems. Their burrows and surrounding low-cut vegetation provide habitat for a variety of other species, including western burrowing owls, mountain plovers, and the endangered black-footed ferret (currently extinct in Texas). Basic prairie dog biology and life history is on the TPWD Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/nature/wild/mammals/prairie.htm).
In 1905, early explorer Vernon Bailey estimated there were 800 million prairie dogs covering 57 million acres in Texas. Since then, prairie dog numbers have been reduced by a variety of factors. Threats to prairie dogs that are currently being evaluated include conversion of habitat to other uses, introduction of sylvatic plague, unregulated poisoning and trapping, recreational shooting; lack of state and federal regulations to conserve the species; and over-use for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes.
Besides the overall occupied habitat goal, the Texas working group has agreed to recommend a goal advanced by the interstate prairie dog conservation team. This would establish at least one prairie dog complex greater than 5,000 acres in Texas, and with at least 10 percent of the occupied acres in complexes greater than 1,000 acres. A complex is defined as a group of prairie dog colonies or towns no more than 4.3 miles apart.
"We probably already have that," said Holdstock, referring to the desired number and size of complexes in Texas. "What we need is to increase our total occupied acreage."
The management plan does not restrict landowners from controlling prairie dogs, but it does offer incentives to restore prairie dogs and the grasslands upon which they and other species rely. The plan lists various government and nonprofit programs that offer financial grants, free land management advice and other technical assistance.
Such incentives are getting a friendlier reception these days. Holdstock says years of work by the Texas working group have coincided with a new way of thinking about prairie dogs that is developing among ranchers and farmers.
L.H.Webb owns and operates the 11,000-acre Seven Cross Ranch in Gray and Wheeler counties in the eastern Panhandle. He's also a member of the Texas working group.
"The day I was asked to serve on this working group, a prairie dog ran across the road about two miles from the nearest colony," Webb said. "Just like that dog was out of his area, I was out of mine. I was raised to always fight the prairie dog. But I've learned they can be an asset to a ranch, either through nature tourism or limited recreational hunting. We don't have to try to eradicate them to win on this deal, but that's not the traditional ranch way of thinking."
Prairie dogs may even benefit cattle ranching operations in some cases.
"Several studies show that when prairie dogs graze perennial grass, they keep it at an earlier growth stage with higher nutrient content," Holdstock said. "Typically, in summer, if grasses are not grazed, they'll get to a certain height and will cure and then the nutrient content goes down. With prairie dogs keeping the grass lower, you get that constant growth stage, so cattle don't have to eat as much to get the same nutrients. This requires the right balance, because if you have too many prairie dogs or cattle, you're reducing the quantity of forage more than adding to its quality. We're recommending studies to look at the effects of prairie dog colonies on cattle ranching, specifically on weight gains and how that translates to dollar signs."
A related side-issue involving prairie dogs is plague. Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague, was detected this spring in fleas from wild prairie dogs in Dallam County in the Texas Panhandle. This disease was originally introduced into the U.S. around 1900 in San Francisco and found its way to the Texas Panhandle around 1946. It breaks out and recedes occasionally in local areas, but has never caused large-scale problems for people in Texas. TPWD works on the wildlife aspects of plague outbreaks, partnering with the Texas Department of Health, which handles the human health aspects. A TDH news release about recent plague occurrences is online (http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/news/b%5Fnew517.htm).
Connected with rebuilding prairie dog colonies is the idea of translocating dogs from one area to another. Like the other elements of the Texas plan, such translocation would be done in voluntary cooperation with private landowners in ways that respect property rights and livelihoods.
"Translocation is happening right now," Holdstock said, "although it's hampered a bit by FDA monkeypox restrictions. At least two relocators in Lubbock have applied for and received case-by-case exemptions from the FDA restrictions. Basically, this is accepting prairie dogs from landowners who have too many and taking them to those who don't have any or want more."
"Prairie dogs can be a source of income for a landowner, whether it be nature tourism or varmint hunting. We have some ranchers who lease land for prairie dog hunting, charging a small daily fee. This hunting is very sustainable, since prairie dogs get gun shy very quickly. There is no data out there that say any good size colony 15-to-20 acres or larger has ever been shot out. Landowners that hunt prairie dogs are protective of their colonies, they are a source of income."
Prairie dogs are currently a nongame species in Texas, with no closed hunting season or daily bag limit restrictions, although a valid hunting license is required.
Anyone can see the Texas Black-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation and Management Plan on the working group Web site (http://www.texasprairiedog.org/). Comments about the plan or questions about prairie dogs in Texas should go to Holdstock at derrick.holdstock@tpwd.texas.gov, (806) 742-2800 or Heather Whitlaw at heather.whitlaw@tpwd.texas.gov, (806) 742-6888, ext 242.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
June 14, 2004
TPWD Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Illegal Fishing Doesn't Pay -- May 21, Game Wardens made a sweep on the Angelina River removing all illegal fishing devices. Wardens found several unattended and illegal trotlines and hoop nets.
Reason To Run -- May 22, a Tyler County Game Warden and a Cadet responded to a fishing violation call on the lower Neches River where several fishing camps are located. While driving through a hunting club to gain access, the wardens met a truck with the tailgate down and noticed a hoop net and ice chest in the bed. Upon observing the wardens, the suspects fled and a short pursuit ensued. After a short foot chase, both men were arrested by the warden for possession of marijuana, resisting arrest and fleeing.
A Day in the Busy Life -- May 25, an Orange County Game Warden had a busy hour while patrolling the Sabine River. He cited two local men for possession of drug paraphernalia, another man for possession of eight hoop nets, and then arrested one local man for Boating While Intoxicated. Cases are pending.
Amazing Recovery -- Recently, Chambers County Game Wardens responded to an auto accident where an individual had driven off the road into Turtle Bayou. They were able to recovery the body, but they were not able to locate the vehicle due to recent heavy rain that caused strong currents. Four days later, the water level receded, and a vehicle was pulled from the bayou. Once the vehicle was on land, it was discovered not to be the vehicle they were searching for. Inside the vehicle pulled from the bayou was another body. After further investigation, it turned out the body and the vehicle had been missing for nine years.
Double Tragedy -- May 30, Polk County Game Wardens responded to a call involving a double drowning on Lake Livingston. A 52-year-old League City woman fell off a pontoon boat during rough waters and was injured. Her 48-year-old brother jumped in to assist. The boat was still underway and both family members drowned. Both bodies have been recovered.
In the Nick of Time -- May 30, Harris County Game Wardens were patrolling the San Jacinto River near Magnolia Gardens. People on the bank were waving and yelling and pointing toward a recliner chair type air mattress that was in the middle of the river. They approached the air mattress and discovered a 3-year-old girl on the float. The crying child was rescued and returned to her mother.
Multiple Charges Filed in North Texas Incident -- May 30, a Grayson County Game Warden, Grayson County Sheriff's Official, and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent checked a boat and found six adult men videotaping three girls, ages 17-18 as the young girls stripped. All nine individuals in the boat were arrested. Charges of making alcohol available to minors, public intoxication, minor in possession, water safety violations and possession of dangerous drugs were filed. Cases are pending.
Driving Me Crazy -- May 31, a Titus County Game Warden responded to Lake Bob Sandlin reference a car in the lake. Apparently a jealous boyfriend used his vehicle to push his girlfriend's vehicle into the lake. The boyfriend was charged with Driving While Intoxicated.
A Violator With a Conscience -- May 22, an Abilene resident called a Taylor County Game Warden and advised that he had just bought a boat and it had an expired decal on it. The man was headed to Brownwood to go fishing. The warden advised him that he would probably get a citation if he went. On Monday, the same person came into the office and inquired about transferring the boat. At that time, he advised an administrative assistant that he had paid $6,500 for the boat. The next day he came in and presented an application that indicated that he paid $1,000 for the boat. The assistant called the warden and he contacted the suspect and explained the law to him. The man came back in and advised the assistant that he couldn't sleep at night because he actually paid $10,000 for the boat and needed to pay about $500 more in sales tax.
Accurate Assessment -- May 23, a Game Warden checked a couple of bank fishermen in Rockport. When asked how their day had gone, both subjects simultaneously answered "great" and "terrible." He asked to look in their ice chest so he could determine how their day had been. A 33-inch black drum revealed that their day was "great" and about to go "terrible." Case is pending.
Wrong Answer, Pal -- May 22, a Grayson County Game Warden observed a spotlighter shining his light from a road in the south part of Grayson County. Upon contact, the warden found that the person had a loaded gun beside him. When asked what he was hunting, he replied, "Anything that moves." Hunting in closed season charges were filed. Cases are pending.
Unhappy Days -- On May 30, a Grayson County Game Warden, Grayson County Sheriff's Official, and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent arrested an individual for BWI. The subject refused to give a breath sample but was convinced he was "The FONZ." He performed the nine-step walk and turn continuously for three repetitions. Case is pending.
The Hat Won't Keep You Afloat -- May 30, a Parker County Game Warden filed a felony BWI on a person on the Brazos River. The man was riding a Personal Watercraft wearing a cowboy hat but no lifejacket. Case is pending.
Still Wrong -- May 15, a Jefferson County Game Warden was checking fishermen and found a person with two untagged redfish and had exceeded the bag limit. The next day, the warden was again checking fishermen and saw the same person. He asked what he had caught and the person said, "No redfish." But when his cooler was checked, he found two oversized black drum! Cases are pending.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
June 14, 2004
Stay Tuned
Information from Texas Parks and Wildlife is available on radio and television, as well as the newsstand.
Passport to Texas, TPWD's radio series of weekday, 90-second stories is broadcast on about 100 Texas stations. Airing the week of June 7-11, We'll tell you how a Central Texas county is making sure its local river is accessible to everyone. Plus, do you know how many rivers and streams there are in Texas? Before you get out a map and start counting, we'll tell you.
For more information, visit the Web (http://www.passporttotexas.org/).
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.
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. The episode that airs the week of June 13-20, Problems both natural and man-made threaten the Rio Grande; Balmorhea State Park; noisy woodpeckers; homemade bat cave; reel repair; the movie star train; and San Marcos River paddlers.
For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/tv).
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 (http://www.tpwmagazine.com/).