|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-10-11                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 12 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]
Oct. 11, 2004
Bighorn Success Remembered as Free Hunt Deadline Nears
MARATHON, Texas -- Texas hunters are reminded that anyone who buys any type of current season resident hunting license by midnight Oct. 17 will automatically be entered into a drawing for one of two Texas bighorn sheep hunts.
Such hunts normally auction for tens of thousands of dollars, making this a chance at the hunt of a lifetime for those who otherwise might not be able to afford it. (Employees of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which is giving away the hunts, are not eligible.)
"Now that we've surpassed our goal of returning the bighorn sheep to historic levels, it's time to give something back to the hunters who help pay for wildlife conservation," said TPWD Executive Director Robert L. Cook. "Whoever is selected for these once-in-a- lifetime hunts owes a big debt of gratitude to private landowners and to conservation groups like the Texas Bighorn Society, who also played a vital role in the return of the desert bighorn sheep to West Texas."
Details about the bighorn hunt drawing on are on the TPWD Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/releases/?req=20040927j).
The drawing is prompting some Texans to consider for the first time the story of a wild animal most people will never see. State biologists say much of the credit for the bighorn's comeback goes to private landowners and the Texas Bighorn Society (TBS), a determined group of conservationist volunteers who have poured their time, money and energy into saving the desert sheep for more than 20 years.
Around 1905, it was estimated that there were 500 desert bighorn sheep in Texas, clambering along the arid mountains of the Trans-Pecos. By the early-1950s there were none; native bighorns were wiped out by a combination of livestock-borne disease and unregulated hunting. Today, there are nearly 700 bighorns in the state, their return made possible by hunter license dollars, landowners and groups like the TBS.
The bighorn society spearheaded the revitalization of a TPWD bighorn restoration program threatened by limited funding. Since it formed in 1981, the conservation group has generated more than $1 million for bighorn restoration, conservation, research and management.
Through the years, bighorn society volunteers have contributed a steady stream of more than 30 development projects to provide water for sheep, radio telemetry equipment for monitoring bighorns, food and supplies for all TPWD bighorn hunts, and educational programs to generate public interest in Texas bighorns, such as a Web camera at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area monitored by sportsmen, schools, zoos and others via the TBS Web site (http://www.texasbighornsociety.org/).
"The Texas Bighorn Society has been involved in every aspect of bighorn restoration and management in Texas since those efforts began, and we continue to rely heavily on the organization," said Clay Brewer, TPWD bighorn sheep program coordinator. "One thing is certain; we wouldn't be where we are today without their support."
In addition to the hunts being offered in the drawing among Texas hunting license buyers, TPWD offers the chance to hunt a bighorn sheep in the rugged mountains of far West Texas through the "Big Time Texas Hunts' Grand Slam hunting package. For a $10 fee, hunters can enter in a drawing for the opportunity to hunt all four of Texas prized big game animals: the desert bighorn, white-tailed deer, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Entries are available wherever hunting licenses are sold. Entries may also be purchased using a major credit card through the TPWD Web site or by calling (800) 895-4248. *
* Correction, Oct. 11, 2004: -- The original version of this news release has been edited. (Return to corrected item.)

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
Oct. 11, 2004
Boat Wrecks, Deaths Drop Dramatically in 2004
AUSTIN, Texas -- The number of reported boating accidents, boating-related injuries and fatalities on public waterways declined in 2004 compared with the same time period in the last three years.
Following are the statistics, which are comparing Jan. 1-Oct. 1 wrecks from each year. In 2003, 32 people had died by this point in the year but for 2004, the figure is 25. Injuries are at 133 for this year and last year at this time, were at 168.
Jan. 1-Oct 1
Year	Accidents	Injuries	Fatalities
2001	235	188	39
2002	241	148	57
2003	248	168	32
2004	181	133	25
"Part of the downward trend can be attributed to the rainy season and rainy weekends that occurred during this year so far," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Chief of Marine Enforcement Alfonso Campos. "The rain worked to keep recreational boaters away from the rivers, lakes and coastal waters."
TPWD is charged with keeping records of boating-related deaths on all PUBLIC waterways in Texas. This year, Texas Game Wardens have put in more than 113,000 hours of boat patrols on Texas Waters and contacted over 450,000 recreational boaters.
"Another factor that kept our numbers lower is the fact that we did not have as many multiple-fatality accidents," Campos said.
And maybe people are being just a little more safe out there. "We hope so," Campos said. "Whatever they are doing, they should continue doing it!"
For more information about boating in Texas, visit the Web (http://tpwd.texas.gov/boat/).

[ Note: This item is more than 12 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]
Oct. 11, 2004
TPWD Has Plan To Help Control Giant Salvinia Infestation
JASPER, Texas -- Favorable winters and high water levels have contributed to the spread of Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) in Toledo Bend Reservoir, one of dozens of lakes affected by exotic aquatic water weeds statewide. Infestations once confined to the backs of a small number of creeks and bayous in both Texas and Louisiana have now spread throughout the reservoir. Giant salvinia is easily spread overland to new locations by boat trailers, propellers, or even the intakes of jet-skis. The possibility of giant salvinia reaching neighboring Sam Rayburn Reservoir by this fall is extremely high, considering the number of boaters and anglers that utilize both reservoirs.
The threat giant salvinia poses to Sam Rayburn is very real and should be of primary concern to anyone who utilizes this premier bass fishery. Under ideal growing conditions in Texas, the invasive plant can double every 5-8 days, is resistant to cold weather, and can live for weeks out of water if kept moist. Once established, the invasive fern forms dense mats that eliminate all other aquatic vegetation in the area, introductions may be apparent as early as spring of 2005. Meanwhile, the potential threat to Sam Rayburn and many other popular reservoirs in Texas and Louisiana continues to grow.
The magnitude of the problem has reached such proportions that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is now forced to concentrate all control efforts near boat ramps and other access points in an attempt to simply contain the infestation to Toledo Bend.
TPWD has begun large-scale introductions of a bio-control agent in the form of a weevil that is totally dependent on giant salvinia throughout its life cycle. Although it may take as long as two years for reproducing populations of giant salvinia weevils to establish, results of these introductions may be apparent as early as spring of 2005.
Concerned anglers and other resource users can help by inspecting and cleaning their boats, trailers, jet-ski intakes, and other equipment of all aquatic vegetation before leaving an infected area. Anglers fishing Sam Rayburn should be aware of any suspicious floating aquatic vegetation, particularly around boat ramps and the backs of nearby creeks. Most new infestations of invasive species occur at or near boat ramps.
Giant salvinia typically has oblong floating leaves from .5 to 1.5 inches long. Leaves have a velvety surface and are usually a shade of green. Younger plants closely resemble common salvinia and have smaller leaves that lie flat on the water surface. In more mature plants the leaves are much larger, folded, and compressed into upright chains.
When viewed with a magnifying glass, the tips of leaf hairs on giant salvinia resemble an eggbeater. In contrast, leaf hairs of common salvinia are forked and do not form the identifying "cage-like" structure.
Common salvinia, a close cousin to giant salvinia, has been documented on both Sam Rayburn and B.A. Steinhagen. Although a serious problem on B.A. Steinhagen, common salvinia persists in relatively small populations on Sam Rayburn primarily isolated to the Harvey Creek and Stanley Creek arms.
TPWD personnel, the Sabine River Authority, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) have been waging a pitched battle with giant salvinia on Toledo Bend since its discovery in 1998. Aggressive herbicide treatments by TPWD and LDWF soon after its discovery held infestations in check for the first two years. An unplanned and extended drawdown in 2000 helped to suppress the invasive fern, stranding many plants on dry land. Lower water levels during the summer normally help contain the spread of giant salvinia, although small populations will continue to thrive in the backs of creeks and drainages.
Possession or transport of giant salvinia is prohibited by State and Federal law. Any possible sightings of giant salvinia on Sam Rayburn should be reported to TPWD immediately. Any suspicious plants found should be left in place and their exact location documented.

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
Oct. 11, 2004
Whooping Crane Numbers May Pass Milestone
AUSTIN, Texas -- Wildlife biologists are eagerly watching the skies in Texas this fall, wondering if this will be the year when Texas' whooping cranes will finally pass the 200-bird mark. Canadian biologists report that the flock left their nesting grounds last month with a record 41 chicks. If mortality is low on the 2,400-mile migration route, not only will the flock that winters on the Texas coast near Rockport set a new population record since counts began in 1938, it will also write a new chapter in the comeback story of an endangered species that once numbered only 21 birds in the world.
Texas' winter flock of whooping cranes (the flock summers and nests in northwestern Canada in Wood Buffalo National Park) represents the last remaining "natural" flock of whooping cranes in the wild. When the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was created on the Texas coast in 1937 to conserve migratory waterfowl, it also preserved habitat for the last migratory flock of whooping cranes left on earth. A handful of non-migratory whoopers were found in a non-migratory flock in Louisiana at that time, but when the Louisiana birds died out in 1950 following a devastating hurricane, the Aransas-Wood Buffalo birds represented the last hope for the species.
Habitat protection and protection from hunting provided a slow but steady recovery for the whooping crane. With a slow growth rate and low reproduction (whooping crane pairs usually raise only one chick), the Aransas flock did not reach 50 birds until 1968. It took an addition 28 years to pass the 100 bird mark. Scientists began anticipating 200 birds after the winter of 1999-2000, when 188 birds wintered at Aransas, but reproduction on the nesting grounds was low during the next few summers. It is hoped that the record 66 chicks hatched this summer, combined with 193 birds found on the Texas coast in spring 2004 that may help the flock break the 200-bird mark in Texas this year.
Scientists attribute the record number of chicks to good habitat conditions both in Canada and on the Texas coast. Studies have shown that adequate freshwater flows in Texas rivers help to produce more blue crabs in Texas estuaries. Abundant blue crabs, one of the primary winter foods for whooping cranes, have been correlated with better nesting success for whooping cranes in the following spring.
Texas' whooping cranes are a national treasure, and people outside Texas and Canada are likely to celebrate the 200-bird milestone as well, according to Lee Ann Linam, biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "People all over the world value whooping cranes and that brings benefit to communities and wildlife habitats in Texas. In addition, conservation of whooping cranes in Texas has helped to bring the species back in other parts of the country, because eggs collected from our flock have been used in captive breeding and reintroductions in Wisconsin and Florida."
Texas citizens are asked to be on the watch for whooping cranes migrating through the state. The cranes usually pass through a migration corridor in Texas that extends from the Texas Panhandle eastward to the Dallas-Fort Worth-area and southward to the wintering grounds on the central Texas coast. The majority of the cranes pass through Texas from late October through the end of November. Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America, standing at more than four feet tall. They are solid white except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched. During migration, they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. They nearly always migrate in small groups of less than 5-6 birds, but they may be seen roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller sandhill crane.
Whooping cranes are protected by federal and state endangered species laws, and Texans can help safeguard this national treasure by helping to prevent harm or harassment to whooping cranes. Anyone sighting a whooping crane is asked to report it to TPWD at (800) 792-1112 x4644 or (512) 847-9480. Sightings can also be reported via e-mail to lalinam@wimberley-tx.com.* Some whooping cranes are marked with colored leg bands, and information on those bands, including which legs they are found on, would also be useful. Additional identification aids can be found on the Web.
* Correction, Oct. 25, 2004: An incorrect e-mail address in the original release has been edited. (Return to corrected item.)
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than 12 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]
Oct. 11, 2004
Robert L. Cook To Be Named Outstanding Texas A&M Alumnus
AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Executive Director, Robert L. Cook, will be named a 2004 Outstanding Alumnus of the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on Oct. 22.
The award presentation will take place at 1:30 p.m. in the Koldus Building of the university campus in College Station.
Last year, Cook was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Science at Texas A&M University.
Cook attended Texas A&M University from 1961-65, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife management.
After graduation in 1965, Cook began his career at TPWD as a wildlife biologist stationed in Junction. In 1972, he became the area manager at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area in Hunt. In 1975, Cook was promoted to program leader for the statewide White-tailed Deer program. He initiated Texas' White-tailed Deer program on a statewide basis and established standardized deer data collection and analysis procedures by the Wildlife Division.
Cook left TPWD in 1979 to work for the Shelton Land and Cattle Company. While there, he served as wildlife biologist on six large ranches in Texas and Montana and as Vice-President of Ranch Operations.
In 1990, Cook returned to TPWD and served as Chief of Wildlife for more than three years in the combined Fisheries and Wildlife Division and in September of 1994 was promoted to director of the Wildlife Division. Cook was then promoted to senior division director for TPWD land policy in 1997 and served as acting division director for the State Parks Division for almost two years. He then took over as Chief Operating Officer for TPWD until he was named TPWD executive director in February 2002, the position he currently holds.

[ Note: This item is more than 12 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]
Oct. 11, 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 more than 100 Texas stations. Airing Oct. 11-15, We'll tell you how the simple act of fishing is helping scientists in Texas. Plus, if you enjoy toasting marshmallows or keeping warm on a cool autumn night at a state park, there are a few things you need to know before you start a campfire.
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.
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/).

[ Note: This item is more than 12 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]
Oct. 11, 2004
World Birding Center HQ Grand Opening Set for Oct. 23-24
MISSION, Texas - The World Birding Center Headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park will host a free grand opening celebration this month to mark the progress of plans begun in 1997 to restore wildlife habitat and promote birding and nature tourism.
The WBC headquarters in Mission is the first of three WBC sites managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to open. The department will also build and operate the World Birding Center at Estero Llano Grande State Park near Weslaco and the World Birding Center at Resaca de la Palma State Park near Brownsville.
Six other WBC sites are being built and/or operated by local communities in Edinburg, Harlingen, Hidalgo, McAllen, Roma, and South Padre Island.
"The World Birding Center is important for wildlife conservation and sustainable economic development, but its lasting impact may come through youth involvement and education," said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director.
"The Lower Rio Grande Valley is one of the most biologically diverse ecological regions in North America, a critical migratory stopover point for birds that move between the Americas. Yet, more than three quarters of the region's original wildlife habitat has been replaced by human development. The WBC will showcase ways to restore and protect habitat while providing a tourism destination that puts people directly in touch with nature and wildlife."
State and local elected officials and other dignitaries will lead a ribbon-cutting at the WBC headquarters at 11 a.m. on Oct. 23 to officially open the facility. Public activities run from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. that Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday, with a variety of fun and educational fare. TPWD is waiving park entrance fees for the grand opening weekend.
Both days begin early (the best time to see birds), with free 8 a.m. bird walks led by internationally known birder and naturalist John Arvin. These will fill on a first-come, first-served basis. Advance registration is required, and interested parties should call (956) 584-9156, ext. 224.
Grand opening visitors can also see birds throughout the weekend at the park's new Hawk Tower and Resaca Overlook and butterflies in the newly landscaped butterfly garden, with experts on hand to interpret the sights.
A new park tram service will give grand opening visitors free transportation from the new headquarters parking area into the original state park area near the river. Hidalgo Pump House, a WBC site, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, one of several outstanding parks and refuges that already exist in the region, will also make available their trams for the grand opening.
The Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville will bring in an alligator, falcon, snakes and other live animals for the public to see. There will also be live music and food and drink at the grand opening. The site's Texas State Park Store and first-of-its-kind espresso bar will serve beverages to encourage visitors to spend the day.
The Mission headquarters includes an exhibit hall, lecture hall, gift shop, coffee bar and administrative offices on a former 60-acre farm field that is being replanted with native south Texas vegetation. Other headquarters elements include the hawk viewing tower, two bird viewing blinds with water features (shallow ponds) to attract birds, a flooded habitat courtyard and butterfly/hummingbird courtyard, passenger tram service to transport visitors within the park, and miles of hiking trails. The WBC headquarters site now covers 764 acres, including the original 587.7-acre state park, plus 176.2 acres donated by Bentsen Palm Development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages several hundred adjacent acres that include previously inaccessible areas along the Rio Grande.
New headquarters exhibits to be unveiled at the grand opening focus on water conservation, habitat corridors for wildlife, and the importance of water and habitat for birds. Other panels cover basic information such as how birds fly and the parts of a bird. Michael Gilbreath Communication Design of Fort Worth created the headquarters exhibits in partnership with TPWD experts. Museo de las Aves de Mexico of Saltillo did Spanish translations and provided bird facts for the exhibits.
"Green design" principles have guided all aspects of headquarters development, providing prototypes that TPWD hopes to use in state parks elsewhere across Texas. New facilities designed to recall classic agricultural structures of the region incorporate rainwater collection, passive energy conservation, and sustainable building materials.
Most important, the headquarters emphasizes native plant wildscaping, trails, interpretive signs and other features to attract birds and butterflies and put visitors outdoors and in direct contact with birds and their habitat. The new headquarters visitors center sits on a former row crop farm field that is being replanted with native vegetation.
The approximately $7 million WBC headquarters project owes its existence to many partners. Members of the Texas Legislature and U.S. Congress worked to provide funding and support. TPWD put more than $2 million in state funding and staff time into the project. The City of Mission provided $2 million in cash and in kind services. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided a $1.8 million federal grant for the headquarters. The USFWS will also help operate the Roma WBC site. The Texas Department of Transportation contributed a $1.5 million federal TEA-21 grant toward the headquarters. The Meadows Foundation, through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, donated $600,000. Bentsen Palm Development, which is creating a 2,600-acre planned community next to the headquarters, has donated land, labor and many other contributions.
The Valley economy has benefited from the money spent and workers hired to create the WBC headquarters. New tourism dollars from outside the region will boost those benefits as the headquarters and the other WBC sites evolve. The headquarters is designed to appeal to both avid birders and families and novices looking to experience birding in an internationally known location.
The valley is a migratory pinch point that funnels a "river of birds" through the region on their journeys north in summer and south in winter. It includes the northernmost range for many species native to Mexico and the southernmost range for many U.S. species. To date, the Texas Bird Records Committee and other sources have verified 503 bird species recorded in the region, a number that exceeds any other location of equal size north of the Mexican border. This total represents more than half of all bird species recorded in North America.
For details on the World Birding Center, see the Web site (http://www.worldbirdingcenter.org/) or phone (956) 584-9156.