|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-05-23                                    |
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
May 23, 2005
Historic Railroad To Offer Kids Free Ride Again This Summer
RUSK, Texas -- Parents and grandparents seeking an inexpensive and fun way to entertain youngsters during summer vacation should consider climbing aboard a steam train for a ride through the East Texas piney woods.
The Texas State Railroad's "Kids Ride Free" promotion kicks off June 1 and runs through Sept. 30. Each paying adult can treat up to five children 12 years old and younger to a free ride on the 124-year-old railroad operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Round-trip tickets for children normally cost $10.
Persons 13 and older pay a $16 round-trip fare for regular seating and $22 for a climate-controlled railcar.
Last year's special promotion proved a great success, according to Mark Price, TSRR assistant manager. He said that compared to summer 2003 statistics ridership more than doubled to 26,403 and total park revenues jumped by $146,698 during last year's promotional period. Ticket sales, gift shop sales and concessions all recorded sizable revenue boosts as well.
"The Kids Ride Free program," Price said, "has been a win-win system that has given families an opportunity to ride and enjoy the railroad at a discounted rate while helping out the state of Texas. Everybody seemed to leave here happy. We're staffed up and ready."
Price attributed much of the increased interest in the Texas State Railroad to grandparents who were hosting grandchildren during summer vacation. In addition, the railroad saw a number of church groups, such as Vacation Bible School, and summer YMCA youth camp attendees taking advantage of the bargain.
Ida Stokes of Dallas heard about the TSRR's special promotion and took her three grandsons, ages 9, 11 and 13, to ride the train that steams through wooded hills and over 24 bridges between depots in Rusk and Palestine. "When I saw the Kids Ride Free ads in Dallas, I couldn't wait to bring my grandkids," she said.
Price said the special promotion helped increase annual ridership from 41,000 in 2003 to 58,000 in 2004. As a result, TPWD has decided to make "Kids Ride Free" an annual program.
Passengers board steam trains at Victorian-style train depots in Rusk and Palestine state parks at 11 a.m. for a 50-mile round trip through hardwood creek bottoms. The trip takes 90 minutes to reach the opposite station, where visitors disembark to eat, peruse depot gift shops full of train-related souvenirs and enjoy the outdoors before reboarding. This summer, visitors can view a new exhibit about the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on display at the Rusk depot. Western re-enactments spice up activities each weekend at the Palestine depot.
Regular train excursions take place Thursdays through Sundays in June and July and Saturdays and Sundays only beginning in August. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (800) 442-8951 (Texas only) or (903) 683-2561. State parks adjacent to the Rusk and Palestine depots offer camping and picnicking facilities. Rusk State Park has full-hookup camping and group picnic pavilions; Palestine State Park offers water-only camping sites and a shaded picnic area. Nearby Mission Tejas State Park in Grapeland offers camping as well. For Texas state park information, call (800) 792-1112.
The Texas State Railroad is one of the nation's few steam railroads that runs two steam trains simultaneously each day of operation. Special events, such as murder mysteries, starlight excursions and Steam Engine Restoration Shop tours are held periodically throughout the year. The railroad does not operate in January and February.
Convict labor built the original railroad in 1881 to serve the state-owned East Texas Penitentiary smelter in Rusk that manufactured cast iron for the state's 19th century needs and today helps maintain the 32 miles of track right-of-way. TPWD acquired the railroad in 1972 and reinstated passenger service in 1976.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KD]
May 23, 2005
Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm Celebrates 30th Anniversary
Stonewall, Texas -- Since 1975, the staff at the Sauer-Beckman Living History Farm has been living in the early 1900s. From the ladies who sew their dresses and put up 300 jars of vegetables and fruits a year, to the men who wear leather suspenders and shear the sheep, the staff of four spends nearly every day of the year living and working in the past.
On June 17-18, the Texas Hill Country farm will celebrate its 30th anniversary of recreating early 20th century life on a German farm in Gillespie County.
"We want families to come help us celebrate years of education and service," said farm manager Ricky Weinheimer. "It's fun for everybody."
Special events for the day will include candle making and rope making activities for kids, as well as chick petting. Blacksmithing demonstrations by James Honig and also antique farm machinery demonstrations will also be available.
For the most part, the two-day celebration will be a chance for visitors to experience the day-to-day operations of the park. The anniversary celebration will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, June 17 and from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 18.
A food vendor will be providing water, tea, sausage-on-a-stick and hamburgers, which can be purchased and enjoyed at the numerous picnic sites around the park..
Visitors can watch the making of butter and cheese, and also see and learn how they grow vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and green beans. Demonstrations of soap making by cooking lard, water and lye in a cast-iron pot will also be available.
"We use cast-iron skillets and a wood-burning stove to cook everything we raise and produce," Weinheimer said. "I stress to my group that this way, when visitors come in, they can capture the sight, smell and sound of a real farm. Smells bring back memories; if there were no smells, this would just be a museum."
The windmill, which pumps water from a 50-foot well, supplies water for the farm. There is no running water or electricity in the farmhouse. But don't worry, Weinheimer said, the two-seater outhouse is only for show. Public restrooms are available on park grounds.
The 30th anniversary will be celebrated in conjunction with the Stonewall Peach Jamboree, Parade and Rodeo. The jamboree will include a 5-10K fun run/walk near Stonewall at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, where the Sauer-Beckmann Farm is located.
The Sauer-Beckmann farm offers free admission year-round and provides tours for thousands of school kids each year. For more information please call (830) 644-2252.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 23, 2005
Workshops Offer Tips for Urban Owners of Rural Land
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A workshop to be held here June 10-11 and another on July 9 in Dallas will address the growing problem of Texas rural land being fragmented into smaller tracts, often involving urban-based owners who are interested in wildlife conservation but lack experience in wildlife or land management.
For more than a century, rural Texas land has been owned mainly by farm and ranch families who lived on it. In recent decades, the countryside has been fragmented into smaller tracts owned increasingly by urban, absentee owners looking for a weekend retreat or retirement home. In 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report showing that Texas led the nation in the loss of undeveloped land from 1992-97.
Land fragmentation is one of the main threats to wildlife in Texas. It crowds wildlife into smaller spaces, blocks travel corridors and disrupts access to feeding areas.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge are co-hosting the June event. It will take place from 6-9:30 p.m., Friday, June 10 and 8 a.m.-noon, June 11 at the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge's Hardwicke Interpretive Center, 9601 Fossil Ridge Road in Fort Worth.
This workshop will discuss the tools, people and funding programs available to help landowners achieve individual goals when managing property for wildlife. Local wildlife professionals will give presentations regarding habitat management techniques, funding sources, species management, wildlife tax valuation, etc. during the Friday evening session of the workshop. The Saturday portion of the workshop will demonstrate various techniques of management in the field.
"Wildlife professionals from various agencies will teach you how to develop a wildlife management plan, fund your wildlife projects, improve your pond for fish and/or waterfowl, control feral hog populations, use cattle grazing to improve wildlife habitat, and much more," said John Davis, a TPWD urban wildlife biologist based in Cedar Hill south of Dallas.
The cost for the Fort Worth workshop is $25 per person. Registration is required prior to the event to ensure that organizers have sufficient workshop materials for attendees. For more information, contact Rob Denkhaus at the Fort Worth Nature Center (817-237-1111), or Davis at the TPWD Urban Wildlife Office (972-293-3841), or at http://www.fwnaturecenter.org and click on Landowner Workshop on the left side of the page to download a registration form.
TPWD and the North Texas Master Naturalists are hosting the Dallas workshop. It will be held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 9, 2005 at the Agricultural Research & Extension Center operated through Texas A&M University-Dallas at 17360 Coit Road. It will cover wildlife tax valuation, potential conservation funding sources, grazing management 101, prescribed burning: how and why, invasive species management, enhancing wetlands, and counting/inventorying wildlife resources. It also costs $25 per person and requires advance registration. For more information, phone the TPWD Urban Wildlife Office at (972) 293-3841, contact Donna Cole at (972) 625-3366 or see the North Texas Master Naturalists Web site.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 23, 2005
2005 Birding Classic Reports Winners, Funds Habitat Projects
AUSTIN, Texas -- A team that finished last nine years ago stormed back to win the weeklong competition in this year's 9th Annual Great Texas Birding Classic, which has announced a list of habitat conservation projects selected by winning teams.
This was the first year for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory to jointly sponsor and manage the world's longest bird watching competition, which has been operated since 1997 by event cosponsor Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The event pairs teams from across the United States with corporate sponsors and involves local communities all along the Texas coast. All prize money goes to avian habitat conservation projects, benefitting millions of birds that move through Texas on their migrations between North, Central and South America.
Competition concluded at midnight April 23 and winners were announced at the awards brunch in Lake Jackson the next morning. A list of all of the team winners can be found on the birding classic Web site. Below are highlights from this year's action.
The Environmental Partners, sponsored by Reliant Energy, finished first in the weeklong category with a checklist total of 332 bird species identified. Second place was claimed by the Swift WildBirders, sponsored by Swift Optics and WildBird magazine, which were only one species behind with a total of 331. The ConocoPhillips Cranes placed third with 317 species identified.
Amy Sugeno, TPWD Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area manager, has chaperoned a group of kids for the youth competition of the Birding Classic for the past few years, and this year her team aged up to the Gliders Tournament for 14-18 year olds. The Travis Audubon Towhees, sponsored by Travis Audubon Society, placed first in this year's Gliders category with a total of 146 species seen in a 24-hour period on the Upper Texas Coast.
Gary Waggerman, a TPWD biologist retiree, competed on the Lower Texas Coast in the Senior Tournament. His team, the Three Rails and A Young Coot, spotted or heard 130 species, topping the winning total of the first place adult team in their section of the coast. By identifying more species than the other adult team in their region, Gary's team won the privilege of selecting which habitat conservation project will receive $3,000 in Conservation Cash Grand Prize money.
The first bicycle birding team competed in this year's Great Texas Birding Classic. The Zeiss Optics NOCA PIPL team led by Richard Gibbons covered more than 50 miles on bicycles during their competition. Although relying solely on bikes for transportation, this environmentally conscious team still managed to identify 149 species during their tournament day, putting them in a tie for third place in the Central Texas Coast section of the Adult Tournament with a team that traveled by car and was able to visit a larger area of the Coastal Bend.
Three teams from the Lower Rio Grande Valley once again competed in the Outta-Sight Song Birder Tournament for blind and visually impaired birders. Team La Primavera del Valle (34 species), the Tweety Birds (32 species) and Team Hawk Eyes (31 species) took home the top three prizes for this event based on bird identification through bird songs only.
"Congratulations to all Birding Classic participants and thanks to all of our sponsors for another great year," said Carol Jones of GCBO, this year's tournament coordinator. "The new partnership between Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory has proven to be a great success for the Birding Classic, and ultimately for the birds as well. Winning teams from this year's tournament will select habitat restoration, enhancement and acquisition projects to receive $51,000 in Conservation Cash Grand Prize money."
Below is a list of conservation projects funded by this year's birding classic. A complete list of all projects funded since the event began is on the event Web site.
--Galveston County -- $20,000 donated by Environmental Partners/Reliant Energy: Bird Observation Tower and Education Platform Project (Scenic Galveston, Inc.) This project involves a 2500-acre wetland and coastal prairie complex on the I-45 Estuarial Corridor and Virginia Point Preserve. The spartina marsh, tidal flats and nesting islands are host to a large variety of birds year round. This project will contribute toward a roadside marsh viewing / wetlands interpretive / birding area.
--Brazoria County -- $12,000 donated by Swift Wildbirders/Swift Optics and Wildbird magazine: Habitat Protection for Houston Audubon's Carolyn Raizes Davis Bird Santuary (Houston Audubon Society) This project will help protect 63 acres of bottomland hardwood forest along Chocolate Bayou from intrusion and erosion caused by All-Terrain Vehicles.
--Cameron County -- $9,000 donated by the ConocoPhillips Cranes/ConocoPhillips: South Padre Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary (The Valley Land Trust) Further enhancements of this haven for neo-tropic migrants will include a drip fed shallow water feature, additional native vegetation, a viewing blind and a boardwalk.
--Hidalgo County -- $3,000 Lower Coast Prize donated by Three Rails and a Young Coot/Independent: Estero Llano Grande State Park Wetland Habitat Restoration (Estero Llano Grande State Park) This project will provide funds for purchasing Montezuma Bald Cypress trees for planting as part of an ongoing 20-acre wetland restoration project to provide additional complexity and structure to the habitat.
--Nueces County -- $3,000 Central Coast prize donated by Lovely Zorrillos /Independent: Fred Jones Sanctuary Enhancement (Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi) This Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi, Inc., project will provide funding for purchasing materials for constructing a viewing blind and repairs to existing structures.
--Brazoria County -- $3,000 Upper Coast prize donated by Leica Lone-Starlings/Leica Sport Optics: Quintana Island Habitat Enhancement (Gulf Coast Bird Observatory) This will help fund the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory's continuing project creating forested woodlots on this small island to provide additional habitat for trans-gulf migrants and also, expand public viewing areas.
--Nueces County -- Lone Star Bird Award prize of $1,000 donated by Stewart Title Peepers/Stewart Title Co.: Packery Channel Sanctuary Habitat Restoration (Audubon Outdoor Club of Corpus Christi) Money is to be used for native plant purchases to enhance the habitat.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 23, 2005
Research To Document Agricultural Value of Bats
UVALDE, Texas -- This month a team of scientists from Boston University, University of Tennessee, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will return to the Winter Garden agricultural production area near here for the second year of a five-year research project funded by a $2.4 million National Science Foundation grant.
The research seeks to better estimate numbers of Mexican free-tailed bats in Texas and to determine the dollar contribution of bats to protect corn, cotton and other crops against insect infestation. Early indications are that bats are worth millions of dollars in avoided pesticide use, which also benefits the natural environment.
The Mexican free-tailed bat (also known as the Brazilian free-tailed bat) is a 12-gram mammal that calls Texas home from March to October, when it migrates back to Mexico for the winter months. It is primarily females that migrate to Texas to take advantage of the massive numbers of insects, especially moths that lay eggs on local crops upon which the newly hatched larvae feed. Subsequent generations of adult moths migrate through Texas on their way to the Corn Belt of the Midwest.
While in Texas a female bat gives birth to a single pup. During this time, hungry mother bats can eat up to two-thirds of their body weight in insects each night. Scientists say that when you do the math for 100 million bats, the tonnage of insects consumed each night is staggering.
This spring and summer bat researchers will track the movement of moth caterpillars, especially the corn earworm moth, through a series of host plants that begins in Texas wildflowers and then proceeds to corn and cotton. Other scientists will determine what percentage of a bat's diet is made up of key agricultural pests. And, using infrared thermal imaging cameras, computer experts are creating software to count bats as they emerge from their cave roosts and forage over crop fields.
"Besides the opportunity to view spectacular bat emergences from Hill Country caves and bridges, this research shows Texans have even more to appreciate about bats," said Patricia Morton, who is coordinating bat media outreach and public education for TPWD. "For these very good reasons, the Mexican free-tailed just happens to be the official Texas State Flying Mammal."
Morton says the department will be producing bilingual educational products about the bat research project including a Video/DVD and children's book. For more information, contact Morton at patricia.morton@tpwd.texas.gov or (512)912-7020.
The current research developed after the advent of National Weather Service radar in Central Texas in the early 1990s, when weather forecasters picked up mysterious large "clouds" in areas where no storm activity was expected. The clouds turned out to be millions of bats emerging from cave roosts.
Soon after this discovery, another National Weather Service radar service became operational in southern Texas and detected additional strange clouds that were intersected by the bats at altitudes of thousands of feet. These were found to be clouds of millions of migrating moths-a favorite food of free-tailed bats.
A few years later, following a variety of studies incorporating bat detection devices riding on weather balloons, insect identification from bat guano and the development of genetic markers for moth species, scientists were able to document that the Mexican free-tailed bats were feeding on some of the state's most damaging agricultural pests, those which feed largely on cotton and corn.
Meanwhile, growing tourism to see dusk emergences of large bat colonies continues to spread. All told each year in Texas, tens of thousands of people witness clouds of bats spiraling out of caves at places like Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area near Rocksprings, Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area near Fredericksburg, Bracken Cave north of San Antonio, and the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, home to the world's largest urban bat colony.
More information about bats and where to see them in Texas is on the Bat Conservation International Web site.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
May 23, 2005
Two New State Records Raise Bar for Junior Anglers
AUSTIN, Texas - With classes letting out for the summer, many young Texans will turn their attention to schools of a different sort: fish. Some will make the grade by adding their name to the state angling record books.
And, for young anglers hoping to score on two of the state's most popular game fish species -largemouth bass and spotted seatrout - the bar just got raised. Both records were eclipsed in late April with impressive catches.
The new largemouth bass record for junior anglers is an 11.57-pound brute caught on Sam Rayburn Reservoir April 23 by 11-year-old Brandon Adams of Florence, Texas. The fish measured more than 28 inches in length. After a quick photo session, Brandon released his record catch back into the lake.
A week later, 10-year-old Matthew Claude Johnson of Caldwell, Texas, reeled in a prized 30-inch trout on Matagorda Bay that weighed 9 pounds.
Both fish have been certified in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Angler Recognition Awards program for state and water body fish records.
"Trophy fish like these new records would be a prize for any angler, and these recent catches demonstrate the level of skill possessed by our younger fishermen," said Joedy Gray, Angler Recognition Awards program coordinator at TPWD. "There are still plenty of water bodies without records, so the opportunity to get your name in the books is out there. For example, each bay system represents a separate water body and when you consider how many coastal fish species there are, the record books are wide open."
The Junior Angler Recognition Program is open to kids 16 and younger and the same rules for entry in the Angler Recognition Awards program apply for the juniors. Fish can be entered in the following categories.
State Records for Public Waters
--Rod & Reel - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from Texas public waters by rod & reel fishing.
--Fly Fishing - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from Texas public waters by fly fishing methods using artificial lures.
--Unrestricted - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from Texas public waters by any legal method other than rod & reel.
--Bow Fishing - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from Texas public waters by bow fishing.
State Records for Private Waters
--Rod & Reel - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from Texas private waters by rod & reel.
--Fly Fishing - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from Texas private waters by fly fishing methods using artificial lures.
--Bow Fishing - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from Texas private waters by bow fishing.
--Water Body Records -Records for individual locations (reservoirs, rivers, bays, etc.) are also maintained.
--All Tackle - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from a particular Texas public water body using any legal method.
--Rod & Reel - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from a particular Texas public water body by rod & reel.
--Fly Fishing - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from a particular Texas public water body by fly fishing methods using artificial lures.
--Bow Fishing - recognition for catching the largest fish of a species from a particular Texas public water body by bow fishing.
--Big Fish Award - for catching a trophy class fish of selected species.
--Catch and Release Award - for the catch and live release of a trophy class fish of selected species.
There are also categories for the first fish caught by an angler of any age and for a catch that does not meet the requirements of other award programs but still deserves recognition.
Consideration for all state and water body records, except first fish awards, must include the fish's weight on certified scales. Certified scales are scales (either electronic or spring-based) that have been certified as accurate by the Texas Department of Agriculture, the International Game Fish Association (which certifies handheld scales) or a commercial scales calibration company. Feed stores, fertilizer plants, and scales calibration companies are good sources.
Record fish must be weighed on certified scales within three days of the catch, although weights on non-certified scales will be considered providing the scales are certified within 30 days. Applications must be received within 60 days of the catch date and a notary witness is required for State Record applications.
For more information contact: Junior Angler Recognition Awards Program, Attn: Joedy Gray-IF, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin TX 78744; e-mail: joedy.gray@tpwd.texas.gov or phone (512) 389-8037.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 23, 2005
Reptile and Amphibian Watchers Needed This Spring
AUSTIN, Texas -- Spring in Texas brings bluebonnets, migration, and the end of hibernation for our warmth-loving species, the reptiles and amphibians of the state. While many amateur naturalists revel in the colorful plant displays and bursts of bird activity in the spring, Texas Parks and Wildlife is asking citizens to be on the lookout for our lesser known cold-blooded wildlife species-species whose trends may be important indicators of changes in our environment.
"Reptiles and amphibians don't really have 'cold' blood," says Wildlife Diversity biologist Lee Ann Linam. "They simply depend on warmth from sunlight to generate some of the energy that their body needs for its activity. For much of the year, we don't see reptiles and amphibians, so the spring is an important time for monitoring what is going on with these vulnerable species."
Recent reports indicate that there is reason for concern about reptiles and amphibians (commonly referred to as "herps"). An exhaustive report recently summarized in the magazine Science reported that almost a third of the world's amphibians are threatened with extinction. A report by NatureServe focusing on the western hemisphere indicates that more than 40 percent of our amphibian species are threatened. Declines have been linked with many causes, including habitat loss, pathogens, pesticides, and even climate change. Fewer comprehensive studies have been completed for reptiles; however, alarm has been sounded for many species, especially turtles and lizards.
Eight years ago, TPWD began enlisting help from Texas citizens in monitoring selected Texas reptiles and amphibians through a program called Texas Nature Trackers. In 1997 the Department launched the Texas Horned Lizard Watch, focusing on Texas' official state reptile, because citizens had begun noticing that horned lizards, often called "horny toads," had disappeared from many areas of the state. Citizen data collected by the watch program have helped to shed light on where horned lizards still occur and some of the factors associated with their presence or absence.
In 1998 TPWD joined national and global efforts to monitor the well-being of amphibians. Texas has a high diversity of frogs, toads, and salamanders, including several found nowhere else in the United States. Volunteers in Texas Amphibian Watch, who monitor mainly by listening for frog and toad calls at night, have been successful in detecting many of Texas' species, with results to date indicating that most species are stable in the state.
This year two more reptile species are joining TPWD's monitoring focus. Box turtles are familiar to many Texans, having once been common in the wild and in the pet trade; however, concern has been expressed about Texas' two species of box turtles, the Eastern (or Three-toed) Box Turtle and the Ornate Box Turtle. Just like sea turtles, box turtles have long life spans and can take many years to reach maturity. In addition, box turtles produce few young. Therefore, scientists are interested in finding out whether there are any downward trends in box turtle numbers in the wild that could indicate trouble for the species being able to maintain itself. TPWD scientists are inviting members of the public to help them collect sightings of box turtles in 2005 through the Box Turtle Survey Project.
Linam notes that reptile- and amphibian-watching has benefits both for the species and the observer. "Sometimes at first people aren't attracted to watching and studying reptiles and amphibians, but many people who get involved have rewarding experiences-whether it's learning to recognize the trill of a toad's song, taking time to watch a horned lizard lap up harvester ants, or observing the intricate beauty of a box turtle shell. In return, the species and TPWD benefit from having these extra 'eyes in the field' help us understand the conservation needs and priorities for the species."
Texas Horned Lizard Watch, Texas Amphibian Watch, and the Texas Box Turtle Survey Project all offer free monitoring materials. In addition, Texas Amphibian Watch offers a CD of frog and toad calls for $5 and training workshops for $10. For more information contact Texas Nature Trackers at (800) 792-1112 x 7011 or visit the Web site.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 23, 2005
Texas Man Enters Hunter Education Hall of Fame
ATHENS, Texas -- James Parker, III, of Malakoff near here, was inducted into the International Hunter Education Association Hall of Fame at the IHEA Annual Conference recently held in Las Vegas.
Parker was honored for more than 50 years of involvement in hunter education. In Utah, he served more than 25 years in hunter education, assisting and befriending A. Lee Robertson, first hunter education coordinator of the Utah Division of Wildlife program and one of the originators of the professional association in 1971.
Parker later moved to Texas and became involved in Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's angler, boater and hunter education programs as an area chief and later as a volunteer for the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. He has since taught many new instructors and more than 1,500 students in hunter education. Only three other Texans have ever attained the award. Parker joins all three former Texas hunter education coordinators, T.D. Carroll, Darrell Holt and Steve Hall as IHEA Hall of Fame inductees.
During his acceptance speech in Las Vegas, Parker said, "I always felt that Lee Robertson was a great friend and mentor, and I always wanted to be just like him. He is in the IHEA Hall of Fame, and now I have taken my place beside him. My other mentors were Steve Hall and Terry Erwin when I moved to Texas. It is a great honor to accept this award as a representative from Texas."
Parker is a former two-time winner of the Arlington Sportsman Club "Sportsman of the Year" award. In 2000, at the second annual Lone Star Legends awards reception, Jim and his wife received the Lone Star Legends Award for Outstanding Educational Efforts and Volunteer Service, given by TPWD. Parker was later selected as the Winchester Hunter Education Volunteer of the Year in North America in 2000 and was inducted into the Texas Hunter Education Hall of Fame in 2002.
Jim continues to volunteer his time with TPWD programs and has been busy setting up his education courses for the coming year.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 23, 2005
Annual Horned Lizard Contest Starts Again
AUSTIN, Texas -- Horned lizards in my hometown? Where!?!-this is the very question that Kimberly Robinson and K.J. Parker, along with other curious and creative students have been investigating for the TPWD Hometown Horned Toad Essay Contest. Across the state, students have been interviewing family, friends and other local residents and digging deep into local records to find stories, memories and facts about horned lizards in their hometowns.
Kimberly Robinson from Krum had seen horned lizards during a family vacation in Oklahoma. After reading the story in her local paper about the Hometown Horned Toad Essay Contest, she decided to enter and investigate what had happened to the horned lizards in Krum. After interviewing local residents in person, she put out survey boxes and a survey in the newspaper to gather more stories and information. Replies poured in as people responded with answers and horned lizard stories from their youth.
Since Kimberly won the essay contest, her interest in horned lizards has continued to grow. When asked what she planned on doing next, she said she was going to look for more horned toads. She also plans to send her essay to the governor so that more things can be done to help save these unique reptiles.
Hundreds of essays have been turned in over the past four years from across the state, each one holding different possible reasons for the Texas horned lizard's reduction in numbers. The majority of the essays suggest that the official state reptile began declining in the 1970s and 1980s, with red imported fire ants, urbanization, and pesticide use suggested as the major causes of decline.
Texas residents hold valuable information that can aide in helping the species to recover. People's memories are in some cases the only record of horned lizards in the area. This essay contest captures this information and helps TPWD biologists to better understand the population decline trends and changes in the lizard's habitat and may help to create better conservation methods.
The essays were judged according to age group and thoroughness of investigation, number of interviews, number of written sources, and quality of presentation, including historical perspective, scientific analysis, neatness and creativity. Volunteers from TPWD's Wildlife Diversity Branch and County Historical Commissions judged submitted essays. Individual winners received prize packs that will help them with further reptile and amphibian field studies including items such as digital cameras, field guides, binoculars, and walkie-talkies, while team winners received a field trip to a TPWD Wildlife Management Area.
2005 winners in other age categoriesincluded:
Grades 3-5 Individual:
--1st place -- Kimberly Robinson -- Blanch Dodd Intermediate, Krum
--2nd place -- Zachary Roberts -- homeschool, San Antonio
--3rd place -- Logan Glenn -- McCamey Primary, McCamey
Grades 3-5 Team:
--Erika, Jordan, Graham, Clayton, Alan and David -- Ambleside School, Fredericksburg
Grades 6-8 Individual:
--1st place -- K.J. Parker -- homeschool, Waco
Grades 6-8 Team
--Sally Platt, Annabeth Mohon, and Sara Pennington-Ambleside School, Fredericksburg
Grades 9-12 Team
--Advanced Wildlife Class Childress High School
The idea behind the essay contest is to get young minds interested in science and exploring the world around them, while also helping to raise awareness about horned toads. Clint Groom, a fourth grade teacher at Hidden Lakes Elementary, used the essay contest as a writing lesson. He said, "This lesson is much more exciting than a regular writing lesson. Although every one of my kids didn't meet enough requirements to send in their essay, they all did one. They really loved learning about these 'little dinosaurs.' They were able to speak to their parents, or relatives about them. To this day, I get at least one comment a day about Horned Frogs."
The Hometown Horn Toad Essay contest is an extension of a program called Texas Horned Lizard Watch. This citizen volunteer monitoring program has been gathering scientific data about the status of this popular state reptile for TPWD. The data gathered has been useful in identifying habitat and distribution through out the state. For more information about how to join Texas Horned Lizard Watch for the 2005 monitoring season, visit http://tpwd.texas.gov/hornytoads/ or call (800)792-1112 x7011.