|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-10-24                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 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]
Oct. 24, 2005
Conditions Bode Well for Deer Hunting Success
AUSTIN, Texas -- Dry range conditions across much of Texas heading into the general deer season should bode well for hunters looking to fill their tags, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
The general deer season opens Nov. 5 statewide, except for a few counties in the Panhandle. The North Zone closes Jan. 1, while the South Zone continues for two additional weeks, ending Jan. 15. Special Youth-Only seasons are set for Oct. 29-30 and Jan. 21-22 statewide.
For the last couple of years, many of Texas' 500,000 or so deer hunters had a tough time observing deer, which kept a low profile because lush range conditions provided ample cover and abundant browse. Hunters likely won't face that problem this fall, according to TPWD white-tailed deer program leader Mitch Lockwood. "We're dried up real bad. This will be the first year in the last four that I'm not telling hunters to get away from the corn feeders to find deer. I think people will have some success hunting over feeders."
TPWD is encouraging hunters to take more does this fall in areas with deer overpopulation issues. "Take an extra doe - where regulations allow for such," Lockwood stressed. "It's true every year but especially this year that deer will have a harder time making it through the winter. It used to just be in the Hill Country, but now we're dealing with population issues across much of the state. When a hunter only takes one deer, you're probably not going to meet management goals."
Hunters also need to be aware of several key changes to deer hunting regulations this year as state wildlife biologists work to simplify and restructure regulations. In particular, a number of counties saw changes in harvest restrictions and season dates this fall. Following is an overview of those changes. For additional information, hunters are urged to review regulations in TPWD's Outdoor Annual available wherever licenses are sold.
Elimination of Aggregate Bag Limits -- The department in 1989 implemented what is popularly referred to as the 'aggregate bag limit' rule, which designated a number of one-buck counties, primarily in the eastern third of the state, from which, in the aggregate a hunter could take no more than one buck. For example, if a hunter took a buck in Nacogdoches County (one-buck bag limit), that hunter could not take another buck in any other county affected by the aggregate bag limit rule.
The department has eliminated the aggregate bag limit, meaning that a hunter could take the statewide personal bag limit of three bucks by taking one buck in each of three one-buck counties. A similar provision applies to counties with a two-buck bag limit. In other words, a hunter can now take two bucks in a two-buck county, and a third buck in a different two-buck county.
Alteration of Doe Days -- Biologists are encouraging hunters to take does this fall due to population concerns in some areas and poor habitat conditions in others. Numerous counties saw shifts in the numbers of doe days offered this year and hunters are urged to check the Outdoor Annual.
Buck Harvest Restrictions -- The new regulations create special buck deer harvest guidelines in Austin, Bastrop, Brazoria, Caldwell, Colorado, De Witt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Jackson, Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Matagorda, Victoria, Waller, Washington, Wilson, and Wharton counties. The new regulation implements a two-buck bag limit, one of which must have at least one unbranched antler, and redefines a legal buck as a buck having an inside spread of 13 inches or greater or at least one unbranched antler. The six-points-or-better criterion in effect prior to this rulemaking is eliminated, as department data clearly indicate that the 13-inch-or-better standard is sufficient by itself to protect younger bucks.
While hunting prospects can vary from property to property, here's a brief overview of what to expect this season across the state:
Panhandle: "I think Panhandle hunters can anticipate a good to excellent season for both whitetails and mule deer," according to TPWD biologist Danny Swepston. "Even though we had some dry months during the middle of the summer the early spring rains got the animals off to a good start. Antler quality should be good and the majority of deer we have seen during surveys are in excellent body shape."
North Texas: "Overall range conditions are good but an unusually hot and dry September may help bring deer to feeders more consistently this fall," said Kevin Mote, TPWD biologist for the Possum Kingdom district. He went on to report that while most areas of the district are reporting average to above average body weights and antler development, below average summer rain should be a signal for managers to take a few more mouths (deer and/or livestock) off early. Expectations remain high for a banner year due to good carry-over of older age class bucks from the last two seasons. Much of the district observed a light to moderate acorn crop, most of which has already hit the ground.
East Texas: In the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, several counties in the Pineywoods saw extensive tree damage, particularly mast-producing hardwoods. Although deer have been enjoying easy and early access to acorns, the impacts to available food sources in the future could be costly, according to reports from TPWD field biologist Bobby Eichler. "The range is in moderate condition after a drought for much of the year," he noted. "The southern end of the Pineywoods was hit hard and we lost a lot of oaks, which could pose a problem next year. It should be a pretty good hunting season because deer will come to feeders; antler quality should be good because prior to the drought deer had good food early on in the year."
Landowners with LAMPS antlerless deer permits are asked to be patient as the office that coordinates this program was shut down due to the storm and relocated to the Old Sabine Bottom WMA near Tyler. They are currently working about two weeks behind schedule in preparing permits and cannot guarantee permits in time for hunting season for new applicants.
South Texas: Much of the southern portion of the state has suffered through an extended dry period, although recent rainfall may provide some relief going into the season. Jimmy Rutledge, TPWD biologist out of Carrizo Springs states South Texas has been blessed for the last 3 years of having abundant, timely rains and abnormally mild temperatures during this period; however South Texas was due for some below average rainfall and hot temperatures that characterize the region.
TPWD biologist Ty Bartoskewitz of Jim Hogg County states most deer hunters this fall should find average numbers of mature deer, although overall production this year was down. Antler development has been average with some exceptional animals being seen on most managed ranches, but biologists are not anticipating the numbers of Boone & Crockett record book qualifying deer they've seen in recent years. Body condition on most deer looks to be good to excellent.
Hill Country: The central and eastern areas of the Hill Country saw extremely hot and dry conditions interspersed with short periods of good rainfall this past summer. Except for the western edge of the Hill Country, where rainfall has been more consistent and range conditions are noticeably better than average going into the fall, deer should be readily available during the upcoming hunting season, according to Max Traweek, TPWD biologist in Kerrville. "The very spotty, below average acorn crop that most areas are experiencing should also translate to good deer movement and availability this year," he notes. "Body condition will most likely be no better than average, again except for the far western sections that have remained green most of the summer. Since most of the Hill Country had good range conditions this past late winter and early spring, I would anticipate that antler quality will be at least average and maybe better than average on those ranges not obviously overpopulated with deer and other browsers. As is the case every year, we highly recommend that landowners and hunters harvest an adequate number of both bucks and does and not wait too late in the season to work seriously on population control."
Coastal Prairies: Hunters may be somewhat disappointed with this year's hunting season due to the poor range conditions necessary for good antler production, according to TPWD biologist David Forrester. "Hunters should take this opportunity to improve the genetics of the herd through selective harvest," he urged. "Antlerless harvest will be very important this year for several reasons including improving the buck per doe ratio and keeping the deer population within the carrying capacity of the habitat. Because there were fewer bucks harvested last year, that should bode well for increased opportunity this year, as well as increased quality."
Trans Pecos: TPWD biologist Tim Bone reports Far West Texas is in good shape. "We've had above average rains over most of the district this year," he stated. "I am expecting an above average antler development year for both white-tailed deer and mule deer. Deer numbers should be up from last year in most areas. We had a good fawn crop last year, and I expect another good one this year.

[ Note: This item is more than 11 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. 24, 2005
Wildlife Experts Advise Hunters About Avian Flu
AUSTIN, Texas -- State and federal wildlife experts say the chance of people in Texas encountering wild migratory birds with HPAI H5N1 avian influenza this year is remote. However, authorities are launching proactive efforts to detect the disease if it comes to North America and they're advising hunters about game bird handling to reduce general disease risks.
At present, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 has not been found anywhere in North America-there are no records of positive tests in wild or domestic birds, and no known human cases of illness. However, the "bird flu" has been publicized in news reports which note it has caused illness in more than 100 people and killed close to 60 people in Southeast Asia. All of those deaths involved contact with domestic poultry, not wild birds.
Some people believe the disease could eventually travel to North America through wild bird migration, including possible transmission from Asia through Alaska.
A collaborative interagency working group of scientists, public health officials, and policy makers with state and federal agencies is developing a plan for early detection of HPAI H5N1 in North American birds. For more than a year, working group member agencies in Alaska have tested samples from thousands of wild birds and have found no evidence of the disease.
A Sept. 2 statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said "Ongoing migratory bird surveillance, coupled with what we now know about the scope of the disease in Asia and the projected movement of birds from affected areas, gives us reason to think that, while possible, there is no evidence to indicate that H5N1 will reach Alaska, or any other part of North America, in 2005."
Practical hygiene for hunters includes: (1) Do not handle or butcher game animals that are obviously sick or are found dead; (2) Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning game; (3) Wear rubber gloves and washable clothing when cleaning game; (4) Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game; (5) Wash tools and working surfaces with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10% solution of chlorine bleach; and (6) Cook game meat thoroughly-poultry should reach an internal temperature of 155-165 degrees F.
On the Net:
TPWD News Roundup on Avian Influenza: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/releases/news_roundup/avian_influenza/
National Wildlife Health Center: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/
Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm
Ducks Unlimited: http://www.ducks.org/News/AvianFluStatement.asp

[ Note: This item is more than 11 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]
Oct. 24, 2005
Anglers Needed To Help TPWD Replace Flounder Brood Stock Lost During Hurricane Rita
AUSTIN, Texas -- Count among the losses from Hurricane Rita more than 100 brood fish crucial to the state's marine hatchery production efforts at Sea Center Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is scrambling to replace those losses and is looking for help from experienced anglers.
"What we really need help with is collecting southern flounder," said David Abrego, Sea Center Texas facility director. He went on to note that during the mandatory evacuation of the hatchery during the hurricane, failures in the water pump system wiped out practically all their brood fish, including 66 red drum, 48 spotted seatrout and 14 southern flounder. "Fortunately, all our aquarium fish, including our tarpon, survived."
On Oct. 29 at the S.A.L.T. Club on Sabine Lake and on Nov. 12 at the Texas City Dike, TPWD will conduct special fishing tournaments targeting southern flounder as part of its Coastal Fisheries Bay Team program. Participating anglers who bring in qualifying flounder have a chance to win a lifetime fishing license and other prizes.
"This all ties in to genetic diversity-the more fish we have for hatchery brood stock, the better it will be for the millions of fish we stock in Texas public waters to improve fishing each year," said Robert Adami, TPWD coastal fisheries biologist in Corpus Christi.
Each Coastal Fisheries Bay Team tournament is open to 30 two-person teams, 60 people total, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Registration takes place on-site the day of each tournament. There is no entry fee, but all entrants must be 21 years old or older. Participants may turn in three fish per tournament.
At each tournament, anglers who bring in fish will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a lifetime fishing license worth $600. Participants who do not bring in fish will be entered into a drawing at each tournament for a fishing gear prize package-a Texas Tackle Factory rod and Shimano Curado reel combo, Boga grip and a Garmin GPS unit. Every participant will receive a shirt and cap.
The prizes, equipment, and program are made possible through support from Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Since 1991, Anheuser-Busch, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, has contributed millions of dollars in funding to support conservation causes and fishing, hunting, and outdoor recreation programs in Texas.
Since TPWD began enlisting anglers to help catch fish for hatcheries at special tournaments eight years ago, more than 1,200 people have helped catch more than 1,500 fish.
Both tournaments will take place from 6 a.m.- noon.
Anglers interested in becoming a member of the Coastal Fisheries Bay Team can contact Adami at the CCA/CPL Marine Development Center at robert.adami@tpwd.texas.gov or (361) 939-7784.

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Oct. 24, 2005
Government Canyon Welcomes Public, Sets Operating Hours
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Several thousand visitors showed up Oct. 15-16, the opening weekend for Government Canyon State Natural Area, touring the new Visitor Center facilities, picnicking and scouting out miles of wilderness trails on the edge of San Antonio.
During the opening, state natural area manager Deirdre Hisler announced Government Canyon's days and hours of operation. They are: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays through Mondays only. Access to backcountry trails closes at 5 p.m., while access to frontcountry trails ceases at 6 p.m.
When Daylight Savings Time takes effect Oct. 30, the hours of operation will change to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and trails will close an hour earlier.
At this time, there is no overnight camping allowed in the 8,622-acre state natural area, but there are 34 miles of trails to explore by foot or bicycle. Primitive tent camping is expected to be offered sometime next year.
For more information, contact the park at (830) 688-9055.

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Anne Tiedt, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (512) 292-4200 X105 or atiedt@wildflower.org or Marilyn Good, Texas Nursery & Landscape Assoc. (512) 280-5182 or mgood@tnlaonline.org ]
Oct. 24, 2005
First Statewide Conference on Invasive Plants Scheduled
AUSTIN, Texas -- On Nov. 17 and 18, 2005, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin will convene the first statewide conference in Texas on non-native invasive plants as part of the Pulling Together Initiative. Conference planning is led by a coalition of interested parties who recognize the importance of creating networks of information about the potentially negative impacts of non-native invasive plant species. The coalition includes: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Texas Forest Service, Houston Area Research Council, Texas Nursery & Landscape Association, National Biological Information Infrastructure, and the Texas Department of Agriculture.
The purpose of the Pulling Together Initiative is to: provide information about identification and management of invasive plants; establish locations for invasive plant demonstration areas; develop science-based strategies for classifying and managing invasive plants; and through this statewide conference, facilitate information sharing about non-native invasive plants.
"Invasive species can be detrimental to natural ecosystems and wreak havoc on our water resources and agricultural land in Texas, and often they are very difficult and expensive to control. This conference is the first statewide initiative of its kind and will help us share information on how to quickly detect and combat non-native species. I applaud the many agencies and organizations that have come together to examine the scope of the problem and find solutions on behalf of the State of Texas," said Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs.
"We can all help protect our native plants and healthy habitats by learning more about invasive plants," said Susan Rieff, executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. "As the problem grows, so do the opportunities for people to get involved in the detection, control and eradication of invasives."
"People who care about wildlife well know the threat posed by invasive plants, and we encourage all interested parties to pull together with us on this one," said Robert L. Cook, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. "It will take a large scale effort involving broad public awareness and support to effectively combat the invasive plant problem. This conference is an outstanding way to kick-start that effort."
The conference goals are to facilitate communication among the state's stakeholders who have a vested interest in non-native invasive plants; develop a coordinated response on a statewide level; provide a venue for sharing information about prevention, early detection, control and management, restoration, and research; and to raise public awareness of the problems posed by non-native invasive plants in Texas.
The first two days of the conference are professional level meetings designed to serve scientists, land managers, state and federal agencies, local governments, and other professionals. Plenary speakers include Lori Williams, executive director, National Invasive Species Council, Department of the Interior, and James H. Miller, Research Ecologist and Team Leader, USDA Forest Service.
The third day of the conference, Nov. 19, is devoted to public awareness and educational outreach and will be open to the general public. The event will include showings of National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth: Invaders Special, expert presentations and exhibits on invasive plants, and a special appearance by "Woody the Weed".
The Texas Invasives Web site, www.texasinvasives.org, serves as the main hub for information about the conference, and the Pulling Together Initiative.

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Oct. 24, 2005
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. For more information, visit the Web.
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.
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.
On the Net:
Passport to Texas: http://www.passporttotexas.org/
TPWD on PBS: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/tv/
TPW Magazine: http://www.tpwmagazine.com/