|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-03-26                                    |
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
March 26, 2007
Golden Alga Responsible for Fish Kill on Pecos River
MENTONE, Texas -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists are reporting a fish kill on the Pecos River in Loving and Reeves Counties upstream of Mentone to an area above 16-Mile Dam.
The first call came from an area game warden March 16, and by March 20 TPWD Pollution Biologist Stephen Twidwell was on the river.
"I observed a large number of dead fish," Twidwell said. "Primarily carp, gizzard shad, channel catfish and Gulf killifish."
Twidwell said that water samples showed extremely high levels (more than 100,000 cells per milliliter) of golden alga (Prymnesium parvum), an organism that can be toxic to fish and shellfish. While the exact relationship between the amount of golden alga in the water and toxicity has not yet been determined, cell counts as low as 20,000 cells per milliliter can cause fish kills.
Twidwell said that high concentrations of golden alga in Red Bluff Reservoir over the past several months has resulted in fish kills on both the New Mexico and Texas sides of the reservoir and it's possible that releases into the river sent a slug of toxic water downstream.
"It's really unpredictable, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't push on downstream," Twidwell said.
When golden alga gains a competitive edge over other species and blooms (a bloom is an explosive increase in the population of a species), it may produce toxins that result in fish kills. Several toxins may be released that affect gill-breathing organisms, mainly clams and fish but also crayfish and the gill-breathing stage of amphibians.
Unlike toxic red tide blooms on the coast, golden alga toxins have no apparent lethal effect on other organisms besides fish and aquatic creatures. Cattle and other animals have been observed drinking from rivers during ongoing golden alga fish kills with no apparent effects.
Texas Department of State Health Services officials have stated that the golden alga is not known to be a human health problem, but people should never pick up dead, or dying, fish for consumption.
What makes golden alga go into reproductive overdrive and "bloom," and what can be done to stop it, is not yet known but is the subject of extensive ongoing research by TPWD, university scientists and others.
Monitoring of the current bloom on the Pecos River by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and TPWD biologists and game wardens is ongoing.
Members of the public are encouraged to report fish kills by calling the local game warden directly or through the sheriff's office, the TPWD 24-hour communications center (512-389-4848) or one of the Kills and Spills Team biologists.
On the Net:

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Rob McCorkle, (830) 866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov; Ann Miller; (512) 389-4732, ann.miller@tpwd.texas.gov ]
March 26, 2007
Get Hooked on Fishing This Spring at a Texas State Park
Free Fishing, Events and More
AUSTIN, Texas -- Fishing in a Texas state park has never been easier or more economical than it is today thanks to the Free Fishing in State Parks program.
A popular program for four years, Free Fishing in State Parks -- waiving the fishing license and stamp requirements within state parks -- has been extended through Aug. 31, 2007. Park visitors can enjoy free fishing at more than 50 state parks.
"By eliminating the requirement for a fishing license and fishing stamps while inside a Texas state park, this program gives residents and non-residents yet another great reason to visit a Texas state park" explained Bryan Frazier, promotions coordinator for state parks.
The license-free angling applies only to fishing inside a state park from the bank, a pier or from a boat if done in a body of water totally contained within the boundaries of a state park, such as Buescher State Park's lake. State parks along the coast also participate to encourage fishing from the beach and wade fishing.
State park entry fees, however, still apply. All state fishing regulations, except the license and stamp requirements, remain in effect.
In addition to free fishing at parks across the state, youth fishing clinics, fishing derbies and other family-oriented fishing events are on tap this spring and summer at some 25 state parks across the state
The events not only are lots of fun, according to Ann Miller, Aquatic Education coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, but they also teach fishing skills to children and help instill in them the importance of aquatic stewardship.
One of Miller's angler education instructors is Bill Brooks who coordinates Free Fishing at State Parks events at both Bastrop and Buescher state parks in central Texas. Last year, more than 200 youngsters participated in the events, learning the "how-tos" of fishing and got to try their luck at hooking a fish.
"We've had great success with this program," Brooks said. "We supply rods, reels, hooks and even some refreshments. At noon, we hold a raffle to give away fishing equipment and tackle boxes."
Brooks says parents check in their children (ages 6 to 13) at 10 a.m. Youngsters then proceed to five different stations to learn such things as how to tie a knot, how to identify different fish, how to cast and how to be safe on the water. Then, the young anglers can try their hand at landing a fish, many of them for the first time.
This year up to a dozen state parks will have a fishing event coordinator on board to organize and run multiple fishing events in each of these select parks. In addition, kids participating in this year's Free Fishing in State Parks events will receive free "Family Fishing Packs" containing a "how-to" informational booklet, a "Fishing is Fun" book, a photo holder refrigerator magnet and a laminated freshwater and saltwater fish identification card.
Prizes will also be handed out at the events, thanks in part to participating sponsors. Redi-Lure, for example, has donated hundreds of tackle boxes for prizes. Rods and reels, other fishing equipment and "Life's Better Outside" water bottles and visors can also be won at many of the fishing events.
"With the increased number of events planned for this year, we decided it was a great opportunity to provide informational materials and increase the number of prizes at these events as a way to encourage kids to get more involved in fishing," said Darcy Bontempo, TPWD marketing director.
State parks hosting fishing events this year, in addition to Bastrop and Buescher, are: Blanco, Bonham, Brazos Bend, Caddo Lake, Caprock Canyon, Cedar Hill, Fairfield, Eisenhower, Galveston Island, Huntsville, Inks Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Livingston, Lake Texana, Lake Whitney, LBJ, Martin Dies, Jr., McKinney Falls, Palmetto, Purtis Creek, Ray Roberts Lake and Washington-On-the-Brazos.
Adults and youngsters alike are expected to attend the "Texoma On The Fly" fly fishing expo at Eisenhower State Park north of Denison on Lake Texoma on June 23. Persons wanting to learn more about this increasingly popular sport, how to tie their own flies and cast effectively will hear from some of the top fly fishers in Texas, according to event coordinator and certified fly fishing instructor Steve Hollensed. For more information, call the park at (903) 463-4696.
A complete list of the coastal and inland state parks offering free fishing opportunities and upcoming Free Fishing In State Parks events can be found on the TPWD Web site or by calling (800) 792-1112.
On the Net:

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
March 26, 2007
Hunter Education Instructors Needed
AUSTIN, Texas -- Hunters 21 and older who find themselves wanting to give back to the activity they love and enjoy should contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and become certified as a hunter education instructor.
"The department needs men and women to share their love for hunting and the great outdoors by volunteering as an instructor," said Terry Erwin, hunter education program coordinator. "The Hunter Education Program's goals are to reduce hunting related accidents and violations; promote safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved hunting practices and enhance conservation efforts, hunting traditions and values. Current instructors include game wardens, volunteers and professional educators, but we need your volunteer help to carry on this valuable tradition."
Prospective instructors must graduate from a state-certified hunter education student course in addition to taking TPWD's four-hour online training and then attend an 8-hour instructor training workshop and written examination. Other steps include an oral interview by a TPWD game warden. A criminal background check will be conducted and those failing to meet certain standards may be denied certification.
Application forms and a schedule of upcoming instructor certification workshops are available by contacting Erwin at (800) 792-1112 ext. 4999 or visit the TPWD web site at tpwd.texas.gov/learning/hunter_education/instruct.phtml

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
March 26, 2007
Outlook Good for Spring Turkey Season
AUSTIN, Texas -- Prolonged dry conditions across the state last year may have impacted wild turkey production in some areas, but overall, the outlook for the 2007 spring turkey hunting season is bright, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
Rio Grande spring turkey hunting season opens March 31 and runs through May 13 in 153 counties. The spring eastern turkey season is open in 42 East Texas counties from April 1-30. Special youth-only weekends are set for March 24-25 and May 19-20.
"We haven't had range-wide production the last couple of years so, generally, there might not be as many mature gobblers out there," said T. Wayne Schwertner, TPWD turkey program coordinator. "With Rio Grande turkeys, however, that means instead of a heckuva lot of birds, hunters might see just a lot of birds."
TPWD census surveys estimate upwards of 60,000 hunters take part in Texas' spring turkey season and harvest more than 25,000 gobblers. About half of the state's spring turkey hunting activity occurs in the Hill Country, where Schwertner noted timely rainfall could give the bird population a boost.
"There have been some bright spots, localized areas that have gotten rains," he said. "We got some late winter rainfall and spring rainfall and that's a good thing, but to really have a major impact on reproduction we need mid-winter rainfall."
Statewide regulations allow the use of shotgun, rifle, handgun, legal archery equipment, or crossbow to take Rio Grande turkey; however, individual landowners and public hunting areas may further restrict the devices to be used. The bag limit for Rio Grande turkey is four turkeys per license year. Regulations and bag limits vary by county, so check the county specific rules where you are hunting. Only gobblers are allowed to be harvested during the spring hunting season. Consult the 2006-07 Outdoor Annual for season dates and bag limits in your area.
In the eastern portion of the state, last season saw hunters having to blaze paths through felled trees and debris left over from Hurricane Rita, with below-average harvest results. Things should be better this spring, said Schwertner.
"The thing with Easterns is a slightly dry spring is a good thing," he explained. "Now that the national forest lands are recovering, thanks to prescribed burns opening up habitat, it should be easier to hunt and concentrate the birds more."
Eastern turkey hunting is limited to shotgun, lawful archery equipment or crossbow, with a one-gobbler bag limit. All harvested eastern turkeys must be taken to a check station within 24 hours. To find the check station nearest you, contact a TPWD field office or call (800) 792-1112 or go online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/season/stations .
"My only hesitation, because of the storm in 2005, I can't say what reproduction was a year ago," added Gary Calkins, TPWD district wildlife biologist in Jasper. "It's tough to say how many young birds are out there. It should be pretty good, though. Most of the mess in the national forests from the storm has been cleaned off so hunters should be able to move around. We lost a lot of hardwoods in the southern part of the district, but what was out there produced really well and this winter was fairly easy, so the birds came through okay."
If you intend to hunt in the national forest lands, most areas require a TPWD Annual Public Hunting Permit (available for $48 wherever hunting licenses are sold) and the permit is needed to access several hundred thousand acres of public hunting lands in East Texas.
Calkins said Eastern turkey populations on private lands remain strong in certain areas of the Pineywoods. He said harvest data indicates that the longer 30-day spring season in East Texas has not had an adverse impact on bird numbers.
"Harvest has remained about the same. Most of the harvest still occurs during the first part of the season, probably because there are more hunters out there early on and the birds became educated," Calkins said. "Although it gave hunters more opportunity to chase them around for a longer period, most of the birds were taken during the first part of the season."

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
March 26, 2007
Whooping Cranes Begin Spring Migration
AUSTIN -- An ancient Texas spring tradition has begun. According to federal wildlife officials, endangered whooping cranes have begun their annual 2,400-mile trek from Texas back to their breeding grounds in northwest Canada.
Biologists at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the mid-Texas coast reported seeing a family of three whoopers headed north March 8, and, by mid-March, observers along the Platte River in Nebraska, a famed stopover site for migrating cranes, had spied whooping cranes at three different locations.
Officials expect migration activity to increase with the predominance of spring southerly winds. The traditional peak of spring whooping crane migration occurs in the first two weeks of April. Whoopers may reach their northern destination, Wood Buffalo National Park, Northwest Territories, Canada, in as little as 10 days after leaving the Texas coast.
Whooping Cranes are the rarest cranes in the world. The flock of whooping cranes that winters in Texas, which represents the only remaining naturally-occurring population of the species, reached record numbers this year, when a peak wintering population of 237 was estimated. However, overall recovery efforts for the species suffered a setback when an experimental population was decimated by winter tornadoes in Florida. That flock had been reintroduced to a migratory path from Wisconsin to Florida using ultralight aircraft.
Texans can help by reporting sightings of whooping cranes during their spring and fall migrations. To report a whooping crane sighting, contact Lee Ann Linam with TPWD by email at lalinam@wimberley-tx.com or phone Mark Klym with TPWD at (800) 792-1112, ext. 4644. Whooping crane spotters are also asked to note whether the cranes have colored bands on their legs.
Whoopers, the tallest bird in North America, are entirely white except for a small patch of black feathers and red skin on the face and black wing tips that are seen only in flight. During migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. They usually migrate in small family groups of two to three birds, but they may be seen roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller sandhill crane.
On the Net:

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
March 26, 2007
First Texas Spring Alligator Hunting Season Starts April 1
AUSTIN, Texas -- For the first year in "non-core" counties outside historical alligator habitat in southeast Texas, a spring alligator hunting season will run April 1-June 30. The new regulation comes as people continue to move into alligator habitat across Texas, and state biologists try to provide more hunting opportunity and another means to proactively manage conflicts between people and alligators.
Some public confusion has emerged around the new spring hunting season, which has a two-fold purpose, according to Jim Sutherlin with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He works with the state's top alligator biologists as manager of the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area near Port Arthur and helps set Texas alligator management and hunting regulations.
"The intent of the new spring season is partly to provide additional hunter opportunity and second to proactively reduce conflicts between alligators and people," Sutherlin said. "We're trying to be more proactive in managing Texas alligators. There are a couple of non-core counties that do have high potential for alligators, such as Harris and Fort Bend, and these are areas where we have had an increasing number of nuisance alligator reports in recent years. Our agency continues to emphasize public education as a primary way to minimize human-alligator conflicts."
For decades, Texas alligator hunting has been carefully regulated in the southeastern "core counties" of Angelina, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Matagorda, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler and Victoria. In these 22 core counties, the traditional fall alligator season continues, running Sep. 10-30. The number of alligators taken in core counties is controlled by alligator hide tags issued to private landowners, based on annual surveys conducted by state biologists. Hunters who take an alligator in core counties must immediately attach one of these tags to the hide.
This year for the first time, in the 232 non-core counties of Texas outside the 22 southeastern core counties, a spring alligator hunting season will run April 1-June 30. Spring hunters may take one alligator per licensed person during this time frame, and only on private property. Within 72 hours, hunters in non-core counties must complete an Alligator Hide Tag Report Form and mail it to TPWD headquarters in Austin along with a $20 hide tag fee. Report forms are available at TPWD Law Enforcement offices and in the TPWD Outdoor Annual available wherever hunting licenses are sold.
There are also some "special properties" within the non-core counties where core county regulations are in effect. In these areas, landowners can have TPWD biologists survey alligator habitat and populations and issue hide tags as they do in the core counties, and these properties must then conduct harvest according to the core county regs.
Rules for spring alligator hunting in or around water have generated particular confusion. Hunting an alligator on private property or private water is legal with the consent of the landowner or landowner's agent. It is illegal to use a firearm to shoot a free-swimming alligator in public water. However, with landowner consent hunters may anchor a hook and line on private property and place the line in public water, then use a firearm to dispatch the alligator after it is caught. Private water includes ponds and stock tanks surrounded on all sides by private land. Public water includes large public reservoirs or lakes and navigable streams such as rivers and bayous.
Anyone hunting alligators in Texas must possess a valid hunting license and all alligators must be tagged.
As Texas residents expand their homes and businesses into alligator country, encounters between these normally shy reptiles and people have increased. Late spring through summer is alligator mating and nesting season, when gators are more likely to be visible.
In recent years, there's been a steady rise in alligator complaints in southeast Texas in and around Houston and Conroe, many of which are not true "nuisance" alligators. The situation is driven in large part by expanding human development, with roads and housing subdivisions moving into alligator wetland habitat.
In Texas, no fatalities have been documented due to alligators. In the past two decades, there have been fewer than 20 injuries due to alligators reported to TPWD statewide, none life threatening.
In 1969, a state law that preceded the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 protected the alligator in Texas. A combined effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies in the south brought the alligator back, allowing it to rebound in many areas where it had been depleted by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat. The alligator was removed from the endangered list in the 1980s. Since 1984, sustainable hunting has been allowed in Texas and Louisiana.
In October 2003, it became a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $25 to $500 for any person who intentionally feeds a free-ranging alligator. Use of bait for legal hunting by licensed hunters or nuisance alligator control hunters is not interpreted as feeding.
Alligator experts say the most important rule for the public is to never feed an alligator or allow it to get food. Once an alligator loses its natural fear of people it must typically be killed, since if relocated it would only seek people to find food and become a problem somewhere else.
Biologists emphasize that people who may hunt alligators for the first time in the new spring season should think in advance about how to care for the alligator after harvest. Skinning should take place as soon as practical. Alligators are cold blooded reptiles and don't need to be field dressed like some other popular game animals. But hunters should avoid direct sun or heat on the carcass or skin if possible. The decision about what to do with the hide determines the skinning process. Biologists strongly recommend that hunters consult with a taxidermist early on.
More helpful details are in the TPWD brochure "Alligators in Texas," which contains complete regulations for recreational hunting and commercial harvest, plus alligator skinning tips, cooking recipes, forms and other information. This brochure and the required Alligator Hide Tag Report Form for spring hunting are available as .pdf files on the TPWD Web site. Also online are public safety tips for Living with Alligators, alligator research reports and basic natural history. To request copies of alligator brochures or hunting report forms by mail, phone the Texas Wildlife Information Hotline at (512) 389-4505.
On the Net:
“Alligators in Texas” brochure: http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_1011.pdf
Alligator Hide Tag Report Form for spring hunting in non-core counties: http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdforms/media/pwd_0304a_w7000_alligator_tag_report_form.pdf
Living With Alligators public safety tips: http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/alligator/safety/index.phtml

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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
March 26, 2007
Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Mexican fisherman can't learn his lesson -- Several Region V game wardens were patrolling Falcon Lake Feb. 22 when they observed a Mexican commercial fishing vessel in Texas waters. They made contact with this vessel and apprehended two Mexican subjects who were fishing illegally. One of the subjects had been apprehended four times within the past year. Wardens seized the boat, the motor and approximately 1,200 feet of gill net.
Bad gamble begets bad luck -- On Feb. 17, a Harris County game warden caught two subjects goose hunting without a valid hunting license or appropriate stamps. The subjects stated that they decided to take the chance of not getting checked instead of purchasing a license. Cases are pending.
Drugs, alcohol and doughnuts -- A speeding truck entered the McFaddin Wildlife Refuge Feb. 12, zipping past a Jefferson County game warden. The warden followed the truck onto the beach where he watched it perform doughnuts in the sand for several minutes. When the truck finally returned to the road, the warden stopped the vehicle. The occupants admitted to alcohol consumption, but denied any drug usage. Upon further investigation of the vehicle, the warden was able to locate marijuana hidden in the air vent under the dash. Citations were issued.
Game Warden's Patience Foils Fisherman's Plans -- A game warden was doing surveillance on Falcon Lake and various points of the Rio Grande Feb. 6 when he noticed a pickup truck packed with people and towing a boat approach an improvised launch site on the Mexican side of the river. Seeing the game warden, the driver decided to wait. The game warden proved more patient. After much kicking of dirt, smoking of cigarettes, and cursing, the driver left without launching the boat.
Who's filing charges on whom? -- An Aransas County game warden received a call Jan. 19 from a local duck hunting guide who was upset with another guide and wished to file hunter harassment charges against his competitor. The warden made contact with both guides, and each decided to file hunter harassment charges against the other. The warden sent both statements and two offense reports to the Aransas County attorney for sorting out.
Teamwork brings down bad guys -- A region seven game warden and two Montana wardens cooperated in the investigation of two Texas residents suspected of participating in a Montana poaching ring. The investigation led to a search warrant that turned up approximately 19 elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. Violations spanned a 20-year period. Both Texans are facing numerous charges and fines totaling $20,000.
Suspect gets warden's welcome -- A man who fled to Oklahoma to avoid his arrest returned to a game warden's welcome in Hardeman County Jan. 23. On a tip, the warden waited for the suspect's arrival at a relative's residence. The suspect showed up and was consequently arrested for his connection with stolen deer blinds and feeders.
Oyster boat captain refuses citations -- Chambers County game wardens patrolling Trinity and Galveston Bays boarded an oyster boat Jan. 20. While the wardens were inspecting the catch, the boat's captain grabbed a handful of undersized oysters and started returning them to the reef. The wardens issued citations for the undersized cargo and for the captain's failure to comply with the inspection. The captain said he would rather go to jail than sign the tickets. The wardens were happy to accommodate his request.
Hunter clears his conscience -- After interviewing a 25-year-old resident for an hour, a Newton County game warden listened as a young man confessed to illegally harvesting two deer. He then also admitted to killing a 7-point buck on another property in November, which he tagged as a mule deer. Apparently on a roll, the suspect continued to confess, admitting to possessing both Louisiana and Texas resident hunting licenses and to taking roosting wood ducks the week before without a state or federal duck stamp. Numerous charges are pending.
Fisherman takes ride in flying boat -- On January 13, Zapata County game wardens responded to a boat accident on Falcon Lake. An individual participating in a bass tournament was returning to the public ramp at a high rate of speed when the throttle stuck. While the operator was attempting to correct the problem, the boat hit the shoreline and went airborne. The boat hit a vehicle causing minor damage and narrowly missed a bystander. The boat finally landed approximately 58 feet from the water's edge.