|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-11-12                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than nine 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]
Nov. 12, 2007
Proposal Would Require Permits to Sell/Possess Venomous Snakes
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved the publication of proposed regulations that would require a new permit for people who sell, transport or possess venomous snakes not indigenous to Texas, plus four species of pythons and one species of anaconda.
Under House Bill 12, enacted by the 80th Texas Legislature, the commission is required to establish permits authorizing the possession and transportation of the following snakes: all non-indigenous venomous snakes, African rock python (Python sebae), Asiatic rock python (Python molurus), green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), reticulated python (Python reticulatus), and southern African python, (Python natalensis). The bill also prohibits the release of these snakes into the wild in Texas.
The proposed regulations would require anyone who possesses one of the controlled exotic snakes, but does not sell snakes, to buy a $20 Recreational Controlled Exotic Snake Permit. People who buy a controlled exotic snake from a pet store could use their sales receipt as a temporary recreational permit good for 21 days, giving them time to buy an official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department permit.
Dealers who possess or transport controlled exotic snakes for sale would need to pay a $60 Commercial Controlled Exotic Snake Permit. This permit would be required for each permanent place of business where controlled exotic snakes are sold. Permitted businesses would need to maintain a daily record of snake sales, which would have to be kept for two years and made available to TPWD upon request.
Either permit could be obtained anywhere Texas hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
The department staff is preparing the official version of the proposed regulations. Following publication of the proposal in the Texas Register, public comments will be accepted via the TPWD Web site Public Comment page. The commission will consider final adoption of the regulations at its next meeting Jan. 24.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than nine 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]
Nov. 12, 2007
Bryant Named Shikar-Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year
AUSTIN, Texas -- Game Warden Jarrod E. Bryant of Marshall has been named "Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year" for 2007 by the wildlife conservation and hunting organization Shikar-Safari Club International.
Bryant continues his game warden career where he began it in Harrison County, a busy rural area south of Caddo Lake along the Texas-Louisiana state line. Bryant's responsibilities include all areas of game, fish, water safety and public safety enforcement, accomplished through public education, high-profile patrols and criminal apprehensions.
Bryant's career has emphasized youth outreach and community involvement. He has mentored local college students interested in wildlife law enforcement and cultivated positive attitudes about wildlife conservation enforcement through community policing.
He is considered a leader in his district by working closely with local landowners to apprehend those who disregard private property rights. As a certified Hunter Education instructor, Bryant assists other local Hunter Education instructors and presents programs to many schools, civic groups and agricultural meetings.
One of Jarrod's most notable achievements was apprehending a number of suspected illegal deer hunters. For years these suspects hunted deer without landowner consent in a coal producing part of Harrison County, a private property dubbed by some locals as the "Run like Hell Hunting Club." This private land has long been the scene of state jail felonies involving deer hunted without consent, deer hunted at night, conspiracy, death threats to witnesses and illegal drug sales and drug abuse. For 12 months, with some occasional assistance, Jarrod investigated suspected deer poachers. His work yielded 10 criminal cases, including eight for felony hunting without landowner consent. The largest mounted deer seized from this illegal operation was a 32-point whitetail buck, which under the Boone and Crockett scoring totaled 208 5/8 inches.
Additionally, Jarrod made a criminal trespass case this fall that led to a confession for a 2001 state jail felony case where the hunter killed a 130-inch buck without landowner permission. As part of a plea agreement on the criminal trespass case between the court, the defendant and the mining company, the violator will release the trophy deer to the state.
Each year Shikar-Safari Club International honors the officer whose efforts during the previous year show outstanding performance and achievement in the area of state wildlife law enforcement. The conservation organization presents annual awards to wildlife law enforcement officers in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and the territories of both nations. Founded in 1952 as a way to advance the knowledge of wildlife worldwide, the club works to enhance and preserve wildlife and has placed particular emphasis on endangered and threatened species through the promotion of enforcement of conservation laws and regulations.

[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [LH]
Nov. 12, 2007
Age of Former World Record Blue Catfish Splash Revealed
Famous fish grew fast, died when twenty-something.
ATHENS, Texas--Scientists at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Heart of the Hill Fisheries Science Center near Kerrville have determined that Splash, the former world record blue catfish caught from Lake Texoma in 2004, was at least 23 years old when she died in December 2005.
Fish are aged by counting annual growth rings (annuli) in small ear-bones called otoliths that fish use for balance and hearing.
The official age estimate of 23+ years indicated that the big fish may have been as old as 25. Heart of the Hills researcher Dave Buckmeier said the two years Splash spent in captivity at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens may have been responsible for "fuzzy" growth rings on the outer edges of her otoliths.
"The estimate is 23+ because there were 23 annual rings plus some growth," Buckmeier said. "Being held in captivity in a stable environment may have affected the formation of annuli. Plus old fish like that tend to be more difficult to age. As fish get older, their growth rate slows, so there is less space between rings."
The two otoliths, one from each ear, were each about the size of a pencil eraser--or a diamond that would make any bride-to-be swoon. "They were actually pretty small considering Splash weighed 121.5 pounds," Buckmeier commented. "All North American catfish have small otoliths. A three- to four-pound largemouth bass would have the same size otolith as Splash."
To prepare an otolith for viewing under a microscope, Buckmeier used a small rotary tool to grind down one side and then polished it with 600-grit wetted sandpaper while holding it with rubber-tipped forceps.
Then he cooked it. Sort of.
"Heating the otolith on a hotplate until it was golden brown intensified the calcium in the rings so they showed up better," he explained. "Different densities of calcium show up as rings--slower growth rings are denser. In a poor year when a fish gets little food, the distance between the rings is less."
As for how Splash's age compares to other fish, Buckmeier said 23 "was not young, but it's pretty impressive. I've aged a blue cat from Tennessee that was in the 110-pound range and was about 19 years old. I also aged a 92-pound state record blue for Virginia at 12 years."
Buckmeier's findings confirmed the feeling many people have that there was something special about Splash. "We've been seeing that most fish 90 pounds and up tend to be fairly young relative to their size, whereas the older fish tend to be much smaller--blue cats weighing only 8 pounds have been aged at 32," Buckmeier continued. "It appears that these really big fish are fast growers for some reason. Conditions in the reservoir are part of it, but growth can vary a lot, even in the same system. Perhaps there's a genetic link, but we don't know that."
Is there another Splash swimming around in Lake Texoma waiting to be caught? Maybe, maybe not. "The growth of that one fish is not necessarily typical of Lake Texoma," Buckmeier said. "But a lot of people around the country are starting to age blue catfish, so the database is growing."
Bruce Hysmith, TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist whose beat includes Lake Texoma, says interest in fishing for blue catfish was sparked years ago by a striper guide who saw big, umbrella-shaped images on his sonar and wondered what they were. It turned out they were big blue catfish holding in deep water along the river channel. "The bite is from December through February," Hysmith said. "Kill the engine and drift over the fish without putting out an anchor so as not to disturb them. Use shad for bait. Let it down and wait for a little nibble that feels like a little baitfish jerking. Set the hook and hang on."
Hysmith said the blue catfishery is still good in Lake Texoma, but fewer people seem to be taking advantage of it. "Bright, sunny days with no wind, when the stripers aren't biting, is the best time for blues," he said.
Someday, perhaps 100 years from now, a future generation of anglers and big fish fans will know how Splash fits into the big picture. She may turn out to be one of only a handful of fish of her species ever to attain such size, or she may be proved to have been one of many big blues.
Either way, Splash's memory will live on in an exhibit at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, where her skeleton will be displayed along with the story of her life. During the two years she was at the center, Splash was the main attraction. "Splash had an amazing impact on visitation to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center," said TFFC director Allen Forshage. "The first year she was on display, our annual visitation increased by more than 43 percent, and Splash was pictured on the front cover of several national magazines."
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is located 75 miles southeast of Dallas at 5550 F.M. 2495 east of Athens. For more information or directions call (903) 676-2277.
On the Net:
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center: http://tpwd.texas.gov/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/
More information on Splash: http://tpwd.texas.gov/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/visit/virtualtour/splash/

[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
Nov. 12, 2007
TPW Commission Passes 'Party Boat' License Rules for Inland Waters
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Thursday approved the publication of proposed regulations that would require party boat operators to be licensed and their boats inspected and insured.
Language included in House Bill 12, enacted by the 80th Texas Legislature, requires the commission to regulate party boats on inland lakes and waterways.
According to the regulations approved by the commission, party boat means "a vessel rented or leased for a group recreational event for more than six passengers that operates on inland waters of this state."
Not included in the definition are boats less than 30 feet in length, sailboats, livery vessels or any vessel used for training purposes.
According to the rules, a party boat is subject to an annual inspection; requires the operator to be at least 21 years of age, licensed and to have completed a boater safety course; imposes limits on the number of passengers; and requires a minimum amount of liability insurance.
"Unlike excursion vessels and boats engaged in other charter businesses on coastal waters, boats on Texas' inland waters are not subject to U.S. Coast Guard regulations concerning inspections and licensing," said Col. Pete Flores, TPWD Law Enforcement Division director. "The new regulations will address that gap and result in increased safety on our inland lakes and rivers."
TPWD staff will have the licensing and inspection process in place by June 2008, when enforcement of the regulations will begin

[ Note: This item is more than nine 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]
Nov. 12, 2007
TPWD Offers Grants To Support Texas Wildlife Action Plan
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is seeking grant proposals to allocate almost $1,000,000 towards projects to implement conservation practices that benefit priority species and habitats identified in the Texas Wildlife Action Plan.
The Wildlife Diversity Conservation Grants Program is funding the project with money generated from sales of the Texas Horned Lizard vehicle license plate.
"This funding is unique because it represents thousands of Texans that have purchased a Horned Lizard license plate knowing that it's going towards nongame conservation," said Matt Wagner, TPWD wildlife diversity program leader.
The Texas Wildlife Action Plan is a proactive strategy to keep common species common. It focuses mainly on "nongame" wildlife, animals that are not hunted or fished, including some that are not yet rare but could become so if proactive steps are not taken soon. Each year, threatened and endangered species receive funding through the Endangered Species Act and game animals receive support through hunter dollars spent on licenses, firearms, and ammunition.
"What's been missing is a fund dedicated to nongame species," said Wagner. "This plan fills a void and identifies priorities from a habitat perspective in the 10 ecoregions of the state. It also ranks priorities for nongame birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and numerous aquatic species." By focusing on habitat protection and restoration, the plan benefits all wildlife, including game animals and rare species.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is looking for innovative ideas on how to build partnerships with landowners to restore native habitats and incorporate land management strategies for all wildlife, in particular the lesser-known species.
"We know of declines of certain nongame animals such as horned lizards and box turtles, and most of the time it all goes back to habitat," said Wagner. "We want to measure the benefits of habitat restoration, and we'll be particularly seeking grant projects that include wildlife monitoring to measure results."
Eligible applicants include Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff, other natural resource agencies, land owners and managers, universities, conservation organizations, land trusts and Indian tribal governments. Proposals must be received by Dec. 15, 2007.
Forms and guidelines to apply for grants, and the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, may be found on the TPWD Web site. Information about conservation license plates to benefit wildlife diversity, big game, largemouth bass fishing, state parks and wetlands is also online.
On the Net:
Wildlife Diversity Grants: http://tpwd.texas.gov/business/grants/wildlife/wl_diversity_conservation/
Texas Wildlife Action Plan: http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/pwd_pl_w7000_1187a/
Texas Conservation License Plates: http://www.conservation-plate.org