|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-04-15                                    |
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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 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Katy Pine 512-389-4577, katy.pine@tpwd.texas.gov or Tom Harvey 512-389-4453, tom.harve@tpwd.texas.gov ]
April 15, 2008
Dragonflying Is the New Birding
'Dragonfly Days,' May 15-18, Showcases New Pursuit
WESLACO, Texas -- The birding industry has established universal appeal, but birds and butterflies are not the only winged migrants to attract a crowd. Dragonflies and damselflies are gaining popularity among wildlife enthusiasts, and southern Texas is home to 93 species, making it one of the most biologically diverse regions in the United States.
The ninth annual Dragonfly Days weekend is a chance to see why dragonflying is becoming as popular as birding in some places. The event takes place in Weslaco May 15-18 and is sponsored by the Estero Llano Grande State Park World Birding Center site near Weslaco and the Valley Nature Center.
For those who want to learn how to tell a skimmer from a glider, and understand how these colorful insects play a vital role in maintaining a healthy environment, Dragonfly Days will offer seminars, field trips, social events and a banquet with a silent auction.
"This is an opportunity for people to discover a new passion and rediscover the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where one third of the total Texas population of dragonflies can be found," said Jennifer Owen-White, Estero Llano Grande State Park natural resource specialist. White said most of the seminars will be held at the event's host hotel, the Holiday Inn Express.
One keynote speaker, Tim Manolis, plans to discuss ways amateur dragonfly enthusiasts can begin to explore secrets waiting to be revealed about dragonflies worldwide. Other experts will be guiding field trips to area wetlands with the greatest dragonfly diversity.
Organizers say visitors should make sure to bring binoculars, sturdy shoes and protection from the sun.
For local families and children, the Valley Nature Center is also hosting the Dragonfly Family Nature Day Sat., May 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more details about Dragonfly Days and the Dragonfly Family Nature Day, call (956) 969-2475 or e-mail info@valleynaturecenter.org. Pre-registration is required for all seminars, field trips and the banquet. Register by April 30 to avoid a price increase. More information can also be found on the Valley Nature Center's Web page.
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 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Rob McCorkle (830) 866-3533 or robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov; Ann Miller (512) 389-4732 or ann.miller@tpwd.texas.gov ]
April 15, 2008
Texas State Parks Hope to Hook More Anglers
Free Fishing, Events and More
AUSTIN, Texas -- In Texas, fishing and warmer weather go together like chips and salsa. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants those already "hooked" on fishing and newcomers to the sport to keep in mind that Texas state park waters offer ideal and economical spots for pursuing the family-friendly sport.
This year marks the fifth year of the Free Fishing in State Parks program that waives fishing license and stamp requirements within more than 50 Texas state parks. To capitalize on the program, which has been extended through Aug. 31, 2008, a dozen state parks are hosting "Free Fishing in State Parks" events where participants learn fishing skills, angling rules and regulations, have a chance to hook a fish and perhaps win door prizes such as rods and reels.
"Allowing free fishing in our state parks serves the dual purpose of reaching out to people who are not traditional fishing license holders by removing barriers to the sport and providing another incentive to visit a state park," said state parks promotions coordinator Bryan Frazier.
"We're getting good feedback from the parks and participants that this has become a popular program and something park visitors truly appreciate because it encourages a family activity like fishing," Frazier said. "We're happy to offer the opportunity that goes to the mission of state parks and our agency to connect people to outdoor activities, such as fishing, that brings families together."
Statistics gathered last year by TPWD show that 44 Free Fishing in State Parks events reached more than 1,500 adults and youth. Of that number, 28 percent of the youngsters surveyed had never fished before and 43 percent of the adults noted they had never been to the host park before. TPWD hopes that will translate into future fishing licenses and equipment sales.
Thanks to various sponsors such as Gander Mountain, fishing event participants walk away not only with newly acquired fishing skills, such as learning how to tie and bait a hook, but also with freshwater and saltwater fishing guides, water bottles, lures, fishing photo magnets, visors, fishing rods and other giveaways.
Choke Canyon State Park fishing event coordinator Darwin Klontz tallied 34 kids and 21 adults at the park's March "Reel Family Fishing Fun" event that he publicized locally through promotional flyers and a radio public service announcement. Three similar events are scheduled at Choke Canyon for April 19, May 31 and June 12.
During Choke Canyon's Free Fishing events, before a line ever hits the water, participants visit six stations designed to educate them on such things as fishing etiquette, fish habitat, safe-casting techniques, fishing equipment, lures and baits, and state fishing rules and regulations, Klontz explained. Participants can also bring their own fishing equipment or borrow the park's loaner rods and reels as long as the supply lasts.
"It seemed to really spark an interest in a number of people, both youngsters and parents," Klontz said. "We hope it'll be a real motivator to get more people out to fish."
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 Huntsville State Park's Lake Raven. 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 dozens of state parks across Texas.
This year, a number of fishing event coordinators have been contracted to organize and run multiple fishing events. Children 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.
In addition to Choke Canyon, fishing event coordinators have scheduled Free Fishing events this year at the following state parks: Bastrop, Buescher, Blanco, Bonham, Eisenhower, Galveston Island, Huntsville, McKinney Falls, Palmetto, Ray Roberts Lake and Tyler.
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.
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 ]
April 15, 2008
Black Bears Are On The Move In Texas
Hunters Advised to ID Targets: That Hog Could Be A Bear
TYLER, Texas -- In the dim light before dawn, it's hard to tell what that dark shape is under the feeder 100 yards from your hunting blind. It's probably a feral hog stealing corn you bought for deer to supplement native forage. But make a positive identification before you pull the trigger; that hog-like shape could be a black bear.
Black bears were almost gone in Texas by the end of World War II because of unregulated hunting and habitat loss. However, a small resident and reproducing black bear population now exists in Texas and it is slowly expanding its range.
To manage the return of bears in the forests of eastern Texas, a coalition of conservation partners called the East Texas Black Bear Task Force has created the East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan. The task force is working to pave the way for black bear restoration in its historic range in eastern Texas through education, research and habitat management.
Bears have been making a slow and natural return to Texas since 1984, when a black bear was observed in Big Bend National Park for the first time in nearly 50 years. A large portion of today's bear population resides in the vast, arid desert and mountain country of the Trans Pecos Region in western Texas.
A few wild and free-roaming individual bears have been observed in south Texas, the western edge of the hill country, the northwestern panhandle and the forests of deep east Texas in recent years. They are considered to be primarily younger males moving hundreds of miles alone from their birth places of western Texas, northern Mexico or the bordering states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana where black bears are more common.
Black bears are protected in Texas and are on the state threatened species list. Only in far eastern Texas do black bears get additional protection through listing as a threatened subspecies under the federal Endangered Species Act. This listing is associated with the black bear population in adjacent Louisiana (Ursus americanus luteolus). Bear hunting of any kind has been prohibited statewide in Texas since 1983.
The forests of eastern Texas are similar to other occupied black bear habitats in adjacent states. East Texas contains approximately 12 million acres of forested private and public land, including four national forests and the Big Thicket National Preserve. This region is considered to be one of the next places in Texas for the continued slow, natural return of black bears.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has documented several reliable bear sightings in recent years in eastern Texas. Some of the most recent sightings have been verified by photos of bears taken by motion-sensitive cameras installed at deer feeders. Studies are in progress with researchers at Stephen F. Austin State University to better determine the distribution and occurrence of black bears in eastern Texas. This research involves the collection of hair samples for DNA analysis and the assessment of suitable forested habitats most likely to support bears.
The East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan adopted by TPWD in 2005 uses a partnership approach to facilitate the recovery of black bears in eastern Texas through cooperative efforts. One misconception about this plan was an early suggestion that TPWD would stock bears. This has never occurred and department biologists say it will not happen in the future unless there is solid public and political support for it. And, stocking may be unnecessary as bears continue to move slowly and naturally into the forests of eastern Texas from adjoining states where there are growing, expanding or stable black bear populations.
Bears are still rare in Texas and very few Texans have ever seen one here. Black bears are also normally shy and not aggressive to humans. This combination of factors makes it unlikely that you or someone you know will encounter one.
Even so, never approach a bear. If you do happen to encounter a black bear at close range in the wilds of Texas, it is advisable to talk in a calm manner while backing away slowly. Do not make direct eye contact and do not run. If a bear approaches you, stand your ground and raise your arms, backpack or jacket to appear larger. If the bear continues to approach, yell at it to scare it off. If a bear is visiting your deer stand or campsite, scare it with rocks, a slingshot or an air horn.
Hunters need to know their target and not mistake a bear for a feral hog or javelina. It is a violation of law to kill a black bear in Texas.
Public opinion surveys of residents in several Texas counties show general support for the return of black bears, while also indicating a need for more easily available information about bears.
Anyone can receive the recently created brochure "Bear Safety in Mind" from TPWD by calling one of the following regional offices nearest you: West Texas/Alpine -- (432) 837-2051, Central Texas/Kerrville -- (830) 896-2500, East Texas/Tyler -- (903) 566-1626, North Texas/Canyon -- (806) 651-3014, or South Texas/Pleasanton -- (830) 569-8700.
The brochure and other information about black bears are also available on the TPWD Web site.
PHOTO EDITORS NOTE: Photos of black bears taken by automated cameras at mechanical wildlife feeders in East Texas are available for news media use on the TPWD Web site. The images are low resolution files, but they document the fact that bears are returning to East Texas.
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 ] [AR]
April 15, 2008
Biologists Launch Study of Two Texas Tidal Streams
AUSTIN, Texas -- In March, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists began a two-year study of two tidal streams on the middle coast, sampling fish, bottom-dwelling organisms, and water quality to measure the quality of aquatic life inhabiting these ecologically important areas.
Tidal streams are areas where saltwater from bays mix with freshwater coming down from rivers. They are components of estuaries, a better-known term for areas where freshwater and saltwater converge. Because tidal streams provide a special kind of habitat, they are vital nursery grounds for many types of fish and shellfish, including economically important species like shrimp and game fish.
"Tidal streams are complex ecosystems," said Janet Nelson, a TPWD coastal biologist. "We need to know more about threats to them that could undermine biodiversity in general and our sport and commercial fisheries in particular. There hasn't been enough study of tidal streams to completely understand what drives changes in these systems."
Nelson said tidal stream salinity varies seasonally with rainfall, and this drives changes in fish populations. Other factors that affect habitat and water quality include hydrology (water movement), freshwater inflow, subsidence, land use in the watershed and wastewater discharges.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has contracted with TPWD to study two tidal streams, the tidal portions of Aransas and Mission rivers connected to Aransas Bay. Field sampling began in late March and will continue until November 2009. Sampling will occur every six weeks during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Water and sediment (bottom) samples will be collected for laboratory analysis. Other parameters that will be measured include dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature salinity, and stream flow.
Fish, shrimp, crabs and other swimming organisms will be collected, identified and measured. Sediment from the bottom of the streams will be collected to see what types of organisms live there. A detailed field study will be done of habitat within the stream and on the banks. Also, a GIS land cover analysis will be done to see how the land surrounding the stream is being used.
When the fieldwork is completed, the final report to is due to TCEQ in 2010. This gives TPWD scientists about one year to analyze and interpret all the data and write a report on the ecological health of each stream.

[ 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]
April 15, 2008
Budweiser ShareLunker: Falcon, Fork Send Lunkers to Athens
ATHENS, Texas -- A professional angler fishing in a tournament and a recreational angler fishing off a dock caught Budweiser ShareLunkers last week.
Scott Campbell of Springfield, Mo., pulled in the big fish in ESPN's B.A.S.S. Elite Series tournament on Lake Falcon April 3. The fish weighed 13.13 pounds.
Campbell was fishing with a 10-inch worm in 25 feet of water.
Saturday evening Pamela Plummer of Fort Worth was fishing in seven feet of water off a dock on Lake Fork when her ZOOM watermelon red plastic worm got hung up in some vegetation-or so she thought. "Then my pole bent, and I realized I had a fish," she said. "It jumped and I realized I had a big fish. It jumped three times before I got it in. My husband almost had a heart attack!"
Plummer's fish weighed 13.11 pounds and was 25.5 inches long and 22 inches in girth. Length and girth were not available on Campbell's fish.
The Budweiser ShareLunker program is 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.