|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-07-08                                    |
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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 ] [AR]
July 8, 2008
Consumption Advisory Issued for Spotted Seatrout from Galveston Bay
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Department of State Health Services today advised limiting consumption of spotted seatrout (commonly called "speckled trout") and all species of catfish from Galveston Bay because of concerns about chemicals known as PCBs and dioxins. This marks the first time the state health department has issued an advisory for an inshore gamefish species from an entire major bay system.
The advisory recommends limiting consumption to no more than 8 ounces per adult per month. Women who are nursing, pregnant or who may become pregnant and children should not consume catfish or spotted seatrout from Galveston Bay.
Previously, in January 2005, DSHS issued a similar advisory for spotted seatrout from upper Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. A 1990 advisory, still in effect, applies the same limits to catfish and blue crabs from that area.
Today's advisory applies to all of Galveston Bay to the seaward end of the Galveston jetties and includes minor bays such as Chocolate Bay, East Bay, West Bay and Trinity Bay.
The new consumption limits come as the result of sampling conducted at numerous locations throughout Galveston Bay between October 2006 and May 2007.
Samples from numerous common species -- including red drum (redfish), southern flounder, black drum and blue crab -- were analyzed. Only spotted seatrout and gafftopsail catfish (gafftops) showed potentially harmful levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDDs/PCDF's or dioxins) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Because freshwater catfish species are found in the upper reaches of the bay system and saltwater catfish have similar life histories, the advisory applies to all species of catfish.
"We've known for a long time that spotted seatrout typically don't stray far from their home bay systems. But, from our tagging studies, we also know that these fish move around within the Galveston Bay complex," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division Regional Director Lance Robinson. "Some people might wonder about fish in adjacent waters, and at this point we just don't know. The DSHS study did not include samples beyond Galveston Bay, Trinity Bay and East Bay."
Robinson said TPWD is supportive of DSHS in their attempts to locate additional funding to expand their monitoring efforts in waters adjacent to Galveston Bay and in other bay systems.
Galveston Bay is a 600-square-mile estuary on the upper Texas coast and is the seventh-largest estuary in the United States. Commercial and recreational fishing on Galveston Bay generates more than $1 billion per year, and more than half of the state's expenditures for recreational fishing go directly or indirectly to Galveston Bay. Spotted seatrout is the most-targeted gamefish species in the bay.
"This may have some impact on local fishing guides and related services," said TPWD Galveston Bay Ecosystem Leader Bill Balboa. "But catch-and-release fishing is growing in popularity, and redfish and black drum are plentiful. DSHS samples did not show dangerous levels of contaminants in those species. Other species we don't normally associate with the upper Texas coast -- like gray snapper -- are doing quite well here, and more and more anglers are targeting those. We even had a pretty good striped bass fishery here this past winter."
There have been no changes in size, bag or possession limits for spotted seatrout or catfish on Galveston Bay.
Since PCBs and dioxins readily accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish, Robinson recommends anglers reduce exposure to these chemicals by removing the skin, dark (reddish-color) muscle tissue and fatty portions (belly fat, side fat, and fat along the top of the back) before cooking.
DSHS recommends baking or broiling skinned, trimmed fish on a rack or grill to allow fat to drip away from the fillet. If fish are fried, the frying oil should not be reused. These cooking methods will reduce exposure to many of the most common organic chemical contaminants in fish, including PCBs and dioxins. Additional information about preparing fish for consumption can be found at the DSHS Web site and in a brochure published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
For more information, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit the TPWD fish consumption bans and advisories Web page.
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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 ] [AR]
July 8, 2008
Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Season to Open July 15
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp season for both state and federal waters will open 30 minutes after sunset Tuesday, July 15, 2008. The opening date is based on an evaluation of the biological, social and economic information to maximize the benefits to the industry and the public.
In making its determination, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division used the best available scientific information including samples collected by using trawls and bag seines in routine TPWD data collection..
"There are good stocks of brown shrimp out there and they are widely distributed," said Robin Riechers., TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division science and policy director.
The purpose of the closed Gulf season is to protect brown shrimp during their major period of emigration from the bays to the Gulf of Mexico until they reach a larger, more valuable size before harvest and to prevent waste caused by the discarding of smaller individuals.
Federal waters (from 9 to 200 nautical miles offshore) will open at the same time that state waters will open. The National Marine Fisheries Service chose to adopt rules compatible with those adopted by Texas.

[ 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 ] [SL]
July 8, 2008
Texas Public Hunt Applications Now Online
AUSTIN, Texas -The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be conducting special drawings for hunts and applications for these quality, affordable hunting experiences are available online now.
Application booklets are also being mailed to last year's primary hunt applicants and will be available at TPWD law enforcement offices.
During the upcoming hunting seasons, more than 5,700 hunters will be selected through random computer drawings allowing access to some of the state's high-quality managed wildlife habitat. Wildlife management areas, state parks and leased private property will be available for these quality supervised hunts for white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn, javelina, alligator, exotics, feral hog and spring turkey.
Through an application process, hunters can select from among 29 different hunt categories, including eight specifically for youth only, and choose a preferred hunt date and location from hunt areas stretching across the state. There's even a provision for hunting buddies to apply as a group -- in some cases up to four hunters can apply together on one application.
"Hunters interested in applying for drawn hunts this season should pay close attention to the application deadlines," said Kelly Edmiston Program Specialist with TPWD's public hunting program. "We have added two more hunt areas in the Private Lands Pronghorn category on two separate ranches in Presidio County. Overall, we are up over 200 hunt positions from last season. "
Schreiner Park in Kerr County has been added as an archery only hunt in the Private Lands Antlerless/Spike category this year. Bowhunter Education Certification will be required to hunt if selected.
Eight free youth-only hunt categories are available to hunters who are between the ages of 8-16 at the time of application. All hunt positions are randomly selected in a computer drawing from all correctly completed entries received by the specified deadline.
In addition to exceptional hunting opportunities for big game, such as white-tailed deer and mule deer, TPWD's special drawing hunts will offer some unique opportunities. A guided bighorn sheep hunt at a West Texas wildlife management area will again be offered this year depending on the availability of a bighorn sheep permit.
There are also some unique guided hunt opportunities on Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, including hunts for white-tailed deer, scimitar-horned oryx and gemsbok.
Hunters drawn in the special permit hunts are not required to use a tag off their hunting license on white-tailed or mule deer that are taken during the hunt. The hunters will be issued a free TPWD legal deer tag at the area when they bring their harvested animal to the check station. This will allow the public hunters additional opportunity to use their license tags.
The application fee for adult applicants in most of the public hunt drawings is $3 per adult person on the application. Successfully drawn hunters pay an additional Special Permit fee ($75-125 in most cases) for a one-to-four-day hunt.
Special Permit fees do not apply to drawn hunts for pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, guided hunts at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and drawn hunts on private land. Guided hunts and private land hunts cost $10 per adult person on the application.
The application deadline for alligator hunts is Aug. 5. For pronghorn antelope hunts on private land or the Rita Blanca National Grasslands north of Dalhart, the deadline is Aug. 14. Bowhunters also have until Aug. 14 to apply for special drawn public archery hunts. Entries for the general (gun) season deer hunts must be received by Sept. 4. Deadline for the Guided Bighorn Sheep Hunt is November 4.
Last year TPWD received 44,928 applications for the 5,583 positions offered in special drawn hunt categories.
Information and applications for Special Permit hunts are available on the Public Hunting Web site. Application booklets are currently being mailed to hunters who applied for special permit drawn hunts last year. The booklets are also available at TPWD law enforcement offices. Information about Special Permit drawn hunts can be found on-line or by calling toll free (800) 792-1112.
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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]
July 8, 2008
Most Mountain Lion 'Sightings' In Texas Unreliable
AUSTIN, Texas -- Most reports of mountain lion sightings in Texas are never verified with physical evidence, although such reports can arouse fear and cause a local publicity stir, according to wildlife experts with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
In one incident this spring, TPWD's John Davis pulled up a photograph on his computer that someone had taken in a neighborhood north of Austin showing an animal's tail barely visible behind a cedar tree.
The man who sent the grainy mobile phone photo said the animal was a large cat, prompting some people to speculate it was the latest in a rash of supposed mountain lion sightings in urban areas. Closer inspection proved otherwise.
Davis, TPWD conservation outreach coordinator and a former urban wildlife biologist, examined the size of a prickly-pear pad next to the cat in the photograph and used it as a scale to measure the animal's size.
"That's a feral cat, maybe about 18 inches tall," he said. "It's not a mountain lion."
Also this spring, TPWD Game Warden Arlen "Turk" Jones handled a report of another supposed mountain lion sighting.
Jones said a woman reported a mountain lion chased her as she rode away on a bicycle in a semi-rural area near Austin. Jones' investigation revealed the animal in question was not a lion, but was instead a Great Pyrenees dog that the property owner kept to guard goats.
John Young, a TPWD mammalogist who keeps the state's lion sightings database, said the department receives between 400 and 1,000 reports of mountain lion sightings each year. However, less than one percent of the reports are verified by physical evidence such as tracks, scat, photographs or a mountain lion carcass.
Young said even photographs can be deceiving both with regard to the animal in the picture and the location the photograph was taken. He said he has received the same photograph that was reported to have been taken in two different towns of what the sender claimed was a mountain lion, but in fact appeared to be a large house cat.
This lack of conclusive evidence indicates that true mountain lion sightings in urban and residential areas are rare, but they are still possible. Young said mountain lions have occasionally been spotted in areas adjacent to cities where the land is less developed and undisturbed with roads. These can occur along river or stream corridors or greenbelts or other areas with plentiful white-tailed deer, the preferred prey for mountain lions.
Nonetheless, mountain lion encounters are unlikely around urban areas, such as Austin.
"We're completely surrounded by urban and residential areas," Young said. "There aren't long blocks of contiguous habitat suitable for mountain lions. The likelihood of seeing one is extremely rare."
Residents have reported mountain lion sightings in each of the state's 254 counties, but researchers have only recorded mountain lion mortalities in 67 Texas counties. Mortalities -- confirmed mountain lion carcasses -- are the most accurate reflection of where mountain lions exist.
A TPWD report indicates that as recently as 2005 no mountain lion mortalities have occurred in Travis County. Burnet County is the only adjacent county in which a mountain lion mortality has been confirmed.
Mountain lions' range in Texas is primarily in the west, south and central regions with a core population in and around Big Bend National Park and on private land in South Texas.
Mountain lion attacks on humans are equally rare. Only three attacks on humans in Texas have been reported since 1980, all in remote areas of West Texas.
Likewise, from 1890 to 2001, only 98 mountain lion attacks were reported across the United States and Canada and of those only 17 were fatal. Conversely, each year about 20 people die from injuries sustained during dog attacks, and more than 200,000 individuals receive injuries from dogs that are severe enough to require sutures.
Young said most supposed mountain lion sightings last less than 10 seconds. In that short span of time, it is easy to mistake another animal for a mountain lion, especially based on the color, which for mountain lions -- and many animals -- ranges from a tan yellow to a creamy brown.
"You can convince yourself very rapidly that (a mountain lion) is what you've seen," Young said. "People really want to see them."
Young said in the event of a supposed mountain lion sighting, residents should question what they believe they saw before concluding that the animal was in fact a mountain lion.
Davis attributes the high number of false mountain lion sightings to fear.
"I've seen fear be at the root of every one of these problems," he said. "People get excited when they see an animal they don't expect to see."
Davis said a lack of exposure to wildlife also factors into peoples' confusion and misguided fear of certain animals.
"A lack of familiarity breeds fear. A rancher would never call a fox a mountain lion, but for someone who hasn't seen a fox or a mountain lion the two can look the same," he said, citing another incident in which a caller mistook a fox perched on her privacy fence for a mountain lion.
Young said people can familiarize themselves with mountain lions by looking at pictures of them on the Internet and in magazines. They can also visit the Internet and learn how to distinguish mountain lion tracks from those of other animals.
Davis said even looking at two-dimensional photographs can sometimes cause confusion when an observer thinks he or she has seen a mountain lion because the photographs do not demonstrate the animal's size. He suggested that people visit a zoo to see live mountain lions to familiarize themselves with the size.
For more information about mountain lions, including tips for living in lion country and what to do if you encounter a mountain lion, visit the TPWD Web site where there are links to the brochures Mountain Lions of Texas (PDF 294.5 KB) and Field Guide to the Mountain Lions of Texas (PDF 888.6 KB).
On the Net: