|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2009-10-09                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than seven 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. 9, 2009
Whooper Boosters Hope For A Better Winter
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas' most famous endangered bird is on its way back to its winter home, and supporters everywhere are hoping it's a better year for the whooping crane. Federal biologists report that whooping cranes have begun their fall migration from Canada, with arrivals on the central Texas coast anticipated within the next couple of weeks.
Texas' winter flock of whooping cranes represents the last remaining "natural" flock of whooping cranes in the wild. The birds summer and nest in northwestern Canada in Wood Buffalo National Park, but spend winters in and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
Once numbering only 21 birds on earth, the species reached a population high last winter of 270. However, the flock experienced higher-than-average mortality last year, as 23 cranes died over the course of the winter. Refuge biologists attributed the high mortality to lower food and freshwater availability associated with the severe drought of the last two years. Canadian biologists report that reproduction on the nesting grounds was also lower than usual this summer, and, with only 22 chicks sighted in August, it is unlikely the species will reach a new high this year.
Such "slowdowns" in the recovery of the species are not unprecedented, according to Lee Ann Linam, at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist.
"Over the course of the whooping crane's long, steady recovery, we have seen a dip in population numbers every 10-12 years," Linam said. "The important thing is whether we continue to provide high quality habitat for the species to begin its growth in population again."
Linam reports that the last drop in population occurred in 2000-01, when the flock dropped from 180 to 176. However, 2008-09 was unusual in the amount of mortality that occurred on the wintering grounds. The majority of losses usually occur during migration.
Because of the importance of the migration period, Texas citizens are asked to be on the watch for whooping cranes migrating through the state. The cranes usually pass through a migration corridor in Texas that extends from the Texas panhandle eastward to Dallas-Fort Worth and southward to the wintering grounds on the central coast. The majority of the cranes pass through Texas from late October through the end of November.
Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America, standing over four feet tall. They are solid white in color except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched. During migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. They nearly always migrate in small groups of less than 4-5 birds, but they may be seen roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller sandhill crane.
Whooping cranes are protected by federal and state endangered species laws, and Texans can help safeguard this national treasure by helping to prevent harm or harassment to whooping cranes. Anyone sighting a whooping crane is asked to report it to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, extension 4644 or (512) 847-9480. Sightings can also be reported via e-mail at leeann.linam@tpwd.texas.gov.
Additional aids to help people identify whooping cranes can be found on the TPWD whooping crane Web page and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird Web page. Information about nature tourism opportunities to view wintering whooping cranes can be obtained from the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Web site or the Rockport Chamber of Commerce Web site.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than seven 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: Tom Harvey, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept, (512) 565-3679, tom.harvey@twpd.state.tx.us; Brian Hill, Houston Zoo, Pager: (713) 801-8040, bhill@houstonzoo.org ]
Oct. 9, 2009
Coalition Protects Habitat, Releases Captive-reared Houston Toads
AUSTIN, Texas -- Recent rains in Central Texas not only watered residential lawns and filled ranch cattle tanks, but also brought much needed relief to one of the most imperiled species in Texas -- the endangered and elusive Houston toad, Bufo houstonensis. Ironically named the Houston toad, it disappeared from Harris County by the 1970's. Historic prolonged droughts combined with rapid urbanization and habitat loss are the primary reasons for the toad's decline.
A true Texas native, the Houston toad is found nowhere else in the world, only in the deep sandy soils and the pine and oak forests of a few counties in east central Texas. Bastrop County is the species' final stronghold, but studies suggest its population is in serious decline. However, a recovery team of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, Texas State University, the Houston Zoo and private landowners is working to return the Houston toad to its historic range.
University and zoo scientists are leading a head start program to hatch wild eggs and then rear juvenile toads in captivity and release them in the wild is one component of a broader recovery effort for the species. However, experts say no matter how many toads are raised and released, the species will not survive without good habitat.
The toad's continued existence depends on partnerships between the Houston Zoo, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas State University, Environmental Defense Fund, Lost Pines Habitat Conservation Plan and especially the private landowners that manage their land in the best interest of the toad and its habitat.
Bastrop State Park has steadily expanded in recent decades, recently adding land through grants and donations in areas specifically acquired to provide Houston toad habitat. The park has expanded from almost 3,500 acres in 1979 to close to 6,000 acres today. Also, project partners have assembled a half dozen or more private landowners with more than 7,500 acres of occupied toad habitat in Bastrop County into an overall strategy of habitat improvement using prescribed burns and other actions, with plans to release headstarted toads into the improved habitat.
TPWD awarded a Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) grant to fund Houston toad recovery in 2007 totaling $167,488, about 43 percent of which was government funding and the remainder was matching contributions from landowners, Environmental Defense Fund and the Houston Zoo. This year, private landowners submitted four new LIP grant applications for Houston toad recovery, applications now being reviewed for grant awards that will be made later this fall.
Texas landowners are making a difference by actively working toward watershed restoration, forest management and improving pond quality by modifying grazing and access regimes for livestock. For example, Jim Small of Bastrop and his family have been stewards of the toad since the 1980s, when the first efforts to breed the species began. Since then, out of an awareness of the toad and a strong stewardship ethic, Jim and his family have improved habitat quality by prescribed fire, selective tree thinning and excluding cattle from active Houston toad breeding areas.
After obtaining a safe harbor agreement with the USFWS, Small and his family now seek to increase their efforts on behalf of the toad and are implementing strong wildlife research and stewardship programs to benefit the toads. To make good land management feasible, financial support and incentives are available through state, federal, local government and private programs so property owners do not have to shoulder the financial burden alone. Landowners like the Small's have taken ownership of the restoration of the toad and will be the key to bringing this species back from the brink of extinction.
The Bob Long family, owner of Round Bottom Ranch in Bastrop County, has also been part of the private landowner partnership working to protect the toad since 2002. The Longs received a LIP grant in 2004 for toad habitat restoration, and this April they received a TPWD Lone Star Land Steward award in the Pineywoods ecoregion category to recognize their longstanding contributions.
In the spring of 2007, the Houston Zoo began receiving egg strands from the Bastrop County Houston toad population, collected by Texas State University. The eggs were hatched at the zoo, transported back to Bastrop County and released at the exact same location. Researchers are careful to keep toad eggs separated, so they can return adult toads back to the same breeding pond where the egg strands were collected. A series of toad releases into the wild has since taken place in 2007, 2008 and this year. This type of conservation program is known as head starting. The plan is to give the toads a fortunate beginning - a "head start" -- helping them survive through the most hazardous stage of their existence, allowing them to mature and create more Houston toads.
Houston toads are known to be "explosive breeders," appearing in large numbers at breeding ponds where males chorus to attract females over a few nights during the breeding season. This season usually peaks in March and April. Breeding activities are believed to be triggered by rainfall, warm night time temperatures and high humidity. A good rain can create temporary ponds and fill existing ponds allowing the toads to breed and deposit eggs. Eggs are deposited in strings in the water, and hatch into tadpoles that develop into juvenile toadlets about 60 days after being deposited. Large numbers of eggs are produced, but each egg has less than a one percent probability of survival.
Recognized by Parents magazine as one of the Ten Best Zoos for Kids, the Houston Zoo is an exciting live animal adventure that provides a unique educational and conservation resource serving 1.6 million guests annually. Set in a 55-acre lush tropical landscape, the Zoo is home to more than 4,500 exotic animals representing more than 800 species. Operated by the not-for-profit Houston Zoo, Inc., the Houston Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species, the provision of engaging educational opportunities and the creation of stimulating exhibits that broaden the experiences of guests and encourage their curiosity. The Houston Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). For more information, visit the Zoo Web site.
Media Kit: A Houston Toad media kit containing photos and other material is available for download from the Houston Zoo's FTP site at At the log in page, enter "zooprinters" in the username window and "print*12jobs" as the password. Click on Houston Toad Press Kit to access fact sheets and photographs.
Online Video: Video showing Houston toads and the head starting project is on the TPWD YouTube channel, one of four "social media" outlets the agency is currently piloting, the others being Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. As of Oct. 9, the TPWD YouTube channel had 132 videos posted, with new video topics added weekly. TPWD YouTube videos cover state parks, fishing, hunting, wildlife, boating safety, how-to topics and news reports on a variety of subjects.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than seven 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. 9, 2009
TPWD Seeking Redesign Bids For Galveston Island State Park
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is seeking a top-notch architectural/design firm to come up with a state-of-the-art, sustainable design for rebuilding hurricane-ravaged Galveston Island State Park.
When planning and design costs are known and future monies become available, TPWD will redevelop the popular seaside state park as a flagship project. The 2,000-acre park, which features more than a mile of public beach access and camping, only reopened this summer after being closed for six months due to catastrophic damage from Hurricane Ike in September 2008.
Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature allocated a portion of the state's Hurricane Ike recovery funds to TPWD to hire a consultant to develop a master plan to design and rebuild the state park. It is not known when funding for actual construction of new facilities will become available.
TPWD's Infrastructure Division has extended its original Request for Qualifications period to provide adequate time for all interested candidates to respond. The chosen firm will help create a Galveston Island State Park master plan for redeveloping the park as a model of resource conservation featuring eco-friendly facilities that would have minimal environmental impact. The goal is to promote the park's natural beauty and provide a wide range of recreational activities, while ensuring site sustainability through creating its own energy and recycling waste products. The use of solar photovoltaics, rainwater collection and other renewable energy generating methods are envisioned in the park's redevelopment.
"Galveston Island State Park has the opportunity to be rebuilt within a region that has now become more urban, making it ever more important to design and plan a park that provides a sense of place to a wide spectrum of the population," said Gordon Bohmfalk, the division's head of planning and design. "Planning will require the organization of infrastructure that serves to engage the public with the unique environment. It is Nature that is the primary asset here; its buildings, cabins, roadways and campsites all installed to become a part of it and protect it."
Professional master planning and design service firms interested in bidding on the project are required to have a representative attend a pre-submittal meeting at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23 at TPWD's Austin headquarters at 4200 Smith School Road. Respondents will then be required to submit qualifications by Nov. 19. Company representatives who attended the Sept. 18 pre-submittal conference need not attend the October session.
For more information, contact contract manager John Pena at (512) 389-8408, or visit the TPWD Construction Bid Opportunities Web page.
Galveston Island State Park is open seven days a week and offers full services on the bay side and limited camping and day use facilities on the beach side until a master plan is developed, environmental assessment completed and permanent facilities rebuilt. To facilitate the reopening of the beach side, electrical power and water have been restored, and a structure has been moved in to serve as temporary headquarters. The original headquarters building and all other beachside facilities were destroyed by Hurricane Ike.
Galveston Island State Park occupies a sliver of land at the midway point of the barrier island about six miles southwest of the western tip of the popular sea wall. The bay side provides public access to about 600 acres of grasslands with coastal scrub and scattered oak mottes, as well as hundreds of additional acres of saltwater sloughs, wildlife-rich wetlands and tidal bayous.
Galveston Island State Park hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The park office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The park entry fee for persons 13 and older is $5.
Visitors can reach Galveston Island State Park from FM 3005 (Seawall Boulevard). For more information, call the park at (409) 737-1222.
On the Net:

[ Note: This item is more than seven 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: Brittney Barber (979) 292-0100 ]
Oct. 9, 2009
Sea Center Texas to Host Halloween Spooktacular
Lake Jackson, Texas -- To provide local families with a safe, enjoyable trick-or-treat experience Sea Center Texas will host its annual Halloween Spooktacular on Sunday, Oct. 25.
From 1 p.m.-to-3 p.m., visitors will be able to enjoy numerous craft activities, games and live animal displays. Participants are encouraged to wear their Halloween costume. A Costume Contest will be held at 2:30 p.m. and several contest prizes will be awarded. About 300 children are expected to participate.
Admission to Sea Center Texas and the event is free. A $5 supply fee is charged if participants choose to complete the craft activities.
Brazosport area businesses and organizations are invited to sponsor a trick-or-treat or craft booth, provide donations of candy and prizes, or provide volunteers to assist with event activities--contact Sea Center Texas to inquire about support options.
Sea Center Texas is a marine aquarium, fish hatchery and nature center operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is located at 300 Medical Drive in Lake Jackson, Texas. For more information, contact Sea Center Texas at (979) 292-0100, or visit the facility Web site.
On the Net: