|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2013-09-26                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than three 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: Brian Van Zee, (254) 867-7974, brian.vanzee@tpwd.texas.gov; Ken Kurzawski, 512-389-4591, ken.kurzawski@tpwd.texas.gov; or Mike Cox, 512-389-8046, mike.cox@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Sept. 26, 2013
Zebra mussels found in Lake Belton and suspected in Lakes Worth and Joe Pool
Boaters urged to clean, drain and dry boats
ATHENS-- Zebra mussels, a destructive invasive species that originated in Eurasia, have been found in Lake Belton in Central Texas.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith Wednesday signed an order adopting an emergency rule to add lakes Belton and Stillhouse Hollow, and portions of the Leon and Lampasas rivers to the list of water bodies covered by special regulations intended to control the spread of zebra mussels. Under these special regulations, boaters who drain their boats and gear will not be considered in violation of rules prohibiting possession of zebra mussels.
"The Lake Belton discovery underscores how critical it is for boaters all across Texas to get informed and involved to help stop the spread of zebra mussels," said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries regional director based in Waco. "Unfortunately, zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, are not visible to the naked eye. You could be transporting them on your boat and not even know it. This is why it's particularly important to always Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat and gear before heading to another water body."
A Texas Mussel Watch volunteer was looking for native mussels along the shores of Lake Belton on September 18 when she found a Giant Floater that had a small mussel attached to its shell. Suspecting that it might be a zebra mussel she reported it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The following day, TPWD confirmed that the small mussel was in fact a zebra mussel.
A follow up survey conducted by TPWD after the September 18 discovery revealed that zebra mussels are well established in Lake Belton and are found throughout the lake. In fact, three size classes of zebra mussels were found in Lake Belton indicating that they were likely introduced to the reservoir sometime in 2012.
"This is very discouraging news for a several reasons," said Van Zee. "Not only does this mark the first time that zebra mussels have been documented in the Brazos River basin, this new infestation is nearly 200 miles south of where zebra mussels are currently found in Texas. Unfortunately, this means that lakes in the central portion of the state are at even greater risk."
Also, TPWD's monitoring of 23 other Texas reservoirs during the spring and summer revealed the possible presence of zebra mussels in two additional reservoirs: Lakes Worth and Joe Pool.
While zebra mussel DNA was detected in these two reservoirs, no adult zebra mussels or veligers have been found in either water body.
"DNA test results for both lakes were weak positives, and the fact that the presence of zebra mussels could not be confirmed by other methods means that these two lakes should be considered 'suspect' until further testing," said Van Zee.
Rules, necessitating boaters to drain all water from their vessels before leaving water bodies with confirmed populations of zebra mussels, have already been instituted for Lakes Texoma, Lavon, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport, Eagle Mountain and Worth; parts of the Red River; parts of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River; and all impounded and tributary waters of the West Fork of the Trinity River above the Lake Worth dam.
Persons traveling on a public roadway via the most direct route to another access point located on the same body of water are exempt from the requirement.
TPWD and a coalition of partners have sought to educate boaters to not transport these tiny mussels or their microscopic larvae. These partners include: Tarrant Regional Water District, North Texas Municipal Water District, Trinity River Authority, City of Dallas Water Utilities Department, Upper Trinity Regional Water District, Sabine River Authority, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, San Jacinto River Authority, Brazos River Authority, City of Grapevine, City of Houston, City of Waco and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Anyone interested in receiving a supply of informational brochures, wallet cards or posters about zebra mussels to distribute to boaters can order these online at www.texasinvasives.org/zebramussels
Draining all water from livewells, bilges and bait buckets is crucial in efforts to slow the spread of zebra mussels, since contaminated boats are one of the primary ways this happens.
The zebra mussel is a small, non-native mussel originally found in Eurasia. It has spread throughout Europe, where it is considered to be a major environmental and industrial menace. The animal appeared in North America in the late 1980s and within 10 years had colonized all five Great Lakes and the Mississippi, Tennessee, Hudson, and Ohio River basins. Since then, they have spread to additional lakes and river systems, including some in North Texas.
Zebra mussels live and feed in many different aquatic habitats, breed prolifically, and cannot be controlled by natural predators. Adult zebra mussels colonize all types of living and non-living surfaces including boats, water-intake pipes, buoys, docks, piers, plants, and slow-moving animals such as native clams, crayfish, and turtles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the potential economic impact of zebra mussels to be in the billions of dollars.
For more information on zebra mussels and how to clean, drain and dry a boat, visit http://www.texasinvasives.org/

[ Note: This item is more than three 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]
Sept. 26, 2013
Outlook Favorable for Texas Deer Season
AUSTIN -- While not clear of the drought, things are looking up in many parts of the state this year and the outlook for deer and deer hunting is much brighter.
Archery-only deer season opens Saturday, Sept. 28 and runs through Nov. 1. The general firearms season begins Nov. 2. The special youth-only deer seasons are Oct. 26-27 and Jan. 6-19.
Biologists can provide some general predictions each year based on rainfall and general habitat conditions that are applicable at a landscape level scale, but whether those predictions hold true for individual properties is like trying to guess the Lotto numbers on the Saturday night drawing. Factors like rainfall, availability of native foods like acorns or mesquite bean crops, habitat quality and availability, even hunting pressure, play a role in shaping your hunting success. Aside from rainfall and general habitat conditions biologists also consider previous year's deer population characteristics to make predictions for the upcoming season.
"Statewide population trends remain stable and hunters should expect good numbers of deer year in and year out," says Alan Cain, TPWD whitetail deer program leader. "I would predict the statewide deer population to be close to or slightly above the long-term average and hover around that 3.6 million deer mark for 2013."
"One factor hunters should also keep in mind is the good carryover of deer from the 2012 season as harvest was down resulting from heavy acorn and mast crops in several regions of the state," Cain notes. "For hunters this translates into plenty of opportunities to harvest a deer." Though the deer population numbers are expected to be good this year, Cain predicts the recent September rains that resulted in a flush of green vegetation may cause bow hunters to rethink their early season hunting strategies as deer may spend less time visiting feeders. A well-traveled game trail may be more productive than hunting at the deer feeder.
Dry conditions in 2011 resulted in a significant decline in fawn production, down to 29 percent for the statewide estimate, a 24 percent departure from the long term average. Fawn crops bounced back in 2012 at 47 percent and Cain anticipates survey results will show a higher fawn crop this year. In fact, Cain is hearing reports from landowners as well as TPWD biologists of fawn production in the 60 to 80 percent range in the Hill Country and similar reports of good fawn production in other areas of the state.
For hunters fawn crops may not be as meaningful since harvest is generally focused on older age class deer, but remember those fawns this year translate into your adult deer several years into the future.
Another aspect of typical hunting season forecast is the prediction of antler quality and how many big bucks are out there across the landscape.
"As far as antler quality goes, rainfall plays a key role by influencing the native habitat and forage, ultimately affecting the quality of nutrition a buck receives in order to grow antlers," Cain explains. "In dry years we typically see a decline in overall antler quality and increases in wet years much related to nutrition."
Some managers provide supplemental feed to buffer against nutritional impact resulting from drought. However, research in South Texas has shown that native habitat is crucial to deer nutrition even when supplemental feed is provided. So maintaining quality native habitat on your property is important.
Judging from the phone calls and emails Cain has received from landowners around the state, bucks look to be in good body condition, antlers are in great shape and they are expecting a much better season than the last two years."
Cain predicts antler quality to be above average for those areas receiving good spring rains and average for those that were a little drier this spring and summer. The good news is that drought or no drought, Texas still produces some whopper bucks each year.
According to an article published by Boone and Crockett several years back Texas ranks fifth all time for entries into B&C record books. Based on 40-plus years of data collected by TPWD biologists each season the average B&C score for a 5 ½ year old buck is 124, with 9.1 points, and a 15.8 inch inside spread. Even the younger bucks at 3 ½ years of age average a 13.5 inch inside spread and 8 points.
While areas like South Texas are known for producing exceptional bucks, most anywhere in the state is capable of producing good bucks every year. In fact in 2012, two archery hunters were lucky enough to connect on a couple of large non-typical bucks scoring about 250 Boone and Crockett. Both bucks were wild, free-ranging deer taken on low-fenced properties, one in North Texas and the other in Southeast Texas. Hopefully, that trend will continue in 2013.
"Another positive trend we have observed in the last few years is that the proportion of young bucks in the harvest has declined across the state, and most noticeably in the eastern third of the state where bucks had a hard time surviving to 3 ½ years of age," Cain points out. "In 2012, bucks 3 ½ year old and older comprised 65 percent of bucks checked during TPWD surveys which are a reflection of the deer harvested each season."
Digging a little deeper into the data Cain explains that in antler-restriction counties, 59 percent of bucks checked during TPWD surveys were 3 ½ or older, a dramatic improvement in age structure when those older age class bucks represented only 30-35 percent of the harvest before antler restrictions were implemented.
"This shift towards harvesting older bucks in the Pineywoods, Post Oak Savannah, and Cross Timbers and Prairies regions is a direct result of the antler-restriction regulation," Cain says. "That harvest strategy has been very effective at allowing many more bucks to reach maturity. We have received many positive reports from landowners and hunters in those regions who are excited about the number and quality of bucks they are observing on their properties. "
Overall, the 2013 season is expected to be a good one with great opportunities to harvest a deer.