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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2017-11-06                                    |
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Nov. 6, 2017
Whooping Cranes Make Late Migration into Texas
AUSTIN - With the first pods of iconic, endangered whooping cranes starting to arrive on their wintering grounds along the Texas coast, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is reminding Texans to be on the lookout for these impressive birds as they move through the state.
The late migration means whooping cranes are showing up in Texas just as waterfowl and sandhill crane hunting seasons get under way. It is vitally important for sportsmen to review the crane and waterfowl identification guide in the Texas Waterfowl Digest and familiarize themselves with the identifying characteristics between both hunted and protected migratory bird species.
With Hurricane Harvey's impacts to whooping crane wintering habitat still not fully understood, it is possible that whooping cranes may use "non-traditional" habitat and be in places that the public does not normally expect to see them. So, it is more important than ever to be alert to the presence of this iconic endangered species and report them to Texas Whooper Watch.
Standing at nearly five feet tall, whooping cranes are North America's tallest bird and each year the flock follows a migratory path from nesting grounds in Woods Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada, to primary wintering range on and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Austwell, Texas. This trek takes the birds through North and Central Texas and traverses cities such as Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Dallas, Waco, Austin and Victoria.
During their migration, whoopers often pause overnight in wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, though it is rare for them to remain in the same place for more than one night. As a federally-protected species, it is illegal to harass or disturb whooping cranes and TPWD encourages the public to be mindful of these brief layovers and to use caution around these birds in order to decrease disturbance to the areas surrounding them.
"It appears it will be another late migration, so we are estimating the first arrivals to the wintering grounds on the Texas coast likely won't be until early November, with peak migration throughout the state following shortly thereafter," stated Wade Harrell, United States Fish and Wildlife Service's whooping crane recovery coordinator.
Several birds may appear similar to whooping cranes, but if you look closely you can tell the difference. The sandhill crane, the whooping crane's closest relative, is gray in color, not white. Also, sandhill cranes are somewhat smaller, with a wingspan of about five feet. Sandhill cranes occur in flocks of two to hundreds, whereas whooping cranes are most often seen in flocks of two to as many as 10 to 15, although they sometimes migrate with sandhill cranes.
Snow geese and white pelicans have black wing tips like the whooping crane but their profile is much more compact and their wing beats are faster. Here's a video that details the difference between snow geese and whooping cranes www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvkAYGZnJ4Q&feature=youtu.be .
Last year, the whooping crane population was a record 431 birds, compared to the all-time low of just 15 birds that existed in 1941.
The public can help track whooping cranes by reporting sightings to TPWD's Whooper Watch, a citizen-science based reporting system to track whooping crane migration and wintering locations throughout Texas. More information about Whooper Watch, including instructions for reporting sightings, can be found online at www.inaturalist.org/projects/texas-whooper-watch and by downloading the iNaturalist mobile app. These observations help biologists identify new migration and wintering locations and their associated habitats.
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[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
Nov. 6, 2017
Waterfowl Hunters Reminded to Help Prevent Spread of Invasive Species
AUSTIN - With duck hunting season getting underway in most of the state in early November, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is reminding waterfowl hunters to clean, drain and dry boats and equipment before traveling from lake to lake to help avoid spreading invasive species like giant salvinia and zebra mussels.
"Invasive species like giant salvinia can quickly grow to cover expanses of fresh water, which can block access for hunters to prime waterfowl hunting areas," said John Findeisen, TPWD aquatic invasive species team lead. "By properly cleaning, draining and drying equipment and reporting sightings of invasive species, waterfowl hunters can make a big difference in the fight to protect our lakes and waterways from aquatic invaders."
Findeisen noted all equipment that comes into contact with the water is capable of harboring invasive species - including waders, boats, trailers and decoys - and can quickly spread them to new places and destroy aquatic habitats.
"Any gear that has been in the water can carry invasives and must also go through a thorough clean, drain and dry process," Findeisen said. "This includes decoys, waders and marsh sleds."
In Texas it is unlawful to possess or transport prohibited aquatic invasive species, dead or alive, anywhere in the state. TPWD regulations also require boaters to drain all water from their boat and onboard receptacles before leaving or approaching a public body of fresh water in order to prevent the transfer of invasive species. This regulation applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not: personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes or any other vessel used on public waters.
These three steps can prevent further spread of invasive species in Texas:
CLEAN: Before leaving the ramp area, do a walkaround inspection. Remove any plants, mud and debris from the boat, trailer and gear. Be sure to check your boots, dogs, decoys, and anything else that was in the water.
DRAIN: Drain your boat, motor and other water-retaining compartments. Keep your drain plugs out until you are home.
DRY: Let your boat and gear dry completely before entering another waterbody. If it can't dry for at least a week, then wash everything thoroughly with high-pressure, soapy water.
A new video intended to help hunters properly clean, drain and dry boats and equipment can be found at https://youtu.be/f-CQW9n0t4c.
Because early detection is an important part of reducing or eliminating the presence of invasive species, TPWD encourages hunters to help be the eyes open in their hunting areas. To report giant salvinia call (409) 384- 9965 or use the online report form. If you find zebra mussels on your boat or gear, call TPWD at (512) 389-4848 before moving it to another waterbody. To report zebra mussels in a new waterway, use our online report form.
Text TPWD GS or TPWD ZM to GOV311 for updates on giant salvinia (GS) or zebra mussels (ZM).
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