Anthrax is a fatal disease that impacts both wildlife and domestic animals. Anthrax usually shows up in the heat of summer following above average spring rainfall. It is highly contagious and impacts white-tailed deer populations negatively in the areas where the disease is present.
Anthrax in Ozona?
Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials confirmed anthrax in 5 cattle on a Crockett County premises. This is the first anthrax case in Texas for 2017. Wildlife species have not been documented at this time.
The property where anthrax has been confirmed is located approximately 13 miles east of Ozona and has been quarantined. TAHC rules require proper disposal of affected carcasses and vaccination of other cattle on the premise prior to release of the quarantine.
Monitoring Anthrax in Crockett Co.
“The TAHC will continue to closely monitor the situation,” said Dr. Susan Rollo, TAHC State Epidemiologist. “Producers are encouraged to remain vigilant and consult with their local veterinary practitioner if they suspect their animals are affected with anthrax or are interested in vaccinating their livestock.”
What is Anthrax?
Anthrax is a bacterial disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, which is a naturally occurring organism with worldwide distribution, including certain parts of Texas. Anthrax cases in Texas are historically found in the triangular area bound by the towns of Uvalde, Ozona and Eagle Pass. This area includes portions of Crockett, Val Verde, Sutton, Edwards, Kinney and Maverick counties. A vaccine is available for use in susceptible livestock in high risk areas.
Acute fever followed by rapid death with bleeding from body openings are common signs of anthrax in livestock. Carcasses may also appear bloated and appear to decompose quickly. Livestock or animals displaying symptoms consistent with anthrax should be reported to a private veterinary practitioner or a TAHC official.
If Anthrax is Suspected
If affected livestock or carcasses must be handled, producers are encouraged to follow basic sanitation precautions such as wearing protective gloves, long sleeve shirts and washing thoroughly afterward to prevent accidental spread of the bacteria to people.
If anthrax is suspected on your Crockett County property or elsewhere contact the TAHC.
Ducks Unlimited (DU) has achieved a conservation milestone with more than 14 million acres of habitat conserved in North America. The groundbreaking number is a cumulative accomplishment of the millions of DU volunteers and partners who have been a part of the organization over the past 80 years.
DU’s Wetland Habitat Programs Grow
“As we celebrate our 80th anniversary, this milestone is a fitting tribute to the hard work of each and every volunteer, partner and staff member who has contributed to our mission over the past 80 years,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “If not for their dedication and commitment to conservation, this accomplishment would not have been possible.”
Such conservation gains did not come easily in the face of ongoing threats to waterfowl and their habitats. Loss of wetlands across North America is a challenge DU volunteers take seriously, and their efforts will continue into the future. Although DU has successfully conserved more than 14 million acres of critical wetlands and associated habitat since our founding in 1937, wetland losses continue.
Texas Prairie Wetlands Project
The Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP) started in 1991 when DU teamed up with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The results has been tremendous for wetland habitat, wintering waterfowl and Texas property owners, particularly those along the Gulf Coast.
TPWP projects focus on harvested croplands, moist-soil areas, emergent wetlands and other created wetlands to increase biodiversity for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species.
In return, landowners sign a minimum-10-year wetland development agreement and commit to managing and maintaining the wetlands. TPWP works closely with rice producers to improve fields and infrastructure for water conservation, production and habitat management.
Each year, TPWP projects provide critical staging and wintering habitat for thousands of waterfowl, including white-fronted geese, snow geese, northern pintails, green- and blue-winged teal, gadwalls, northern shovelers and redheads. Local birds also benefit greatly. Resident fulvous and black-bellied whistling ducks, as well as mottled ducks, rely heavily on permanent and semi-permanent wetlands for nesting and brood rearing during the spring and summer.
Many landowners utilize TPWP projects for goose and duck hunting leases and ecotourism. Many sites are also on historic agricultural fields. By working with private landowners to increase and restore wetland habitats, water quality and water quantity, an issue of great concern in Texas, can be improved.
Mitigating Wetland Loss
In the last 50 years alone, the United States has lost more than 17 million acres of wetlands. As human populations grow, demands for clean and plentiful water for use at home and in many agricultural and industrial processes also increase.
DU, working with partners, provides valuable, on-the-ground solutions that benefit waterfowl populations and maximize water resources through the dynamic natural functions of wetlands. In addition to providing habitat for waterfowl, wetlands naturally slow and store water to help recharge watersheds and aquifers, improve water quality through biological and physical processes and provide important wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.
Waterfowl Management Through Habitat Conservation
“DU’s policy efforts and the hard work of our volunteers, partners and staff will be more important than ever in the coming years,” said Dr. Tom Moorman, DU’s acting chief conservation officer. “DU, along with our waterfowl conservation partners at the state, federal and private levels, must continue with the cooperative progress that led to 14 million acres conserved, and expand that effort wherever possible to meet ongoing or new threats to wetlands and waterfowl habitat in North America.”
The groundbreaking number is a perfect example of how hunters and others with a passion for waterfowl and wetlands conservation can come together for a common goal.
DU’s mission has always been to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitat for North America’s waterfowl, and this milestone is a direct reflection of that statement.
About Ducks Unlimited
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 million acres throughout Texas and the U.S. thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent.
Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.
The Managed Lands Deer Permit (MDP) Program offered by TPWD has been around almost two decades and has experienced some changes this year. Land owners that have participated in the past as well as those interested in enrolling for the 2017-18 deer hunting season must register online before the deadline.
The MLDP program offers two different options starting this year, the Conservation Option (CO) and the Harvest Option (HO). Both offer landowners/hunters the ability to receive deer tags for the property that they own or hunt. The program is intended to help with deer management and/or hunting, but the two options are different in terms of how can help.
Conservation Option Vs. Harvest Option
After reading guidelines for the voluntary program, it appears that the Conservation Option offers the most opportunity for a property owner to effectively manage the deer found on a property. However, it does require that the landowner perform 3 “department-approved habitat management practices each year.”
It also requires that properties participating in CO perform deer surveys each year. For those interested in managing the deer found on their property this seems like stuff you will already be doing. The deadline for signup in August 1.
The HO is different. It does not require any management practices on the participating property and it does not required that annual deer surveys be performed. Deer permits are issued using some formula based on the property. TPWD has developed a HO Tag Estimator that determines how many tags a particular property will get. Here is a good article discussing how to use the MLDP tag estimator for the upcoming deer season. The deadline for HO signup is also August 1.
When a person goes to register a property for MLDP enrollment in either option the system asks for a map of the property. This same map is (presumably) used to determine deer harvest recommendations under the HO but deer survey data is used to make harvest recommendations under the CO (since it’s required for the option).
Per TPWD, “The MLDP program is intended to foster and support sound management and stewardship of native wildlife and wildlife habitats on private lands in Texas. Deer harvest is an important aspect of habitat management and conservation. Landowners enrolled in either the MLDP Harvest Option or Conservation Option are able to take advantage of extended season lengths and liberalized harvest opportunities.”
MLDP participation is completely voluntary, but better deer herd management and longer deer hunting seasons are very compelling, especially with regard to the Conservation Option. I can envision situations where the Harvest Option may be a good idea for certain properties as well.
The MLDP enrollment deadlines for each option are rapidly approaching, August 1, so whether you have participated in the past or are consider register for the upcoming hunting season, act fast. Just remember that once enrolled, program participants must meet MLDP requirements for the full year of enrollment. The specific information on each option can be found here.
Good News: There will be more white-winged dove hunting in the Texas South Zone this fall because of a special season expansion! South Texas dove hunters will see more shots at dove this year thanks to a season framework adjustment expanding the early September 4-day Special White-winged Dove Area hunting season to the entire South Zone boundary.
The change to the special white-winged dove hunting season is part of the 2017-18 migratory game bird seasons adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “For the second straight year, Texas will be taking advantage of a 90-day dove season and the expansion of early white-winged dove hunting during the first two weekends in September, in effect, create early September hunting opportunities statewide for the first time ever,” said Dave Morrison, TPWD Wildlife Division deputy director.
Texas Dove Population Looks Good
It’s been another good year for rain in much of the state and that helps with annual bird production. Expect both mourning and white-winged dove numbers to be good, especially in areas where seed-producing plants are present. Look for sunflowers and implement a little pre-season strip-shredding for some fast and furious pass shooting.
As usual, expect potentially dry conditions in early September to push doves in droves to stock tanks and other accessible water sources. These sites are particularly good in the late afternoon and early evening.
Below is the dove season calendar and framework for 2017-18:
Texas Dove Hunting Seasons 2017-18
North Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 12 and Dec. 15-31.
Central Zone: Sept. 1 – Nov. 5 and Dec. 15 – Jan. 7, 2018.
Special White-winged Dove Days (entire South Zone): Sept. 2-3, 9-10.
South Zone: Sept. 22 – Nov. 8 and Dec. 15 – Jan. 21, 2018.
Bag Limit: The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15 and the possession limit 45.
Special White-wing Dove Area
During the early two weekends in the Special White-winged Dove Days, hunting is allowed only from noon to sunset and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. During the general season in in the special area, the aggregate bag limit is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.
Waterfowl hunting in Texas is big deal. Each year, hunters across the state chase ducks and geese from the Panhandle down to the coastal plains. But very few of the birds harvested in Texas are produced here. The bulk of waterfowl breeding habitat is found much further north.
“Waterfowl habitat conservation has to take place not only here on Texas’ continentally significant wintering grounds, but also on the breeding grounds that produce our waterfowl,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Executive Director Carter Smith said.
“TPWD is proud to be a strong DU partner across North America. Ducks Unlimited’s match and leveraging ability give our contributions four times the impact we could have alone. That’s a return on investment we can all be proud of.”
Habitat Work for Waterfowl
During remarks at Ducks Unlimited’s 80th National Convention, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith announced the department’s decision to award Ducks Unlimited $600,000 for habitat management projects on waterfowl breeding grounds in Prairie Canada.
This commitment brings Texas’ cumulative contribution for habitat conservation on Canadian breeding grounds important to Texas’ waterfowl to more than $4 million.
Habitat Work Funded by Texas Hunters
Recognizing the migratory nature of waterfowl, state wildlife agencies have been contributing to habitat conservation in Canada since 1965. More than 40 states participated this year, and funding comes primarily through hunting license sales. In Texas, all funding comes from the state Migratory Game Bird Stamp fund.
This fund is solely supported by the sale of Migratory Game Bird Stamps, required of all migratory bird hunters in Texas. These funds may be used to support waterfowl habitat conservation in Canada, and Texas has been doing so since 1985.
“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is one of our greatest partners in conservation in Texas and across the continent. They continue making wise investments in waterfowl habitat important to the birds that wing their way to the Lone Star State each year,” said DU Southern Region Director Jerry Holden.
“Banding data shows us a large portion of the ducks harvested in Texas come from Saskatchewan and Alberta, so investing the state’s dollars in this region clearly provides the greatest return for Texas waterfowl hunters.”
Waterfowl Breeding Grounds
Breeding ground habitat work is critical for the health of continental populations of waterfowl, and Texas’ waterfowl hunters understand that. The nearly 50,000 Texas DU members are appreciative of TPWD’s continued contributions to the program.
“The importance of state contributions to Canadian habitat conservation and restoration projects cannot be overstated,” said DU Canada’s Director of International Partnerships Pat Kehoe. “Individual state contributions are combined with other state contributions, matched dollar for dollar by DU Inc., used as match for North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants and then leveraged further by DU Canada.”
Ducks Unlimited Committed to Waterfowl
Ducks Unlimited’s programs in the U.S. and Canada are science-based and consistent with the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Prairie conservation programs on both sides of the border are structured to protect native, highly productive habitat while also improving waterfowl production in working agricultural landscapes.
These habitat projects have benefits far beyond waterfowl, including nature based flood protection, groundwater recharge, water quality enhancements and habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife.
It’s not all hot air. Soon hunters in Texas can literally “make it rain” onto herds of feral hogs using the comfort and stealth that hot air balloons provide. Texas lawmakers have approved the hunting of feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons. Boom!
Feral hogs numbers have increased dramatically over the past few decades, and it seems lawmakers will stop at nothing to provide hunters with opportunities to control the non-native, rooting machines that are feral hogs. Hunting is already open year-round and their are zero bag limits. Hunt on.
Texas’ growing hog population causes millions of dollars worth of damage to agricultural crops every year. Texas has an estimated 3 million feral hogs. The high breeding rate of wild pigs and a lack of natural predators has seen feral hog numbers skyrocket. With hog numbers going up, so should the hunters.
Texas already allows the shooting of feral hogs from helicopters, but in addition to be costly, many say it is unsuccessful because the aircraft often scare the hogs out of shooting range. Hot air balloons are quieter and offer a more stable shooting platform, which understandably would be better for “sniper-like” hog hunting.
Before hunters can take to they sky for bacon to fry, the bill does require the state to license hot air balloon hunting. But with the bill out of the state congress and house, it now goes to Texas Governor Greg Abbott for his consideration. And in Texas, you know he’s gonna sign it like it’s hot… air balloon.
With temperatures heating up wildlife friendly water troughs are more important in Texas than ever. Hot, dry weather means wildlife will be in search of water, but is your water trough wildlife friendly?
Not all water sources are created equally. Some watering facilities may limit wildlife access based on their design. During periods of low rainfall, when many ponds and creeks dry up, surface water is limited. Many wildlife species of drown in troughs trying to reach water because they got in and then were unable to escape.
Troughs for Wildlife Need Escape Ladders
Escape ladders are an important part of a wildlife friendly water trough. These ladders can be installed in troughs to give animals a way out if they do fall in. These ladders can be made of many materials and may even include a series of rocks that act as stepping stones, but the material used for an escape ladder must be durable.
Wildlife ladders in troughs allow animals access the water, but more importantly, exit the trough. Instructions for building escape ladders are provided online by the Natural Resource Conservation Service in the following publications:
Many troughs exist for watering livestock. In most cases, modifications to “working” troughs will have to be reinforced to a greater extent than a trough that is install strictly for wildlife use. Troughs that serve both livestock and wildlife are feasible, but planning is necessary to ensure you are meeting the needs of all of your constituents.
Check out the slideshow below for some great information on creating and restoring safe and accessible water sources for livestock, bats and other wildlife.
Rainwater Collection for Wildlife Water
An alternative source of water may be installing a wildlife water guzzler that captures and uses rainwater. These are great options for fields that were once cultivated or smaller properties that may not have a source of water but are providing supplemental water as a qualifying practice for a wildlife tax valuation. Wildlife including deer, turkeys, small mammals and birds will visit these wildlife friendly water troughs regularly for hydration.
A collection system can be as expensive or economical as you wish, but keep in mind that longevity of the system as well as maintenance can be addressed through the initial materials that are used. The purpose of a guzzler is to provide water for wildlife and they won’t care if you spend $10 or $10,000.
When a rainwater collection system for wildlife (guzzler) is installed, it’s a good idea to initially fill it with water, then in most years there should be enough annual precipitation to maintain water in them for the critters on your land. A roof funnels water into the holding tank and also slows evaporation. If you have livestock on your property, then it’s recommended you fence the guzzler to keep livestock out.
Want to see a flying duck get drilled by a golf ball right off the tee? Not something that anyone would request — but a golfer did unintentionally connect with a duck flying across the fairway recently, and the freakish ash was captured on camera.
In life, and death, it seams, everything is about timing. The golfer was setting up for a great swing and a duck was simply looking for “greener grass,” so to speak. As it turns out, both were surprised.
The guy hit the ball, the ball hit the duck (both in mid-flight) and the duck hit the water.
Kaput Feral Hog Bait has pulled from Texas before even a single pig (or anything else) was harmed. Scimetrics Ltd. Corporation (SLC) announced yesterday that it has withdrawn its registration of Kaput Feral Hog Bait in the state of Texas.
SLC announced, “We have received tremendous support from farmers and ranchers in the State of Texas, and have empathy for the environmental devastation, endangered species predation, and crop damage being inflicted there by a non-native animal. However, under the threat of many lawsuits, our family owned company cannot at this time risk the disruption of our business and continue to compete with special interests in Texas that have larger resources to sustain a lengthy legal battle.”
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was dismayed over the decision by the maker of Kaput Feral Hog Bait to remove the product from use in the state.
“As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I am disappointed that landowners, farmers and ranchers will lose this tool to fight back against the growing economic threat of feral hogs. Unfortunately, it seems that once again the hard working folks who turn the dirt and work from sunup to sundown have fallen victim to lawyers, environmental radicals and the misinformed. Once again, politically correct urban media hacks and naysayers win out against the rural folks who produce the food and fiber everyone needs.”
SLC had hoped to provide this valuable new resource to the farmers of Texas, whose crops and land have been devastated by the estimated 2.5 million feral hogs in the state. The company also hoped to alleviate the risk posed by the many diseases these hogs carry being transmitted to both the livestock and the food supply of Texas, by offering an alternative solution to current programs that cannot keep up with the quickly growing feral hog population.
It appears feral hogs in Texas are no longer on notice. SLC ended its announcement to pull Kaput from Texas with, “Unfortunately, we have discontinued our attempts to provide this resource in Texas at this time. We are grateful for the support we have received from the agricultural community of Texas.”
The pronghorn population in Texas in on the rise according to officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration Project progressed with another successful relocation recently of 109 pronghorn, helping to boost once-declining numbers in that area.
This marks the fifth year that pronghorn have been transplanted from healthy populations around Pampa in the Texas Panhandle to an area northeast of Marfa to supplement severely depleted pronghorn populations in the Trans Pecos region.
The relocation process was coordinated among the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University (BRI), Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Working Group, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) and USDA-Wildlife Services. Quicksilver Air, Inc. conducted the capture.
Texas’ Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Population
The Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration Project is a five-year, $1.4 million public-private partnership with the TPWF. To date, more than $900,000 has been secured. The objective of the Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration Project is to bolster declining pronghorn populations through wildlife management practices, including: translocations, habitat improvements, and predator management.
At least 17,000 pronghorn historically roamed the West Texas region, but by 2012 there were estimated to be less than 3,000. As of last summer, pronghorn numbers had doubled, based on a TPWD aerial census survey.
Pronghorn on Rise, With Help
“With the help of Mother Nature, translocations, and other management actions populations are bouncing back in this region of Texas,” said Shawn Gray, TPWD Pronghorn Program Leader. “We hope populations in our restoration areas will continue to grow and become another source for pronghorn in the next few years to help supplement other herds in the Trans-Pecos.”
Gray noted that survival and production rates among transplanted pronghorn have been encouraging over the last few years, thanks to improved range conditions and intensive management activities.
“Historic drought severely impacted survival in 2011 at just 20 percent, while good range conditions and more intensive management actions have led to much higher survival rates of between 70-85 percent during the other translocations,” he noted. “Over the last four years, herds that received transplanted pronghorn have done well and have had above average fawn production.”
The relocation process is not your ordinary roundup.
Moving Pronghorn Between Populations
At the capture site, workers take each animal’s temperature to monitor stress, along with blood and fecal samples for disease surveillance. The pronghorn also receive a mild sedative to minimize stress during capture and transport. Ear tags are attached for identification. Forty of the latest group of captured pronghorn were fitted with satellite radio collars, programmed to collect GPS locations every 15 minutes. At about 1 ½ years post-release, the satellite collars will automatically drop from the animals and be retrieved by researchers to refurbish and redeploy in future translocations. After processing, the pronghorn were transported by trailer to the release site northeast of Marfa.
“The capture could not have gone any smoother,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, Wildlife Veterinarian for TPWD. “The pronghorn were in excellent shape and traveled really well.“
During the next year, the BRI and TPWD will closely monitor the translocated pronghorn to determine survival, reproductive productivity, fawn survival, habitat utilization, and movements. This research has and will continue to define the best management practices essential in growing Texas pronghorn populations in the Trans-Pecos region.
“We sincerely appreciate all the cooperation and support from our partners and the Pampa and Trans-Pecos communities,” stated Gray. “Their continued support will ensure pronghorn herds in the Trans-Pecos will prosper in our desert grasslands.” It will take continued effort in the forms of herd and harvest management to ensure pronghorn hunting into the future.