Tuesday

National Hunting & Fishing Day

Thanks for sharing your passion with friends and family ... and us!


It’s an incredible feeling best shared with a friend: reeling in a trout for your dinner or harvesting your first dove or buck. National Hunting and Fishing Day — this Saturday, September 26 — celebrates all who hunt, fish and shoot, but particularly those who invite along someone new to the sport.

 

Many Texas hunters and anglers belong to conservation organizations and actively contribute time, money and effort to help wildlife populations and their habitats. Hunting and fishing license fees fund state efforts to provide healthy and sustainable natural resources.

 

To say THANK YOU to all who participate and share that experience, enter our contest on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Click and tell us what/who sparked your love of hunting or fishing. Three commenters who offer great photos and stories will win a $50 Cabela's gift card. Don't delay: Deadline is Monday, September 28, 2020.

 

Who knows? Your story could end up here on our magazine blog!


 

Launched in 1971 by Congress, NHF Day has consistently recognized hunters and anglers for their leadership in wildlife and conservation. NHF Day is observed and celebrated the fourth Saturday in September every year.

Social media superstars "Dude Perfect," five college roommates from Texas A&M University with 50 million subscribers and nine billion views of their videos, are honorary chairs this year. 

“Participation in activities like hunting and fishing are richly rewarding experiences,” says Gov. Greg Abbott.  “Not only do they create thousands of jobs and revenue for our great state but they are also great opportunities to deepen human relationships and reconnect with the environment.”

 

Across the nation, including here in Texas, populations of white-tailed deer, redfish and other game species were almost wiped out by the early to mid-20th century from decades of unregulated exploitation. But today most fish and game have come back to plentiful abundance.

 

In modern Texas, hunting and fishing remain a cultural and economic force. In fact, the traditions are gaining traction among some urban audiences as a logical extension of the local food movement.

 

Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine has a new “locavore” web page with wild game tips and recipes from chefs as well as hunting and fishing adventure features to get you inspired. We take you from classic dove poppers to elegant main dishes.

 

Of course, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has all the information you need to get educated, licensed and outdoors for fun and recreation. Check out their hunting and fishing education pages. Sign up for a mentored hunting workshop next summer and grow your knowledge and confidence before you hunt. (This YouTube video lets you experience a mentored workshop before you sign up.)

 

Next time you head out to the lake or hunting lease, think about taking along a first-timer, child or grandchild, friend, co-worker or neighbor. It will not only enrich their lives, but your life, too. 

 

 

Monday

Mammal Monday — Actin' Nutty

You see them chasing each other up and down the tree and along the branches. You hear them scurrying across your roof. You catch them carrying nuts on the way to their secret stash.

© Suzanne Gabriel | #inthewildhood

Squirrels are everywhere. And once you learn more about them, you may see these critters as neighbors rather than pests. There are three main types of squirrels in Texas (tree, ground and flying squirrels) and eight different squirrel species.

The most common type of squirrels are tree squirrels, which include the Eastern fox squirrel and the Eastern gray squirrel. While fox and gray squirrels appear similar, they differ in distribution, size and behavior. Fox squirrels are commonly found throughout Texas, while gray squirrels reside only in East Texas. Gray squirrels are more social, smaller, faster and tend to be more skittish. Fox squirrels usually hide when threatened instead of fleeing. Tree squirrels are what people typically picture when imagining a squirrel.

Texas has one species of flying squirrel: the Eastern flying squirrel. Despite the name, flying squirrels don’t actually fly but rather glide from tree to tree and can glide up to 100 yards. Flying squirrels are nocturnal, are smaller than other squirrels and tend to be more timid.

© Gerald Colca | #inthewildhood

Ground squirrels have the greatest number of species (five) of Texas squirrels. One species, the rock squirrel, resembles a tree squirrel and lives in rocky outcrops in the Hill Country and West Texas. Despite the name, this ground squirrel can climb trees fairly well. The other types of ground squirrel in Texas look more like prairie dogs: the Texas antelope squirrel, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Mexican ground squirrel and spotted ground squirrel. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel resides in North Texas, while the Mexican, spotted and Texas antelope squirrels are found in West Texas.

Squirrels are known for burying seeds and nuts for future meals, and they sometimes forget their stash’s location, resulting in many of the trees we see today. Squirrels can bury several thousand nuts over the course of a year. When storing their food, they are methodical as they bury them in various locations and organize them based on shapes, sizes and types to help remember their location. It’s their own unique memory device! Squirrels also practice “deceptive caching,” in which they pretend to bury food if other squirrels are watching, only to sneak away to their actual stash.

© Mike Thomte | #inthewildhood

To learn more about the about the animals that call Texas home subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.

Wednesday

Book Review - Capturing Nature Through Photography

 Have you ever seen a golden-cheeked warbler and scrambled to grab a camera to remember the moment? Have you looked upon the flowing rivers of the Texas landscape, wishing you knew how to capture the water to look as smooth as glass? Have you gazed at the stars shimmering above in the night sky and wanted others to see what you saw?

In The Big Book of Nature and Wildlife Photography (ebook only), photographer and writer Russell Graves (a regular Texas Parks & Wildlife contributor) takes readers on a virtual tour of the great outdoors through stunning photographs, pairing them with advice on expressing your own nature experience through a lens.


Graves opens the book with his upbringing on a Texas cattle ranch, which led him to realize his passion for nature and wildlife. While doing ranch work, he consistently became distracted by the occasional opossum waddling nearby or deer trotting along. Eventually, his love affair for the outdoors led him to pursue photography.

“From the beginning, I knew that photography was a fantastic way to record the natural world in my little corner of Texas,” Graves writes. “Since then, I’ve never developed more than a passing interest in studio photography, but rather decided early on that I’d try to capitalize on natural light and let the outdoors be my studio.”

His book explores a variety of landscapes, ranging from vast prairies to arid deserts to dense forests to salty coasts. Along the way, readers see diverse photographs of both wildlife and nature, each with their own stories to tell. From the colorful autumn trees in the Smoky Mountains to the lone coyote wandering the grass field of Childress, Graves paints a picture of our landscape that many of us don’t take the time to stop and see.

With each photograph, he includes what camera was used and its settings so others can also try out their own nature photo shoots. Through the rest of the book, he lets the reader in on all the best tips and tricks for shooting nature photography. From necessary camera equipment to appropriate camera settings, he opens up a world of possibilities for the aspiring photographer.

He even gives tangible tips from his time in the field, such as the types of ducks to look out for or how to clearly capture a bobcat in motion. He not only deals with the practicalities of camera work but also focuses on the animals themselves and how to find moments worth capturing.

Graves includes his own experiences as well, mentioning his usual editing procedures and digital workflow. Toward the end of the book, he goes through several case studies, explaining past experiences through his mindset, actions taken and the outcome.

The book’s message comes to its culmination in the conclusion — that practicing consistently is key.

Graves says the ultimate goal of capturing these astounding elements of nature is to better appreciate the wildlife surrounding us.

“Good photographs of the natural world are a way for you to learn more about the great outdoors,” Graves writes. “The more you learn, the better steward and conservation advocate you’ll become.”

Purchase Russell Graves’ book.

Read and view Graves’ work.

Photo Essay: Solitary Power

Mystery Canines of Galveston Island

Bois D’Arc Goodbye

The State of Whitetails


To see more from frequent contributor Russell Graves, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.

Tuesday

Hispanic Heritage Month — Our Texas Rivers

In my college Texas History course we each had to complete a topographical map of the state. Mine was rather elaborately shaded. I have to admit that I kept it with pride for many years. 

The point of the exercise was to place the rivers with accuracy, learn their names and be able to discuss their importance to the people of Texas throughout its history. Of secondary emphasis was the fact that, in downtown Austin, the street names starting from the highway and heading west correlate roughly to the important rivers from east to west. That was less an assignment and more a party trick. Try it with all of your friends!

In the course of the assignment our professor casually said, "And of course the Colorado River is named that because of its color. It's Spanish." What? I, a native Texan born and bred, having previously taken similar classes in fourth and seventh grade, Hispanic myself although by no means fluent in Spanish, was 20 years old the day I learned that Colorado literally means the color red.  

I suppose it had simply never dawned on me before. When people talk about the river that passes through the heart of Austin, the river that's the 18th longest in the nation, the river that rises practically in the Panhandle and flows all the way to the Gulf of Mexico — it sure never sounds Spanish. And yet, Spanish it is.

As with many of the geographical features in Texas, and throughout the Southwest, rivers often carry the complicated legacy of the people that came before us. Colorado isn't the only river in the state to bear a Spanish name that we don't pronounce quite on target. Here is a sampling of some of the many other waterways that also pay tribute to our past.

In East Texas the Angelina River flows for 110 miles before emptying into the Neches. The name is an old one, mentioned in written records as early as 1768 and in oral tradition nearly a century before that. It's believed to have been drawn from the Spanish explorers and missionaries who followed earlier generations of conquistadores, to honor a native Hasinai woman who guided and interpreted on their behalf during the 17th century. 


Angelina River

While the Colorado is named for the color of its silt-laden current, the Blanco River is not. This spring-fed river that flows through the heart of the Hill Country owes its name to the gleaming limestone that lines its bed and banks. Blanco, of course, means white. The river was so dubbed by the Aguayo expedition of 1721, but archeological evidence along its route shows that it was inhabited by native peoples long before that.

Blanco River

The Bosque River is a curious beast that amply lives up to its name. Translated to something like "woods" or "wooded," the river is composed of four branches — the North, East, Middle and South — that intermingle in turns before eventually feeding into the Brazos. While the name likely derives from the landscape around the river, bestowed on it in 1719 by the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, mapping the branching Bosque is much like drawing a forest of trees. 

Bosque River

If Texas has a river to rival the mighty Mississippi, then it would have to be the Brazos. Not only is the Brazos River the longest in the state, it has the greatest discharge volume and largest watershed. A portion of its 44,620-square-mile watershed even includes New Mexico. The Brazos is first mentioned in La Salle's exploration narrative but by a Caddoan name, Tokonohono, and expeditions throughout the 18th century certainly confused the Brazos with the Colorado. The entirety of the name is Los Brazos de Dios — "the arms of God" — and there are many legends as to why it's been afforded the name. All of these tales focus on one salient point — people were on the verge of death but found salvation in its waters. Whatever the name's origin, by the end of the Spanish period it was firmly established.

Brazos River

Mid-17th century Spanish explorers discovered a river whose large number of mussel shells produced freshwater pearls. The Concho River was thus named after the conchas (shells) that presaged a wealthy future. Unfortunately, later expeditions found the quality of the pearls to be poor and any possibility of commercial harvest was abandoned. Still, the 246-mile Concho has been home to human habitation for centuries, as demonstrated by native pictographs along its bluffs. The Concho is made up of three branches — the North, Middle and South. Strangely, the South Concho actually flows northward on its journey to meet the other two branches.

Concho River

Today the Comal River is mostly known for tubin' and other water recreation. What may be the shortest river in the country, the spring-fed Comal runs a mere 3 miles. Historically confused with the Guadalupe, which it feeds into, the river is named for that most ubiquitous of Mexican cooking utensils, the comal, on which we cook tortillas. This isn't for any attributes of the river itself, but rather of the landscape that surrounds it.

People have a complex history with the Guadalupe River. Artifacts indicate that areas along its valley could have been inhabited as early as 8,000 BC. Tonkawa, Waco, Apache and Karankawa lived along its banks. Europeans first arrived in the late 17th century, establishing colonies and missions in key locations. These rarely lasted long, due to sporadic flooding and conflict with native peoples. It wasn't until the early 19th century that more permanent European settlements were established. It was designated Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe by Alonso de León in the late 1680s.

It's odd that an ill-fated French expedition led by a man from Rouen, displaced to Canada, would be the source of such a Spanish name, but that is the origin of the Lavaca River. Described by La Salle in the late 17th century as Riviére de Les Veches ("river of the cows"), because of herds of bison he saw there, the name comes down to us as the Spanish la vaca ("the cow").

You would think that a river named Leon would have something to do with lions, even though we have no true lions in Texas. As with many early river names, there is some confusion as to the etymology of the Leon River. It may be that it, like the Blanco, was named by the 1721 Aguayo expedition, but is just as likely that it owes its name to explorer Alonso de León.

With the Medina River there is no confusion. This 116-mile river that empties into the San Antonio River was definitely named by Alonso de León. His 1689 diary notes that he named it for Pedro Medina, an early Spanish engineer upon whose navigation tables he relied during his expeditions.

Medina River

Another river named by Alonso de León, the Nueces River had already been known to Europeans for a number of years. It was prominently displayed on maps as the Río Escondido ("hidden river"), and La Salle sailed to its mouth in 1685 in the mistaken belief that it was the Mississippi. Generations of explorers and settlers changed the name of the river to suit themselves, but the one given in 1689 recognizing its pecan tree-lined banks is the one that stuck.

When you think of West Texas it's hard not to envision the Pecos River. From its headwaters in New Mexico, the Pecos flows more than 900 miles to where it meets the Rio Grande. With a drainage area of over 44,000 square miles, the Pecos was described by early explorers as up to 100 feet wide, 10 feet deep, with a fast current that made it nearly unfordable in all but a handful of spots. While Europeans encountered the river throughout the 16th century and gave it many different names, Juan de Oñate first named it Pecos around 1600, referring to the Pecos Pueblo. The most literal translation would be "dotted" or "freckled," which seems to make little sense. However, some believe it to be a corrupted conjugation of pecar ("to sin"), making us wonder what people saw in its turbulent waters.

Pecos River

There's only one "r" in the word, although you'd never know it from listening to the way Texans pronounce Pedernales River. Named after the flint rocks (pedernal) found in the riverbed, the river flows through the Hill Country and empties into the Colorado River at Lake Travis. Unlike other rivers that experienced name confusion across generations of explorers, Pedernales seems to have been consistently used since at least 1750.

The origin of the name of the San Antonio River is meticulously documented. Domingo Terán de los Ríos named the river after St. Anthony of Padua on June 13, 1691. Although he was not a priest, de los Ríos was heavily influenced by Father Damian Massanet, who was in charge of missionary actionThe river and small native village were thus both renamed, with a Mass for soldiers and natives closely following.

The San Marcos River bears no such written record. Although early explorers named a river San Marcos it's now understood that this was a more substantial waterway, likely the Colorado. Later expeditions called it the San Agustin or Los Inocentes. By the first decade of the 18th century, however, San Marcos seems to have been consistently used to describe the spring-fed river that empties into the Guadalupe. 

San Marcos River

A pristine stream of the Hill Country, the Sabinal River is thought to get its name from the word sabino. If this etymology is to be believed, it's in reference to cypress trees found along the banks of the river.

Sabinal River

No list of Texas rivers with Spanish place names would be complete without the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande headwaters are in snow-fed mountain springs in Colorado. It flows through New Mexico and, where El Paso and Ciudad Juarez meet, becomes the international border between Texas and Mexico. It curves through remote landscapes, eventually passing along the agricultural fields and orchards of the lower Rio Grande Valley on its way to the Gulf. Called Río de Nuestra Señora, River of May, Río Guadalquivir, Río del Norte and Río Turbio by various people in the 16th century, the most lasting names used have been Rio Bravo and Rio Grande, depending on which side of the border you stand on. Both names date back to 1598 and denote the idea of big, bold and turbulent waters.

Rio Grande


National Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the history, culture and contributions Hispanic Americans have made, and continue to make, to our country. Celebrated nationally since 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, encompassing the independence anniversaries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico.


To learn more about the rivers and waterways that course through our state subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.


Monday

Mammal Monday — A Living Pincushion

They have incisors like a beaver, paws like a bear, claws like a badger, fur like sheep’s wool and spines like a pincushion. Porcupines are a culmination of characteristics that go beyond any description accurate enough to portray their uniqueness.

© Gale Verhague | Dreamstime

Porcupines are the second-largest rodent species in North America. A native Texan, they mainly reside in West Texas but also occur in the Panhandle and parts of the Hill Country. They can be seen waddling from place to place but can also climb trees.

What makes porcupines the most fascinating is their main weapon of defense — their prickly quills, which are actually modified hairs. A single porcupine is estimated to have more than 30,000 quills, with about 100 to 140 growing from each square inch of skin. The quills cover their entire body, except for their nose, legs and underside.

Quill length typically depends on the quill’s location on the body and the stage of development. Just as an animal sheds hair, porcupines shed quills. Though some depictions of porcupines display their quills as always standing up, that isn’t true. Quills stand vertically only when porcupines feel threatened. Otherwise, they lie flat and hide under a layer of guard hairs. Quills are controlled by muscles, and even the slightest touch can cause a quill raise instantly.

Upon first glance at a quill, the light-colored shaft appears smooth, but touching the sides reveals a roughness at the darker-colored tip. When microscopically viewing the tip, you can see thousands of diamond-shaped scales that overlap and point backward, resembling roof shingles. When the quill enters the victim’s flesh, the scales lie flat, but once inside, they flare open, and their barbed nature makes easy removal almost impossible.

© Randall Stinson | #inthewildhood

A common misconception about porcupines is that they can shoot or aim their quills at their victim. Typically, when a porcupine feels threatened, its quills will vertically raise, the porcupine will turn around with its backside facing the threat, and it will advance toward the victim in a backward position, hissing, teeth chattering and tail lashing. As the tail violently lashes toward the victim, some of the older quills that are about to shed may accidentally pierce a target. This is purely coincidental — porcupines are not skilled shooters.

When impaled by a quill, it is best to immediately seek professional help or jerk the quill out as soon as possible. The quill, with its barbed nature, can travel further into the victim’s flesh, especially after muscle movement. Porcupine quills have been known to kill animals after puncturing a vital organ or cause blindness if the quill reaches the eyes.

Porcupines mostly dine on trees — twigs, leafs, roots and bark. It is worth noting they are attracted to humans because of their love for salt. Campers have been known to find chewed-up boots, backpack straps or other objects containing salt from sweat.

If unbothered, porcupines are fairly peaceful animals. They are not aggressive and tend to wander alone. If you see one walking by, listen closely and you can hear their grunting, mumbling, murmuring and moaning.

Try to avoid touching or bothering them unless you want to get into a prickly situation.

To learn more about the about the animals that call Texas home subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.

Thursday

Hometowns Celebrate Native Authors with Festivals and Museums

Beyond textbooks and historical tomes, we experience life across time and Texas through the fictional works of the Lone Star State’s writers. For those who are drawn to the stories of real people, not just dates and battles, honest voices are shared through old screen doors to the slow cadence of a swelteringly still summer afternoon around the kitchen table.

Texas towns take pride in the literary works of their native sons and daughters. Some go to great lengths to display their admiration, as we featured in our September 2019 Wanderlist, “Literary Texas.” In our Under the Texas Sky Wanderlist podcast by the same name, we learn about a few of those towns and visit one in person.

The Robert E. Howard Home

Pulp fiction writer and Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard has a museum and festival in his hometown of Cross Plains, while Old Yeller Days in Mason is an homage to native son Fred Gipson. There’s a Hollywood-type star in the Fort Worth Stockyards for Western novelist Elmer Kelton and Austin boasts an O. Henry (William Sidney Porter) Museum with an annual pun-off.

Just south of Austin in Kyle, a distant relative of O. Henry, Katherine Anne Porter, first made her name with the 1930 Flowering Judas and Other Stories; her 1962 novel Ship of Fools was a bestseller. Porter later received both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. We toured Porter’s childhood home in Kyle, a literary center on the National Register of Historic Places, with writer-in-residence Jeremy Garrett.

The Katherine Anne Porter House

To celebrate the center’s 20th Anniversary An Evening with Hilton Als on September 18 at 7 p.m. He will discuss her life via Zoom To RSVP, email kapliterarycenter@gmail.com

To learn more about the legacy and heritage of our state subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.

Monday

Mammal Monday - Javelinas of Texas

Don't call them pigs just because the nose looks similar. In this week's Mammal Monday our Editorial Intern, Landry Allred, explains the history of our own native rooter.

It's not to late to get in your photos! Enter In the Wild Hood and your photo may appear in a future Mammal Monday post!




© WildEyesPhotos | #InTheWildHood  

Out in the Texas prairies, woodlands and brush country, almost anything that’s small and stout can look like a pig. But everything is not always what it seems.

Certain pig-looking animals — peccaries — are spread throughout the southwestern U.S. to South America, occurring in three different species. The collared peccary, or javelina, is the only species of peccary that can be found in the United States. An estimated 100,000 javelinas occur in Texas rangelands, living mostly in arid areas.

Despite the common misconception of being a type of swine, peccaries are classified in a family of their own. The most recent shared ancestor with swine is estimated to be around 40 million years ago.

While pigs were developing in the Eastern Hemisphere, javelinas were developing the Western Hemisphere. Early Spanish explorers found them in the New World, naming them jabeli, an Arabic-Spanish word for wild boar, or jabalina, Spanish for “spear” as the animals have sharp teeth. The first documented sightings of javelinas in the New World occurred in the 18th century, and archeological evidence puts their earliest appearance in 1700.

Many people often confuse feral hogs and javelinas, though they are not in the same family. Javelinas are much smaller than feral hogs. They also have three hoofed toes instead of four, an unnoticeable tail, fewer teeth and a scent gland near their tail base. Javelinas are also much more social, herd-like animals.

The well-known negative impacts from feral hogs may lead people to have negative associations with javelinas. Feral hogs destroy habitats by digging and wallowing, but javelinas rarely dig deeper than a couple of inches when looking for food. Additionally, while feral hogs often compete with native species for resources, javelinas feed mainly on prickly pear cacti and other succulents.

Aggressiveness is another characteristic typically associated with javelinas, but javelinas are pretty defensive and will usually retreat from danger. The only time they will act aggressively is if they are cornered or when interacting with dogs, as dogs resemble the javelina’s typical predator, the coyote.

Some people claim that javelinas will charge toward them; however, they are most likely running from a perceived threat. Javelinas have poor eyesight, so when they are scattering from danger, they may look as if they’re charging. All things considered, aggressive encounters between javelinas and humans are rare.

The hunting regulations for feral hogs and javelinas are completely different, so it’s helpful to be able to recognize one from the other. One way to identify javelinas is by the white stripe of hair around their neck, resembling a “collar.” 

To learn more about native Texas wildlife, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!

Wednesday

Save Our Dark Skies

The photos used in this post to illustrate the astronomical wonders that dark skies bring us were all submitted to our #inthewildhood photo contest by readers like you!

© Nathan Woodruff  | Lake Livingston SP

Nowadays, light pollution keeps many people from experiencing the wonder and excitement of gazing at the blanket of stars that cover the night sky. 

 

Because of our industrial society, 80 percent of Americans have never seen the Milky Way. Not only does light pollution hinder us from admiring the stars and planets above, but it also negatively impacts humans and wildlife.  


© Carlos Rio | Inks Lake SP

It can affect our circadian rhythms and serotonin levels, along with animals’ hormone levels and their mating and feeding habits. Light pollution wastes money, lights up places not meant to be lit up (that frustrating neighbor with a glaring streetlamp) and can waste up to 0.5 kWh of energy per house per night (that’s enough energy to power a 50-inch plasma TV for an hour). While many people associate brighter streets with less criminal activity, too much lighting can actually cause a glare, providing the perfect way for intruders to work without getting caught. 

 

Texas has stepped up to commit to protecting our dark skies, and it has 14 dark sky places, granted by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). Light pollution is reversible, and even you can make a difference. Here are some practical ways to reduce light pollution and fight for our dark skies: 

 

  • Educate yourself. IDA has tons of resources on its website that can help you better understand what light pollution is, its impacts and how to make a difference. They also have a blog on light pollution. 
  • Only the necessities. Make sure to use light only when necessary, where necessary and as bright as necessary. If you’re concerned about safety, consider buying motion-detector sensor lights with timers. Also, keep your blinds shut at night to keep light inside.  
  • Shop right. Colors matter! It’s best to minimize blue-light emissions, as blue light brightens the sky more than any other color. Consider purchasing warmer white colors when shopping for bulbs. Additionally, find light fixtures that shield the light and face downward to reduce light waste. IDA also has a searchable database to find fixtures that have an IDA seal of approval. 
  • Support IDA and dark sky scientists. You can become a citizen scientist and help measure light pollution, all from your fingertips with a smartphone. You can also become an IDA member and receive calls-to-action or become an IDA chapter volunteer to advocate for dark skies. Also, check out an IDA dark sky park and give your tourism dollars toward protecting those areas. Texas’ IDA dark sky parks include Big Bend Ranch, Enchanted Rock, Copper Breaks and South Llano River. 
  • Educate others. Many people aren’t aware of light pollution, nor do they understand its impact. Consider talking to friends and family, and even kindly addressing your neighbors about their bright light fixture in their front yard. Become an advocate online, set up a table at a local event, give a public talk. Just tell people about it! 

 

© ofonsecamd | Chihuahuan Desert

Small steps make a big difference — 20 to 50 percent of outdoor residential lighting is wasted due to poor shielding alone. You can help protect our dark skies and everything that lives under them! 

 

Read more about dark skies in state parks in this Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine story. 


© Ryan Nelms | Copper Breaks SP



If you want to learn more about conservation efforts in Texas subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!

Monday

Mammal Monday - The Bear Necessities

We're still waiting to see if any wily photographer manages a candid shot of this rarely seen Texas critter. In the meantime, you can enjoy these non-contest entries while you read this week's Mammal Monday by our editorial intern, Landry Allred.

It's not to late to get in your photos! Enter In the Wild Hood and your photo may appear in a future Mammal Monday post!


© Holly Kuchera | Dreamstime 

From scary beasts to cuddly teddy bears, people often misunderstand the nature of bears. Few folks know the true character of these animals that are making their way back to Texas.

Black bears were thought to be extinct in Texas in the mid-20th century but have started making a comeback in the past few decades. They are mainly found in Trans-Pecos regions such as the Chisos Mountains. There are two known subspecies in Texas — the Mexican black bear and the New Mexico black bear — and they are considered endangered in the state.

In the early 1900s, black bears were common in the Chisos Mountains, but because of shooting, trapping and habitat loss, no resident bears could be found by 1944. However, appearances of female black bears and cubs in 1969 and 1978 in the Chisos suggested they were returning to Texas. Since the late 1980s, the black bear population has been increasing. Today, there are approximately 30 to 40 black bears in the Big Bend and 80 in the Trans-Pecos region.

Black bears have also been making a comeback in East Texas. There has been evidence to suggest black bears are returning to the piney woods. Conservation efforts in bordering states have produced breeding populations of black bears, and frequent sightings of bears have been reported in East Texas.

Despite their name, not all black bears are actually black in color. Black bears can range from black to brown to “cinnamon” and even blonde.

Black bears in Big Bend don’t experience true hibernation because of the mild climate and food availability. Instead, they will be dormant for three to four months; they are less active but can still leave their dens to forage.

Probably the biggest misconception about black bears is that they are aggressive and dangerous animals. Many people think of publicized bear attacks on campgrounds or even the gruesome battle between Leonardo DiCaprio and a mother grizzly bear trying to protect her cubs in The Revenant. However, this is quite a different picture from the peaceful, shy nature of black bears.

Black bears rarely attack humans. Fatal black bear attacks occur about once a year in North America. To put in perspective, spiders kill seven people per year, snakes kill six people per year and dogs kill 28 people per year.


© Barb Covington | Dreamstime 

Mother black bears rarely attack when defending their cubs. In fact, there are no records of black bear mothers killing anyone in defense of their cubs. Grizzly bears may act aggressively, but black bears are less aggressive and are more likely to retreat from danger.

Black bears aren’t looking for humans for their next meal but instead prefer easy meals. Black bears are omnivores, and up to 90 percent of their diet consists of vegetable material such as nuts, fruit, berries and other plants. The main source of protein they receive is insects and the occasional small mammal.

While black bears aren’t an imminent threat, interaction with them should be limited as with any other wild animal. With more education and knowledge, we can learn to coexist with our furry friends.

To learn more about native Texas wildlife, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!