Texas Waterfowl Season Forecast

Reduced bag limits for pintails; goose population continues to flounder

The general duck hunting season kicks off in the Panhandle Oct. 26 and the forecast is good. NOTE: Bag limit for pintails has been reduced to 1 per day. 

Hunters heading to the field this fall with hopes to fill their plates with delicious ducks are in luck as biologists predict a good waterfowl season.

“Overall habitat conditions are good for ducks and duck hunters for many parts of Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We just need some timely cold fonts and moisture this fall, and I believe many folks will get the opportunity to enjoy the young ducks the Dakotas produced this summer.”

Most of the Gulf Coast and East Texas remains drier than normal, Kraai added. Typically, when there is less water spread out across the landscape it concentrates birds in areas where hunters tend to be waiting and hunting success increases.

The general duck hunting season kicks off in the Texas Panhandle (High Plains Mallard Management Unit) Oct. 26-27 and resumes Nov. 1- Jan. 26, 2020. In the South Zone, duck season runs Nov. 2- Dec. 1 and resumes Dec. 14- Jan. 26, 2020. Duck hunting in the North Zone opens Nov. 9- Dec. 1 and resumes Dec. 7-Jan. 26, 2020. Hunters are reminded that “dusky ducks” are off limits during the first five days of the season.

Before heading to the field, waterfowl hunters should note the regulatory change for northern pintails. The bag limit for pintails was reduced to one per day from two per day due to a decrease in population.

Goose hunting also kicks off Nov. 2 statewide and runs through Jan. 26, 2020 in the East Zone and Feb. 2, 2020 in the West Zone.

“Quite differently from the good duck production, timing of the goose hatch and vegetation green up in the Arctic has been a few weeks off of each other for several years in a row,” said Kraai.  “This mismatch once again has resulted in low gosling survival.  At best we can say there will be a few more young birds in the flock this year compared to the last couple of years.”

Continental goose populations, especially mid-continent snow geese, are declining for the first time in a long time due to four to five consecutive years of this poor gosling survival, Kraai said. The older and wise birds remaining in the flock tend to make for increased frustration with hunters and likely lower success.

White-fronted and small Canada geese tend to be doing much better than their snow goose cousins.  Hunters in the panhandle and rolling plains north of Abilene should see similar strong populations and success this winter.

Through the late summer and early fall, Texas saw almost zero cool fronts moving though the breeding grounds to the north, making for a frustrating teal season with a very slow and stretched out migration.

“At the end of teal season there were still significant concentrations of blue-winged teal remaining in the Dakotas and Nebraska,” said Kraai. “We will need a change in weather patterns soon to trigger a more pronounced migration before the regular season starts.  The birds are there, they just need a good push of cold weather to get them moving soon.”

For more information about migratory game bird hunting regulations, methods and seasons, consult the 2019-2020 Outdoor Annual online or through the mobile app.

Hunters who want the convenience of purchasing a license online can do so securely from the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s license site. Access it directly from the department’s website, visit, or text TPWD LICENSE to 468-311 to receive a link.

Hunters can also purchase a license in person at sporting goods stores and other retailers or by calling the TPWD License Section at 1-800-895-4248.

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Stuff of Halloween Nightmares

Giant redheaded centipede is one of Texas' most terrifying critters

Many of us have a primal, involuntary aversion to “creepy-crawlies.” If that irrational fear is ever warranted, surely the giant redheaded centipede (Scolopendra heros) gives us justification for a healthy dose of chilopodophobia, a fear of centipedes. 

These centipedes exhibit a frightening array of characteristics: bright coloration (what biologists call aposematism), formidable equipment for biting and a whole lot of legs that undulate in an unnerving manner. And what’s with the appendages on the back end: 
Are those stingers? Shudder.

No doubt about it, as far as invertebrates go, the giant redheaded centipede is one bad dude. But what threat, if any, does it pose to humans? 

In the wild, these centipedes may reach 8 inches in length, and they can get even bigger in captivity. They have been recorded preying on invertebrates and even a variety of small vertebrates, including rodents, snakes, lizards and toads. 

Famously, their larger South American cousins have been recorded catching bats, and the giant redheaded centipede is capable of snatching flying insects out of the air, too. 

They use their legs to grasp prey while feeding, and their “fangs” (actually an additional pair of highly modified legs) are capable of piercing the skin and injecting a painful toxin. The walking legs also seem to be equipped with a venom delivery system and are capable of piercing skin and causing pain and swelling. 

The caudal legs (the stinger-like appendages on the rear end) are prehensile, capable of grasping prey or pinching would-be predators. When aggravated, the centipedes usually flee, but may take a defensive posture, lifting the caudal legs in warning. 

Giant redheaded centipedes are usually found resting under logs, rocks or leaf litter, but they are often active during the day and occasionally enter houses, so encounters with humans are not infrequent.

An account from the Civil War suggests that such encounters may indeed be horrific. There’s an old legend that a soldier was awakened during the night after a centipede crawled over his chest. The animal left a track of red, painful punctures where it walked, resulting in two days of agony before the soldier finally died. 

Luckily, this story appears to be no more than a tall tale, and giant redheaded centipede bites have never resulted in a confirmed death. Bites are usually rather mild, resulting in a sharp, painful sting that is sometimes accompanied by swelling, usually subsiding after a few hours. 

In rarer cases, bites cause minor skin necrosis, dizziness, nausea and headaches. In only a few cases, bites have caused muscle tissue damage, kidney failure and heart attack. Consider centipede bites to be similar to bee stings: usually mild, but occasionally resulting in acute reactions. 

So, while caution is certainly warranted when dealing with the giant redheaded centipede, downright terror is probably an overreaction. 

As my entomology professor used to say, “It’s good to be big.” Relative to centipedes, we humans are big indeed, and even a giant centipede is no match for a shoe. 

But before going for the kill, the next time you come across one of these fearsome-looking critters, take a moment to appreciate an organism that is equipped, literally from head to tail, for hunting. Just be happy that it’s not the one wearing shoes — lots and lots and lots of shoes.

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Quail Season Opens Saturday

Wildlife Experts Predict Quality Quail Hunting Ahead of Season Opener

With quail hunting season opening Saturday, Oct. 26 statewide, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologists predict average to above-average prospects across most of the state.

“Habitat and weather can cause dramatic shifts in bobwhite and scaled quail populations from one year to the next,” said Robert Perez, quail program leader for TPWD. “Although last year’s quail season was not very productive, quail have an uncanny ability to quickly bounce back when conditions are good. Thanks to favorable weather conditions earlier this year, hunters can look forward to productive quail hunting across most of the state this season.”

For the core quail range in Texas, this year’s El Nino weather pattern translated to above average rainfall and below average temperatures, resulting in an above average bobwhite quail season in most of South Texas, average to slightly above average scaled quail season for the Trans Pecos region, and good prospects for scaled quail and bobwhite in the Panhandle above Interstate 40.

“Favorable weather conditions spurred calling and pair formation in the majority of South Texas counties, and land manager and staff reports suggest an average to above average season,” Perez said. “Scaled quail in the Trans Pecos also look better than average, so it’s a good year to put on some tennis shoes and chase this elusive game bird.”
In the Rolling Plains, field reports indicate a very active roosting calling period in the spring and pairs spotted throughout the summer. Quality habitat across the region provides plenty of nesting and brooding cover and plants like dove weed and ragweed provide chicks with the protein-packed insects they need.

“The Rolling Plains appears to be up from last year but still below average, although our surveys may have underestimated the population due to dense roadside vegetation and extreme heat, which may have influenced habitat use,” Perez said. “Overall, the Rolling Plains has the potential to have an average year. And an average year in Texas is better than just about anywhere else in the country.”

TPWD projections are based on annual statewide quail surveys that were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region. This trend information helps determine relative quail populations among the regions of Texas.

Comparisons can be made between the mean (average) number of quail observed per route this year and the 15-year mean for quail seen within an ecological region. The quail survey was not designed to predict relative abundance for any area smaller than the ecological region.

A regional breakdown of this year’s TPWD quail index survey, including highlights and prospects, is available online.

Quail hunting season runs through Feb. 23, 2020. The daily bag limit for quail is 15, with 45 in possession. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The bag limit is the maximum number that may be killed during the legal shooting hours in one day.

Hunters can find public quail hunting opportunities at several wildlife management areas located within the core quail range, including Elephant MountainBlack GapGene HoweMatadorChaparral and James E. Daughtry. Additionally, hunters can search for quail hunting opportunities on public and leased land with an Annual Public Hunting Permit here.
Hunters who want the convenience of purchasing a license online can do so securely from the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s license site. Access it directly from the department’s website, visit, or text TPWD LICENSE to 468-311 to receive a link.

Hunters can also purchase a license in person at sporting goods stores and other retailers or by calling the TPWD License Section at 1-800-895-4248.

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Imagine a Day Without Water

National education campaign urges water conservation

Millions of Americans take water service for granted every day. Turn on the tap, and clean water flows out. Flush the toilet, and dirty water goes away. With reliable water service, people don’t have to think twice about the infrastructure that brings water to their homes, and then safely returns water to the environment – but everyone should be concerned with the fragility of those systems. 

On Imagine a Day Without Water — today, October 23 — take a moment to think about what would happen if you couldn’t turn on the tap and get clean drinking water, or if you flushed the toilet and wastewater didn’t go anywhere. What would that day be like? What would firefighters do? Could hospitals be sanitary without clean tap water, or without wastewater service? Would restaurants and hotels be able to serve guests? Would famers be able to water their crops or care for their livestock? Would manufacturing plants that require vast amounts of clean water, such as breweries or paper mills, shut down?

We take for granted that we don’t have to ask those questions every day, but America’s water infrastructure is aging and failing. Stories of communities with neglected infrastructure and compromised drinking water bubble up regularly. Record rainfalls in the Midwest this spring flooded the Mississippi River with pollution, and this summer toxic algae bloomed in the Great Lakes – a critical source of drinking water for millions of Americans. In other parts of the country, drought and wildfires threaten critical water supplies for communities and farmers. There are even communities, especially in many rural places across the country, that have never had access to infrastructure in the first place. Americans can’t take their water infrastructure for granted. 

Water infrastructure is the lifelines of our community. Our water infrastructure supports every facet of our daily lives, but our water infrastructure is facing challenges. 

Water challenges look different to different communities and will require local solutions, but reinvestment in water systems should be a national priority. Strong leadership on water is key to securing America’s future. Imagine a Day Without Water is an opportunity for everyone to get educated about our local water systems and challenges, what organizations are trying to do to solve our big water problems. It is also a day for us to raise awareness with our elected leaders and say, with one voice, that these are big problems that won’t be solved in a silo. We need leadership at every level if we want to secure a better future for the millions of Americans who don’t have reliable water service today and ensure a reliable water future for generations to come. Investing in water is investing in a future where no American will have to imagine a day without water.

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Texas Game Wardens Visit South African Rangers

Texas-South African Exchange Program will bring them here next year

Texas Game Wardens recently traveled to Kruger National Park in South Africa to begin an annual professional exchange program with South African National Parks Game Rangers.

The program is aimed at providing professional growth and leadership development opportunities between the two agencies and to increase education and awareness of international wildlife trafficking, which negatively effects conservation efforts in both Texas and South Africa. The illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife parts is a multibillion-dollar international business following only narcotics, human trafficking, and weapons in estimated profits.

"The illegal sale and exploitation of wildlife resources is a global problem that has a direct negative effect on the State of Texas and could lead to the loss of Texas native species, either through the harvest of native species or introduction of non-indigenous invasive species," said Col. Grahame Jones, Law Enforcement Director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Texas Game Wardens have increased the focus on wildlife trafficking operations over the last decade, which includes navigating through internet forums and online marketplaces where trade in both live wildlife and wildlife parts frequently occurs. Game wardens work to identify suspect sales and negotiate undercover transactions with willing sellers to purchase a wide variety of native and non-native wildlife species from around the world.

Kruger National Park is over 7,500 square miles in size and has international borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Since 2010, Kruger Game Rangers have battled against heightened rhino poaching efforts targeting the rhino's horn, elephant poaching for ivory and recently an increase in lion poaching for the sale of teeth, claws and bones in international markets, in addition to subsistence poaching. This occurs in a park with over 1.8 million annual visitors. This environment creates extensive challenges for those tasked with protecting the areas natural resources.

While at Kruger, Texas Game Wardens met with park management to discuss shared issues and how they relate to wildlife crimes in Texas. Game wardens also participated in a snare patrol to locate and remove 95 snares along the Sabie River and conducted foot patrols which included a crime scene overview at the location of a poached rhino and death investigation and tusk removal of a deceased elephant. Additionally, the game wardens toured the Kruger K9 facility and participated in a tracking scenario.

"The opportunity to work beside the dedicated and passionate Game Rangers at Kruger National Park and see the challenges and strategies to overcome those challenges firsthand was an insightful and invaluable learning experience," said Chief Chris Davis with TPWD's Law Enforcement Division. "Places like Kruger National Park are the epicenter for conservation law enforcement and the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking."

Plans are underway for Kruger National Park staff to visit in January of 2020 to be immersed in Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operations and continue to learn and grow professionally through diverse perspectives and opportunities.

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Big Bend Groups Host Green Scene Festival

Terlingua festival showcases importance of preserving dark skies

Photo © Chase Fountain/TPWD

The Terlingua Community Garden, part of the Big Bend Citizens Alliance, is partnering with Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP) to host the 11th annual Green Scene Festival. In addition to education and demonstrations related to sustainability, BBRSP is providing a special presentation related to dark sky preservation.

The festival begins Oct. 26 and runs from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Evening events for Saturday include dark sky programs, a live music performance by Strahan & the Good Neighbors, and a charity auction at the Starlight Theatre Restaurant & Bar. All proceeds from this event will benefit the Terlingua Community Garden and the newly formed Terlingua Dark Sky Alliance.

The festival continues Oct. 27 from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. and includes demonstrations about solar power, rainwater harvesting, wild edible plants found in the area, Native American cooking methods, organic desert gardening, landscaping with native desert plants and alternative building materials. Visit the website for more details.

The Big Bend region is widely recognized to have some of the darkest skies in the United States, which makes the area well-suited for astronomical study and astro-tourism.

Big Bend National Park received recognition from the International Dark-sky Association as an International Dark Sky Park in 2012 and Big Bend Ranch State Park received their designation in 2017. The communities of Terlingua and Study Butte lie between the two parks and many astro-enthusiasts are working to get protections for surrounding communities.

Dark sky programs and information will be provided by staff from BBRSP, BBNP and local organizations. Representatives from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Sustainability Branch will be there to provide information and answer questions about sustainable living.

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