#InTheWildHood — The Walking Edition

It's said that women have an insatiable desire to tidy up their homes in the last weeks of pregnancy. It's even wittily referred to as nesting. Not me. I spent hours in the green space behind my fence creating paths bordered by the abundant limestone rocks that littered the creek bed. 

© Traci Anderson | #inthewildhood

For my family, the trail has become more than just a nearby place to walk in the shade of live oaks. In the winter, ice and the occasional snowdrift leave a dusting of white — a perfect backdrop for holiday pictures. Periodic flooding jostles the stones and deposits rich dirt from upstream that nourishes spring wildflower carpets. For three or four glorious years it was raked down and named Tarantula Alley by my sons, eager to race RC trucks and play Nerf guns. At some point we took down the fence entirely so that our trail is now simply an extension of our outdoor living space. 

© Dave Barton | #inthewildhood

Thankfully, neighborhood trails abound in Texas. Many city, county or neighborhood parks offer paths for every level of ability.  Of course, if you want to adventure farther afield to try out the trails at a state park, we do have some recommendations and tips on the essentials to make your trip a success. 

© Amanda Rushing | #inthewildhood

And while you're out there putting in the work, why not stop to snap a few pictures? The end of our summer photo contest. #inthewildhood. is fast approaching, but there's still time to get in your submissions. The photos you see here were all sent in by readers just like you. 

© Joann Casanta | #inthewildhood

To read more about outdoor activities you can participate in, 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!


Hey, It's World Lizard Day!

I couldn't begin to tell you where I learned it, but the male Texas spiny lizard sports iridescent blue scales along the sides of its belly. It's a fact I offer up like a consolation prize when people mistake the long-toed reptiles for the more famous Texas horned lizard. "So sorry, that's not our state reptile," I'll explain, "but you can tell that one's a female because a male would have blue stripes!" 

What can I say? I like lizards. And given that August 14 is World Lizard Day, it's a safe bet that I'm not the only one.

© Nora D. | #inthewildhood

There are 4,600 species of lizard in the world, and over 50 of those are present in the Lone Star State. Some, like the horned lizard and reticulate collared lizard, are considered threatened species. Others are so ubiquitous we barely notice them — three subspecies of prairie lizard, for example, are present in all but a handful of counties.

© Cynthia J. | #inthewildhood

In some cases an invasive species settles in and calls Texas home. The Mediterranean gecko seems ever-present on summer nights, pouncing on flying insects buzzing around porch lights. It presents little competition to native gecko species, however. Conversely, the invasive brown anole crowds out the green anole in areas where they are both found. But, given that the green anole can be any shade from bright green to dark brown, it can all get a little confusing! 

© Adrian M. | #inthewildhood

And speaking about confusion, skinks are lizards too. They may seem somehow amphibian with their gracile bodies and glossy skin, but they are neither salamander nor newt. Oh, and the longest native lizard you can find in Texas? It's the slender glass lizard. You may not recognize it as such, though, as it has no legs.

Lizards are fascinating to observe and, given their wide distribution, it's likely you can find one just by stepping outside your front door. But remember, THIS is what our state reptile looks like!

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!


Mammal Monday - Common Scents

Who doesn't love a baby animal — even when it may not be the most welcome in our yard? In this week's Mammal Monday our editorial intern, Landry Allred, explains the why behind that distinctive whiff.

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!

© Bobby Middleton | #InTheWildHood  

Our smelly companions often get a bad reputation for their secret weapon of odor, but the more you learn about them, the better you’ll be able to coexist with them.

There are 12 species of skunks in the world, and five species occur in Texas. Skunks used to be considered in the same family as weasels, but recently, taxonomists have put them in their own family, along with the Asian stink badger.

Most of the skunks we see are probably striped skunks, found statewide. Their markings can be highly variable. Two other species in Texas are the eastern and western spotted skunk, marked by spots and broken stripes. Many people imagine skunks as black animals with a white stripe running from the top of their head to their tail tip, but this represents only the hog-nosed skunk of the Edwards Plateau and Trans-Pecos region and the rare hooded skunk, which is found only in the Big Bend region.

Skunks and smells always go together. They are known for the foul-smelling odor they dispel from their rear to ward off predators. Most people believe just being near a skunk will cause it to spray, but this is a common misconception. Skunks spray only when feeling threatened as a means of self-defense.

© Jenn Bauer | #InTheWildHood  

Spraying is often a last resort for a skunk, and skunks will give multiple warnings before spraying, such as stomping their front feet, lifting their tail up and (if it’s a spotted skunk) even doing a handstand. If feeling an immediate danger, however, they will spray without warning.

Another misconception is that skunks spray in a broad area and can do it only once. However, skunks can target shoot in any direction. They can also spray more than once, as each gland they spray from holds a tablespoon of spray. This fluid can be released in controlled amounts, and it takes several days to completely refill.

The spray is a foul-smelling fluid known as n-butyl mercaptan that often causes burning and stinging on a person’s skin. The smell in the area will go away in a few days, and with humans, all it takes is a long, hot shower to rid the odor. However, pets are much more difficult to handle if they are sprayed.

It is a common belief that tomato juice gets rid of the smell. However, the skunk smell will still linger after the tomato juice odor wears off. A mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish detergent will often do the trick.

Another common idea is that holding a skunk by its tail deters it from spraying. While this hasn’t technically been proven, it is unwise to be that close to a skunk. Skunks are also known to be primary carriers of rabies.

Skunks are non-aggressive animals, and the best thing to do to avoid being sprayed is to leave them alone.

Skunks are actually quite beneficial for farmers and gardeners because they eat rodents, insects and other animals that are considered agricultural pests.

So next time you catch a glimpse of our black and white friend, a simple nod will do to let them know you’re not a threat worth spraying.

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!