Special iNaturalist program lets citizens assist in mortality counts.
February’s heavy snowfall and long-lasting freezing temperatures affected many fish and wildlife species throughout Texas. In a state this large, you can help Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists assess the damage by reporting any animal mortality events you see on your property or neighborhood through a special project on the iNaturalist app/website.
The prolonged period of subfreezing temperatures, coupled with a limited availability of food resources due to snow and ice, has had some impact on wildlife resources; however, given the secretive nature of most wildlife species, the full extent of the impact cannot yet be determined. Some of the wildlife species impacted by the storm include exotic, non-native ungulates like axis deer, blackbuck and nilgai antelope that originate in temperate climates, various bat species and multiple bird species.
Did our native and exotic deer make it through the storm?
While TPWD has no regulatory authority of exotic species, the cold weather did have a significant impact on some. White-tailed and mule deer are much more tolerant of these extreme cold weather events than exotics, so TPWD doesn’t expect significant losses of our natives, except a few very old whitetails.
Despite potential significant loss of axis and blackbuck, this mortality event may lower free-ranging exotic populations in areas of the Texas Hill Country where they were overpopulated, ultimately helping native habitats that benefit white-tailed deer and other wildlife.
What about deer habitat? Is there food for them to eat?
At this time, the more pressing concern is possible impacts the cold weather had on the native deer habitat in some regions. In South Texas, some brush species still had green leaves prior to the freeze and snowfall. Now, however, TPWD staff are noticing many shrubs shedding leaves and turning brown. Additionally, the winter herbaceous vegetation, which are critical for deer this time of year and into the early spring, were impacted and burned by the freezing temperatures. TPWD is hopeful that, despite the cold temperatures, the moisture from the snow and ice was able to be absorbed by the soil and as temperatures warm up, the usual spring green-up will take place statewide.
Don’t handle impacted bats!
Across the state, citizens, biologists and park employees are reporting dead bats under bridges, along with finding live bats that were downed due to the freeze because of dehydration, starvation, and cold body temperatures. Currently, wildlife rehabilitators and other organizations are being inundated with the bats that survived the storm and doing everything they can to help.
If you find dead or live bats, it’s extremely important not to handle them. The best course of action is to record the observation via iNaturalist and then, if the downed bat is still alive, contact a rehabilitator. A list of wildlife rehabilitators can be found on the TPWD website as well as on the Bat World Sanctuary website.
How are birds faring? They looked so cold and hungry.
TPWD staff continue to receive reports of dead birds, including waterfowl. Biologists have received reports of dead songbirds and woodpeckers, possibly resulting from poor body condition and lack of cover from ongoing drought conditions in certain habitats. Insectivorous and nectivorous bird species likely suffered greater losses than other bird species. Quail, however, fared well according to some reports. Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA), among other WMAs with wetland ecosystems, reported hundreds of dead coots and multiple dead Blue-winged Teal.
What about the fish kills along the coast?
We’re continuing to assess fish kills along the coast. Here’s what we know so far.
I found an injured animal, what should I do?
Please contact your local wildlife rehabilitator. See our website for tips on how to assess the situation, including a link to find licensed rehabilitators by county.
Learn more about iNaturalist
What is iNaturalist?
iNaturalist is a free social networking service of naturalists, citizen scientists and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. It enables you to post your plant and wildlife observations, get species identification from experts and track nature in your area. You can access it on a computer or mobile device. Create an iNaturalist account to get started.
I wasn’t able to post my picture.
You need to be logged into iNaturalist to share your observations. iNaturalist is a free social networking service of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. It enables you to post your plant and wildlife observations, get species identification from experts and track nature in your area.
What if I don’t have a picture?
While pictures are strongly preferred, you can still share observations without one. Select the camera icon as if you were uploading a picture and you’ll see an option for ‘no picture.’