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Home | Tag Archives: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

Tag Archives: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

TPWD: White-tailed Deer Hunters can look forward to ‘Favorable’ 2020-21 Season

AUSTIN – Well distributed and timely precipitation across much of Texas in the spring, along with positive long-term growth among the state’s white-tailed deer population, has set the stage for a favorable 2020-21 hunting season.

Spring rains allowed many regions of the state, including South Texas, Edwards Plateau and areas west to recover from last year’s very dry fall and winter, leading to an abundance of quality forbs and shrubs, both of which are critical for deer nutrition. These conditions have lent to a good start to antler growth and positive outlook for fawn recruitment numbers.

“With any luck we’ll receive another rain or two in July solidifying the good conditions and setting the stage for another favorable hunting season,” said Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

TPWD biologists estimate that the state’s deer population is around 5.5 million deer, or a density of 49.25 deer per 1,000 acres. However, that density is not uniform across the state and those areas with better habitat tend to support higher deer populations.

TPWD data suggests that the hunter success rate in 2019 was estimated to be 60% and similar trends can be expected for the 2020-21 season. The Edward’s Plateau and the Cross Timbers regions of Texas are forecast to have the highest deer populations.

“From a statewide perspective, hunters might expect to see a higher proportion of bucks in the 6.5 to 8.5-year age classes as a result of above average fawn crop in previous corresponding years while other age classes reflect a more even distribution,” Cain said. “While doe harvest has been down slightly in the last couple of years, which is likely contributing to a widening ratio of does to bucks, the good news for hunters is that there should be plenty of carryover from previous years.”

Hunters looking for a place to hunt or a change of scenery this fall are encouraged to apply for one of TPWD’s many drawn public hunt opportunities.

TPWD wants to remind hunters that mandatory harvest reporting is required when taking an antlerless deer during archery, youth-only, muzzleloader or the 4-day doe days during general season in the following counties: Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Dewitt, Fayette, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Waller, Washington and Wilson.

Counties also included are Goliad, Jackson, Victoria and Wharton counties north of U.S. Highway 59 and Comal, Hays and Travis east of IH-35. Harvests must be reported within 24 hours of taking an animal via the free My Hunt Harvest app. Public land hunters can also use the My Hunt Harvest app to complete their on-site registration electronically.

All season dates by animal, along with regulations, harvest means and methods and more, can be found online in the Outdoor Annual.

The 2020-21 Outdoor Annual will only be available digitally for the upcoming hunting and fishing season. Hunters will have the ability to print copies of relevant portions of the Outdoor Annual before heading to the field.

Hunters can also download the free Outdoor Annual mobile app on iOS and Android.

White-tailed deer and Mule Deer are Chronic Wasting Disease-susceptible animals. As such, prior to hitting the field, TPWD asks that hunters review CWD information to find area testing requirements and carcass movement restrictions in CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones. New for the 2020-21 season, a CWD zone has been established in Kimble County.

Additional information about CWD can be found on the TPWD website.

Balmorhea closure extended to Fall 2020

TOYAHVALE – According to officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) due to construction delays caused by the public health crisis, Balmorhea State Park’s closure has been extended until the fall.

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department remains in constant consultation with onsite contractors to ensure that the projects are completed safely and in as timely a manner as possible,” officials shared via a Tuesday morning news release.

Construction projects in progress at Balmorhea State Park include removal and replacement of all existing septic systems, replacement of the chain-link fence surrounding the pool to one made of wrought iron and limestone, reconstruction of the CCC pergola by the diving board, completion of repairs to the campground and San Solomon Courts, and renovations to the manager’s house and concession building.

“The safety of visitors has always been the highest priority and as the work on these important projects continues, the public is encouraged to remain vigilant near Balmorhea State Park as heavy machinery and construction equipment is being used,” officials added.

Up-to-date information about the park can be found in the park alerts banner on the Balmorhea State Park webpage.

City Nature Challenge launches Friday; Public encouraged to record nature near their homes

AUSTIN – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) through the Texas Nature Trackers program is inviting Texans to participate in the fifth annual City Nature Challenge, Friday, April 24 through Monday, April 27.

This global community-based scientific effort, co-organized by San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, invites current and aspiring citizen scientists of all ages and backgrounds to observe and submit pictures of wild plants, animals and fungi using the free mobile app iNaturalist.

Due to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and its global impact, the 2020 City Nature Challenge will not be a competition. Instead, participants are encouraged to embrace the collaborative aspect of sharing observations online with a digital community, and celebrate the healing power of nature safely, with social distancing, as they document their local biodiversity to the best of their ability within new public safety parameters.

It is imperative that participants closely follow federal, state, and local public health guidelines as they are updated in real-time in response to COVID-19.

For the past three years, TPWD through the Texas Nature Trackers program has promoted Texans participation in the City Nature Challenge. In 2019 nearly 3,400 participants contributed over 98,000 observations across 46 counties of over 6,300 species.

Seven metropolitan areas in Texas are hosting the City Nature Challenge including: Amarillo, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston-Galveston, Lower Rio Grande Valley, and San Antonio.

Texans are invited focus on and explore nature in their immediate surroundings: outside their front doors, in their yard, or anywhere nature is found which they can safely and responsibly explore while complying with social distancing and stay-at-home orders where they live.

Texas Nature Trackers is encouraging people to use the hashtag #yardchallenge on social media or as a tag in iNaturalist to share how they are engaging in this year’s event.

Go to the TPWD Nature Challenge Webpage to find links to the Texas projects, and learn more about the global project via the City Nature Challenge website.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease confirmed in Texas, die offs reported

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has received test results confirming that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) was diagnosed in a wild black-tailed jackrabbit in Lubbock County and a wild cottontail rabbit in Hudspeth County.

This marks the first confirmed cases of RHD in wild rabbits in Texas and follows the discovery of the disease in domestic rabbits in Hockley County, which was announced in a recent Texas Animal Health Commission news release.

“Since March 23, detections of the disease in both wild and domestic rabbits have occurred in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Mexico,” TPWD officials shared. “There have been reports of mortality events in both wild cottontails (genus Sylvilagus) and jackrabbits (genus Lepus) in El Paso, Hudspeth, Brewster, Terrell, Lubbock and Pecos Counties in Texas.”

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect both domestic and wild rabbit species. This disease is nearly always fatal and primarily affects adult rabbits.

The viral agent, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV), is a calicivirus with two strains, RHDV-1 and RHDV-2, being reported in North America in recent years. RHDV-2 is known to affect wild rabbits and was determined to be the agent in the Lubbock and Hockley County cases.

RHD is a Foreign Animal Disease (FAD), but has been detected in Canada, Washington and Ohio.

RHDV appears only to affect rabbit species (lagomorphs). It is not known to affect humans, livestock or pets other than rabbits. However, pets should not be allowed to consume dead animal carcasses.

“The loss of this prey species can affect big game populations as well as other populations like rodents due to a shift in what predators will go after,” said John Silovsky, TPWD Wildlife Division deputy director. “That’s especially true in fragile areas like the Trans Pecos.”

Often the only clinical sign is sudden death. In less acute cases, clinical signs may include the following: dullness/apathy, not eating, ocular and/or nasal hemorrhage and congestion of the conjunctiva. Some may develop neurological signs such as incoordination, excitement or seizure like episodes. Infections in young rabbits are usually sub-clinical and deaths are rare.

This is a highly contagious disease that spreads between rabbits through contact with infected rabbits or carcasses, their meat or their fur, contaminated food or water, or materials coming in contact with them. RHDV2 can persist in the environment for a very long time. These factors make disease control efforts extremely challenging once it is in the wild rabbit populations.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will be monitoring wild rabbit populations to determine the extent of the disease,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD wildlife veterinarian.

“We are continuing to receive reports of dead rabbits from the western part of the state.” People can contact their local TPWD wildlife biologist if they notice sick or dead rabbits. We want to reassure everyone this disease does not affect people or pets. TPWD will work with TAHC to keep the public informed as we learn more about the extent and severity of the disease.”

“Texas Animal Health Commission will continue to work alongside our partners, USDA and TPWD, to provide situational updates for all domestic rabbits confirmed with RHDV2,” said Dr. Susan Rollo, TAHC State Epidemiologist.

“In order to slow down and best prevent the spread of RHDV2, it is important that all rabbit owners implement strong biosecurity measures. Protect your rabbits from disease by following these steps: Domestic Rabbit Biosecurity Guide.”

Domestic rabbit owners who have questions about RHDV2 or observe sudden death in their rabbits should contact their private veterinarian. Private veterinarians are requested to contact the USDA-APHIS or the TAHC to report any suspected cases at 1-800-550-8242. Report all unusual mass morbidity (sickness) or mortality (deaths) events to the TAHC.

You can find more information on RHD in the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service fact sheet on Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease by clicking here.

Find a TPWD Wildlife Biologist online, by clicking here.

Texas Parks and Wildlife conducting Aerial Mule Deer Surveys in El Paso

AUSTIN – Over the next week or so, El Paso residents may see a low flying helicopter in and around the Franklin Mountains as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) conducts aerial mule deer surveys in the area.

This year’s survey runs from February 19 through 25.  Each year, TPWD flies surveys throughout the Trans-Pecos to estimate the region’s mule deer population.

Normally the surveys do not include the Franklin Mountains, but that is changing due to two deer in El Paso testing positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in recent years.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects certain deer species, and it has been documented in northern Hudspeth and El Paso counties.

The surveys in the Franklin Mountains are intended to monitor local deer numbers and assess any impacts from CWD.

The first case of CWD in Texas was discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in the Hueco Mountains of far West Texas. The disease has since been detected in free-ranging mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk in Dallam and Hartley counties, located in the northwest Panhandle.

The first case of CWD in Texas white-tailed deer was found in a Medina County deer-breeding facility in 2015 as a result of routine disease monitoring.

Increased testing requirements resulted in the detection of CWD in 4 additional deer breeding facilities and two release sites adjacent to the CWD-positive deer breeding facilities. CWD was also detected in a free-ranging white-tailed deer in Medina County in 2017 — for details and chronology of CWD detections in Texas, see CWD Positives in Texas webpage.

With the discovery of CWD in a captive deer breeding facility in south-central Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission adopted comprehensive CWD Management Rules on June 20, 2016.

Developed through a collaborative process that involved substantial stakeholder input, these rules address CWD management associated with permitting programs that authorize intensive deer management activities — for more information, read the Comprehensive CWD Management Rules PDF.

More information on CWD can be found on TPWD’s website.

TPWD: Deer with Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Region; Officials Urge Hunters, Landowners to be Vigilant

AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has confirmed chronic wasting disease (CWD) in three mule deer in El Paso, Hudspeth, and Hartley Counties; and three white-tailed deer in Medina, Dallam, and Hartley Counties.

Officials with TPWD emphasize that the discoveries underscore the importance for aggressive detection, sampling and herd management to control the spread of CWD.

The affected white-tailed deer in Medina County was harvested by a hunter on a private ranch in the current South-Central CWD Containment Zone, in the vicinity of captive deer breeding facilities where CWD had earlier been confirmed.

Two CWD-infected whitetails and one mule deer were also hunter harvested in the Panhandle CWD Containment Zone, and two CWD-infected mule deer were harvested in the Trans-Pecos CWD Containment Zone.

Each of the new confirmations occurred in a county where CWD had previously been detected.

Thus far, with two exceptions, cases of CWD in the South-Central Containment Zone have been limited to deer breeding facilities and attached release sites where the owner breeds white-tailed deer pursuant to permits issued by TPWD.

The permitted facilities in Medina County where CWD was confirmed are each operating under herd plans that require ante-mortem testing to detect and remove positive and exposed animals to attempt to reduce the chance of the disease escaping those facilities.

In the Trans-Pecos, the affected animals were taken close to the border with New Mexico, a state where CWD had previously been discovered. In the Panhandle, CWD has been confirmed in several mule deer and white-tailed deer; as well as some elk, which are not considered game animals in Texas.

The latest CWD confirmations follow a two-day CWD Symposium that was organized and hosted by TPWD, the Texas Animal Health Commission, and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in early December.

Approximately 200 landowners, deer enthusiasts, scientists, and representatives from state fish and wildlife agencies from around the country came together to share data and to discuss best practices to address the spread of CWD. As a recurring theme, presenters stressed the need for states and landowners to take early action to investigate CWD, limit deer movement and to test early.

“Case studies in other states which are dealing with CWD reaffirm that doing nothing is plainly not an option,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD wildlife veterinarian.

“The outlook in those states where little or no action was taken does not look good. In contrast, Texas has committed to a more proactive approach that moves quickly to control the disease where discovered by limiting the movement of deer exposed to infected deer, and by reducing or eliminating deer where the disease is proven to exist. Texas also establishes containment and surveillance zones where post mortem testing is mandated. We believe that working with landowners and hunters to implement all reasonable measures to address this disease head on is the most important factor to our success thus far. Those in CWD areas can assist by providing samples to the department and harvesting deer to keep densities down.”

Hunters who harvest mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, red deer, or sika deer within the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle, and South-Central Texas CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones are REQUIRED to bring their animals to a TPWD check station within 48 hours of harvest.

The department also urges hunters who take a deer outside of a CWD containment or surveillance zone to still help out by providing voluntary samples. Hunters and landowners interested in providing voluntary samples can contact their local TPWD biologist or simply bring the animal to any of the department’s check stations located around the state.

Those stations can be found online or in TPWD’s Outdoor Annual.

Hunters are also encouraged to report any “sick looking” mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, red deer, or sika deer while hunting in any CWD zone to TPWD. To report a “sick looking” animal, simply contact a TPWD wildlife biologist or Texas game warden. Additional information about CWD, including carcass movement restrictions, and check station locations, can be found online.

“We are very appreciative of the effort and cooperation that has been put forth by the vast majority of landowners, hunters and local officials across the state,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Our ability to control the spread of this fatal disease is directly related to the cooperation offered by many, especially landowners and hunters, and we pledge to continue to work with everyone to minimize the impacts of this disease.”

“The Texas Animal Health Commission is committed to working cooperatively with TPWD, USDA, industry and the private sector to limit the spread of this serious disease,” said Dr. Andy Schwartz, State Veterinarian and TAHC Executive Director. “TAHC urges landowners and hunters to support required surveillance efforts in the Surveillance and Containment Zones by testing all hunter harvested exotic CWD susceptible species. Land owners in all other areas of the state must test up to three harvested exotic CWD susceptible species per premises each year.”

In 2018, 49 cases of CWD were confirmed in permitted breeder facilities, and 8 cases were confirmed in animals taken outside a breeder facility or related release site.

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