Texas Two Step Against Fire Ants

September 25th, 2017
Fire ants swarming sheet of paper. Image: TAMU

Fire ants swarming sheet of paper. Image: TAMU

This is Passport to Texas

The imported red fire ant can ruin a beautiful spring or fall day outdoors.

We typically see most activity in the spring and in the fall. It’s nice, and that’s generally when we like being outside, too, unfortunately.

Elizabeth “Wizzie” Brown, an entomologist with AgriLife Extension says researchers continue to work on ways to manage this non-native pest, which is a threat to wildlife.

We have had things that we’re working on…things like fungus, and there’s organisms that live in the fire ant body that reduce the reproductive capabilities of the fire ants. They have brought in parasitizing flies, that are called phorid flies that they use that attack the fire ants and pretty much eat them from the inside out. So we are working on it, but the fire ants are here—they’re always going to be here; these are just tools in our tool belts to help up manage those populations.

Use the Texas two-step method to combat fire ants… now through mid-October: first, broadcast an insecticide bait across your entire yard, and then treat individual mounds with an approved insecticidal drench, bait, granule or dust.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

That’s our show… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Texas Outdoor Story – The Squirrel and the Snake

September 22nd, 2017
Paddling Ladybird Lake.

Paddling Ladybird Lake. Image: Texas River School

This is Passport to Texas Outdoor Stories

Ginger Turner enjoys paddling on Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Over the years, she says she’s witnessed her share of unusual incidents on the water.

The one that was really funny and sticks out in my head. My friend and I were paddling and we saw something swimming and we couldn’t figure out what it was. We get over there and it’s a squirrel swimming over one of the widest parts of the lake. We’re like, “let’s get closer; get closer.” So we follow him over and he ran up this tree that was leaning over in the water. As he was running up he ran smack dab into a snake that was curled up sunning on the tree. And it startled the squirrel, and it startled the snake and they both jumped about 10 ft. up in the air! And the snake plopped in the water and the squirrel we couldn’t even find. Later we heard a rustling and we saw the squirrel had made it over to the shore. But it was hilarious, it was funny. But I didn’t know that squirrels swam, but I guess they do. [laughs]

Thanks, Ginger. You never know what you might see when you get outside.

Do you have a funny or memorable Texas outdoor story to share? Go to passporttotexas.org, and let us know. We love to hear what you do outside!

That’s our show… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

The Ecosystem Functions of Wildlife

September 21st, 2017
Bobcats serve an ecosystem function.

Bobcats serve an ecosystem function.

This is Passport to Texas

Golf courses, cemeteries, creeks, parks and greenbelts, all common in urban areas, provide habitat for wildlife.

In a typical greenbelt [for example], you’ll find owls and hawks and songbirds and lizards and snakes and coyotes and bobcats. And all of those put together form a functional ecosystem that only exists in those urban areas.

Richard Heilbrun is team lead for the urban wildlife technical guidance program. These biologists work with communities to ensure humans and wildlife coexist comfortably.

Most people recognize that seeing wildlife is a great thing, and they feel fortunate to see that wildlife. Every once in a while we get folks who are nervous, but once they talk to our urban wildlife biologists, and are told this is a good thing, they change their perception fairly quickly. So, someone that might be nervous about seeing a coyote, when they call an urban wildlife biologist and are told that coyote populations perform an ecosystem function – they keep those rats at bay, or they make sure that the skunk populations don’t go haywire. So, when they realize there’s a benefit, their perception changes fairly quickly.

Find your urban biologist when you log onto the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series and helps fund Wildlife technical guidance and assistance to urbanites of Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Understanding the Roll of an Urban Biologist

September 20th, 2017

Commonly found urban wildlife.

This is Passport to Texas

You may not think there’s a much need for urban wildlife biologists in cities…

People hear “urban wildlife biologist” and they assume grackles and squirrels.

But Richard Heilbrun says they are much more than nuisance wildlife experts.

Urban wildlife biologists work in all of our major metropolitan areas throughout the state, and they work with municipal decision-makers on land management.

Heilbrun is team lead for the urban wildlife technical guidance program.

One day we might work with a parks department on which new property to acquire that’s best for wildlife diversity. The next day, we might work with the City Council in alleviating some conflict between people and wildlife. And the third, day we might work with a home owners association to manage their greenbelt for maximum wildlife diversity.

The urban landscape is more diverse than you know.

So, in a city you might have golf courses, cemeteries, creeks, greenbelts, rivers, city parks, state parks, vacant lots. And then all those corridors that connect those neighborhoods together are usually really great wildlife habitat.

Find an urban biologist in your area on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series and helps fund Wildlife technical guidance and assistance to urbanites of Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Trash to Treasure

September 19th, 2017
It's Your World -- let's make it beautiful.

It’s Your World — let’s make it beautiful.

This is Passport to Texas

A project in El Paso, has HS students and the local art community turning roadside trash to treasure.

It’s called It’s Your World, and it’s a really, really cool project.

Nicole Roque, an AmeriCorps volunteer with Texas Parks and Wildlife, based in El Paso, heard about El Dorado HS art teacher, Candace Printz who, with her students, created the project to improve their community.

She started It’s Your World, and what they do is they go into the community and they do cleanups. They adopted a portion of highway and they went out a few months and cleaned it completely. And they kept statistic on what they found, and then they took all this trash back to their school, they cleaned it up, they separated it, and then used it as art supplies.

It’s Your World compliments AmeriCorps’ mission of improving the human condition. Nicole partnered with the project to develop art workshops.

And they’ve created some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. They recently had an art exhibition; I went to go see it, and it floors you to look at some of these really amazing things [made from trash]. And one of my favorite things that Candace told me is they opened their portable where they had all the supplies, and local artists were coming in to collect supplies for their art, and people were fighting over the trash.

One man’s trash…. Learn more about It’s Your World…we have a link to their website at passporttotexas.org.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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Some of the students working on art projects made from trash collected along a two-mile stretch of road in El Paso.

It's Your World workshop.

It’s Your World workshop.