Wildlife in Texas

Did you know...

  • Texas is known for its ecological and biological diversity-
    • ranking second in the nation in terms of overall biodiversity,
    • and third in the nation in terms of endemism (number of species unique to the state),
  • Texas is home to 5,500 plant species, 425 of which occur only in Texas.
  • Of the 1,245 vertebrate species (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) in Texas, 126 are found nowhere else in the world.
  • Texas has more bird species than any other state in the United States. Over 620 identified species and subspecies of birds regularly breed, migrate, winter or nest in Texas.
  • It is estimated that there are 25,000 to 30,000 insects found in Texas.

Source: Texas Environmental Profiles

Wildlife-Associate Recreation Economic Impact

Revenues brought in by hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers stimulate rural communities and provide landowners an incentive to make land improvements.

  Total Wildlife Associated Recreation Expenditures in Texas Fishing and Hunting Expenditures in Texas Wildlife Watching Expenditures in Texas
Total $9,167,954 $6,228,935 $2,939,018
Trip Related $2,862,119 $2,437,922 $424,197
Equipment $4,695,522 $2,915,351 $1,780,171
Other $1,610,312 $875,662 $734,650

Landowners Utilize Revenues For

  • Habitat Improvements including brush control, prescribed burns, biological survey studies of land and water resources, as well as improved fencing.
  • Infrastructure, including road access and lodging for wildlife associated expenditures.

The reinvestment of these resources provides larger and better habitat for more quality wildlife throughout the state of Texas.

Threatened and Endangered Texas Animals

An “endangered” animal is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A “threatened” animal is one that is likely to become endangered in the near future.

There are over 90 threatened or endangered animals in Texas.

Take a look at just a few:

  • Black-footed Ferret
    • Ferrets rely on prairie dogs for food and shelter so historically, they were found throughout the High Plains, Rolling Plains and Trans-Pecos areas of Texas.
    • Population decline is due to loss of habitat and the severe population decline of prairie dogs—the ferret’s primary source of food.
    • There have been no confirmed reports of Black-footed Ferrets in Texas since 1963.
    • Black-footed Ferrets hunt primarily at night, so they are rarely seen. They live in burrows made by prairie dogs. Prairie dogs comprise about 90 percent of the ferret’s diet, although they also eat rabbits, mice, ground squirrels, pocket gophers, birds, and insects.
  • Jaguarundi
    • The Jaguarundi is found in the dense, thorny shrub lands of the Rio Grande Valley.
    • Population decline is due to loss of habitat.
    • The Jaguarundi is one of the rarest cats in Texas, with only the exception of the Jaguar, which hasn’t been reported in recent years.
  • Ocelot
    • The Ocelot is found in the dense, thorny shrub lands of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Rio Grande Plains.
    • Population decline is due to loss of habitat and predator control activities.
    • In Texas, less than 80-120 Ocelots remain.
  • Louisiana Black Bear
    • The Louisiana Black Bear is returning to the forested regions of East Texas.
    • Population decline is due to over harvest by humans and loss of suitable habitat.
    • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally listed the Louisiana Black Bear as threatened on February 7, 1992. The Louisiana Black Bear Recovery Plan was published in 1995.
  • Golden-cheeked Warbler
    • The Golden-cheeked Warbler is found in central Texas areas with a moderate to high density of older trees on a proper slope with dense foliage.
    • Population decline is due to loss of habitat and fragmentation.
    • Brown-headed cowbird parasitism is another threat to the warbler. As habitat becomes more fragmented, the cowbird gains access to the warblers’ nests where she lays her eggs. The warbler then raises the cowbird chicks, whose rapid growth out competes the warbler chicks for food and space in the nest.
  • Attwater’s Prairie Chicken
    • The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is found only in the coastal prairie of Texas.
    • Population decline is due to habitat loss and alteration.
    • It is estimated that 6 million acres of coastal Texas were once covered with suitable tall grass prairie habitat. Currently, it is estimated that less than 200,000 acres of suitable habitat remain. That is a 97% loss of habitat.
  • Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
    • The Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle is found in the Gulf of Mexico and prefers shallow water habitats.
    • Population decline is due to the combination of intensive predation of eggs and mortality of juveniles and adults in shrimp trawl nets. Trash thrown away at sea is another serious problem facing this sea turtle.
  • Concho Water Snake
    • Historically, the Concho Water Snake was found in over 276 river miles of the Colorado and Concho Rivers in central Texas. Today, the Concho Water Snake occupies a restricted geographic range in the Concho and Colorado River Basins.
    • Population decline is due to habitat loss, degradation and pollution.
    • The Concho River Snake has a diet composed almost entirely of fish—from minnows to catfish.

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Recreation/Activities

There are 3 types of wildlife interests: hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers. Anglers are fisherman.

Feral Hogs

Hogs, as well as horses, that escaped from early Spanish explorers became feral hogs and mustangs. Today, feral hogs are an invasive species, not considered to be wildlife.

Feral hogs compete directly with livestock and wildlife for food. However, the main damage caused by the hogs is indirect destruction of habitat and agriculture commodities. Rooting and trampling activity for food can damage agricultural crops, fields, and livestock feeding and watering facilities.

Feral hogs are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. Foods include grasses, roots and tubers, acorns, fruits, mushrooms, and carrion (dead animals), as well as live mammals and birds if given the opportunity. Feral hogs are especially fond of domestic agricultural crops such as corn, milo, rice, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, watermelons and cantaloupe.

The Importance of Agriculture to Wildlife

Agricultural lands provide real benefits for wildlife, which in turn benefits the farmer.

  • How do agricultural lands benefit wildlife?
    • Agricultural land provides habitat for 75 percent of the nation's wildlife.
    • Agricultural lands are relatively large and unbroken plots of land—a necessity for wildlife
    • These large plots are relatively undisturbed
    • Agricultural lands typically have several acres of unproductive blocks and edges separating the fields, rangeland and irrigation systems, providing even more great habitat
  • Having a variety of wildlife living in and around agricultural land benefits the farmer/rancher in the following ways:
    • Threatened and endangered species live in these areas, as do rare plants
    • Insect-eaters like skunks, birds and bats are commonly found here and provide help in keeping crop-destroying insects under control.
    • Human-made irrigation ditches and ponds provide wetland habitat for waterfowl, such as geese, great blue herons and wood ducks as well as their predators—hawks and eagles.
    • Pests like insects, mice, wood rats, prairie dogs and moles create big problems on agricultural lands; however, other species, like coyotes, foxes, badgers, skunks, snakes, eagles, hawks and owls can keep these pests under control.

Source: Boulder County Colorado-The Importance of Agriculture to Wildlife

Restoring Wetlands

Since many wetlands are located on privately owned land, farmers and other land owners play a crucial role in protecting and restoring wetlands.

  • By restoring wetlands, they are providing habitats for a large array of plants and animals that depend upon wetlands, wetland forests and grasslands.
  • In Texas, over 43,000 acres are enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program.
  • Lands enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program provide habitat for wildlife, decrease flood damages, improve water quality, help the recovery of threatened and endangered species, create opportunities to generate alternative income and allow farmers to maintain ownership of lands suited for wetland restoration.

Source: National Resource Conservation Service

How do farmers/ranchers protect the environment?

  • Through the Farm Bill, funding is provided for conservation programs that prevent soil erosion, preserve and restore wetlands, clean the air and water, and enhance wildlife habitat.
  • Each year hundreds of thousands of trees are planted on farmland.
  • Farmers, ranchers and other landowners have installed 1.54 million miles of conservation buffers under a USDA initiative. Agricultural producers who install buffers improve soil, air and water quality; enhance wildlife habitat; and create scenic landscapes.
  • Farmers have enrolled over 37 million acres of their land in the Conservation Reserve Program to protect the environment and provide habitat for wildlife.
  • More than half of America’s agricultural producers intentionally provide habitat for wildlife. Deer, moose, fowl and other species have shown significant population increases for decades.

Source: American Farm Bureau

Conservation and the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill might not come to mind when you think about important laws for fish and wildlife, but the Farm Bills have shaped more conservation programs for a longer period of time — and put more funding behind those programs — than any other suite of legislation.

Source: National Wildlife Federation

Agriculture and Conservation

  • Forty percent of threatened and endangered species are found only on private or state lands. That makes agricultural land incredibly important for conservation efforts and conserving biodiversity.
  • Researchers estimate that farmers and ranchers provide approximately $153 billion per year related to the biodiversity of plants and animals in the U.S.
  • Farmers and ranchers are conservationists. All across America, farmers and ranchers are participating in programs to restore wetlands, protect habitats, conserve natural resources and reduce agricultural runoff.
  • These efforts will help protect the land for future generations.

Source: Defenders of Wildlife

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