Life's Better Outside - December 2013

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In This Issue:


Going to the Dogs: First K9 Team at TPWD

dog and handler leaving carFor the first time in their history, Texas Game Wardens have a full-time, statewide canine team.

The first five canine handlers and dogs have graduated from an intense eight-week training program located at the world famous Utah POST canine facility in Salt Lake City. The second wave of canine handlers and dogs will attend the course in January 2014. Meet some members of the new team in this video.

“The K9 program has been a long time coming, and we are extremely proud of our handlers for their hard work,” said Grahame Jones, Chief of Special Operations for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division. “In addition to excellent support from the department and the Parks and Wildlife Commission, we would like to thank the Travis County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation for assisting during the planning." Read more detail in this story.

The dogs will help wardens with detection of illegally taken or smuggled game and fish, search and rescue, cadaver search, and narcotics enforcement. 

Read the latest Game Warden Field Notes for descriptions of what game wardens have encountered recently in the course of their daily work.

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Enjoy Holiday Traditions at TPWD Parks and Sites

Ship's bell in front of Christmas tree

Nature is at her Texas best during the holiday season as we slip into cooler days and chilly evenings. Find some unique events, outdoor cheer and nostalgia such as these:

Over 70 parks and TPWD sites are hosting holiday events this year where you can enjoy old and new holiday traditions. Read more about them here or check the Holiday Events calendar.

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Funding for Gulf Restoration Begins Roll Out

marshy coast with birds wading

Five Texas projects that address high priority conservation needs will receive $8.8 million, as part of a  criminal settlement with BP and Transocean, according to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The projects are designed to remedy harm or reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources that were affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and were developed in consultation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas General Land Office and federal resource agencies.

The Texas Phase I Projects include:

The monies are the first disbursements from NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created earlier this year as part of the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice, BP and Transocean to settle certain criminal charges against both companies in relation to the spill. About $203 million will be paid into the Gulf Fund over the next five years for conservation projects in the State of Texas.

“NFWF is proud to partner with the State of Texas to make these critical conservation investments,” said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of NFWF. “Building on these projects, we hope to make a lasting impact on the sustainability of natural resources of Texas’s vast coastal landscape.”

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Learn Texas Herps while Helping Science Track ‘Em

bull frog

Spot a lizard, frog, snake or turtle? Share what you see through the Herps of Texas (HOT) Project on iNaturalist, a nature-focused crowd sourcing program that helps scientists and citizens learn more about local amphibians and reptiles. iNaturalist hosts a growing number of citizen science projects around the globe.

How to participate: Submit a photo of a critter you see along with information on when and where you saw it, and three fun things will happen. You will:

  1. Learn more about what you saw
  2. See what other people are observing
  3. Help scientists understand more about local species and their habitat.

Download the free app now and report sightings even when you are far from a computer or a cellphone tower. 

Every observation is validated by at least one of three professional herpetologists: Toby Hibbitts from Texas A&M University, Travis La-Duc from the University of Texas at Austin, or Andy Gluesenkamp from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  In addition, anyone can log in and help identify each other’s observations, so if you unsure of the species you can just start with a common name like “frog” or “snake.”When there is a consensus on the ID, your observation will get a green badge signifying that it is “Research Grade.” All observations are valuable, and no species is “too common” to report.

Read more about the project in “Log a Frog, Share a Snake”  in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

Since the program’s inception 14 months ago, participants have documented more than 200 species, more than 90 percent of the reptiles and amphibian species found in Texas.

Pictured: bullfrog

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Clemente Guzman: Naturalist and TPWD Artist

Clemente Guzman working on illustrationLike the iconic bison he paints, Clemente Guzman’s life is a reflection of place and time. His skill as a wildlife artist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is unparalleled. For the past quarter-century, Clemente has used his talent to accomplish his goal to inspire people to protect the gifts of the natural world.

As he describes in this video, it’s a goal that takes him back through time to reflect on his ancestors in Mexico and his childhood working in the fields. 

Read more about Clemente’s remarkable art and life in “A Brush With Nature” from Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

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Teachers: Get Students Fired Up About Water

girl drinking water

Water is a hot topic in Texas. As of November 21, 81% of the state remains under drought conditions (including 32% in severe to exceptional drought), in spite of recent rains. Clean drinking water, water for homes and businesses, water for wildlife: today’s students will make the next generation’s tough decisions about our water resources. To do that they need a good understanding of how the water works on all levels.

Texas Aquatic Science, a new comprehensive online curriculum on aquatic ecosystems of Texas, will help build that knowledge. Written for middle school and high school students, its 14 online chapters and accompanying teacher guide (78 lesson plans!) are designed to increase student awareness of the importance of water systems.

From molecules to ecosystems, and headwaters to ocean, the free online curriculum resources include:

Texas Aquatic Science is a cooperative education project sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife, The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.

All activities are aligned with the state curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for sixth through eighth grade, and for Aquatic Science and Environmental Science courses for high school.

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Put Some Rainbows in Your Stocking

trout underwater‘Tis the season for stocking — make that rainbow trout stocking — in Texas! The 2013-2014 trout stocking season began last week at Neighborhood Fishin’ lakes and continues through the winter months at more than 100 locations across Texas. 

The Guadalupe River is a mecca for rainbow enthusiasts when thousands of trout from state fish hatcheries are added to the river below Canyon Dam. Watch this video  about trout stocking and anglers along the Guadalupe. 

Check the full schedule for specific locations and dates. (Stocking dates are subject to change.) Remember that anyone 17 years or older needs a fishing license to fish at the Neighborhood Fishin’ locations, and anglers can use no more than two poles while fishing. The bag limit for trout is five fish per day with no minimum length limit.

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Cool Things to Do in Cool Seasons

spider in webNature is never boring as this video reminder demonstrates. Try these activities at state parks this winter and you'll see what we mean.

December - Group Gatherings
Gather family and friends for some outdoor holiday fun. Seventy state parks throughout Texas offer group facilities, from dining and recreation halls to group bunkhouses and open-air pavilions. Thinking of a smaller get together? Try a cabin or screened shelter. To reserve cabins or group facilities, call (512) 389-8900.

January - Hiking
Take a hike! Try a full-moon, owl or night hike; a nature, butterfly or guided-bird hike; an easy hike along a tree-shaded river; or a hike back in time in a Jurassic-era setting — Texas State Parks have them all. And remember to kick off the new year with a First Day Hike.

To find hikes with park rangers or volunteers, check out the Hikes & Walks Calendar.

February – Biking
Pedal along shaded creeks, limestone bluffs and stream beds, through prairies, deserts, fields or forests. Texas State Parks offer varying levels of difficulty on both paved and unpaved trails — from easy, flat trails for less experienced bikers to challenging, rocky trails and switchbacks for more experienced cyclists. 

Visit the Biking activities page for a list of biking trails, along with trail ratings and descriptions. Check out a video roundup  (23 amazing videos) of what it’s like to bike in a variety of state park settings.

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