Situation Critical at Texas State Parks

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In This Issue: State Parks Need Your Help Raising $4.6 Million | How to Survive the Drought | Bastrop State Park Reopens Some Areas | Outdoor Activity of the Month: Winter Ideas | Looking for the Rainbow: Winter Trout Stocking |Quail Quandary | Whooping Cranes Arrive at their Texas Winter Home

State Parks Need Your Help Raising $4.6 Million

Executive Director Carter Smith  
Record drought and heat, devastating wildfires, and a drop in visitation have led to a critical situation for state parks.  Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith explains three ways you can help in this short video. Read more detail in this news release.

You can help in three ways: visit your state parks, make an online donation, and make a donation when you register your vehicle in 2012. Your donation to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation, the department's official nonprofit partner, is 100% tax-deductible and will be used to help keep state parks open. Texas State Parks need your help, now more than ever.

How to Survive the Drought

drought survival kit screen shot  
Help wildlife, save your yard, and cut your water bill with tips from the new online Drought Survival Kit. All three goals are related, as our state’s worst one-year drought threatens to become a two-year drought. Learn more in this video.

Thirty percent of municipal water goes to lawns and outdoor landscaping, but drought-friendly plants need less water. At the same time, these plants will provide shelter for birds, butterflies and bees. Homeowners also need to know that feeding wildlife like deer and raccoons only causes problems.

The Help Wildlife page explains how Texas critters handle drought and advises when and whether to intervene with Mother Nature. The Save Your Yard section suggests how, as weather conditions improve, to replace drought-stricken yards with native “Wildscapes” that are more likely to survive Texas weather and also provide wildlife habitat. And Cut Your Water Bill covers a few simple ways to save water and money, and links to more information on the Texas Water Development Board’s Water IQ website.

Bastrop State Park Reopens Some Areas

yucca in park  
After being closed for more than three months due to the massive wildfire that burned much of the park, Bastrop State Park made a soft reopening on Friday, Dec. 2. The Piney Hill and Deer Run campgrounds, several picnic areas, the 18-hole Lost Pines golf course and 70 percent of the hiking trails inside Park Road 1A are now open to the public. Visitor safety is a priority while tree clearing continues. Read more on the Bastrop park web page.

Outdoor Activity of the Month: Winter Ideas

family in front of cabin  
Every month brings good reasons to get outside! Here are three great ideas to jot onto your calendar to help plan your next outings in the cool weather. You'll find inspiration to socialize with family and friends, catch your dinner (maybe), and/or hit the trail.

Enjoy the holidays at a state park! It’s a great time for family gatherings, and whether you want to enjoy a simple picnic with the family in one of our group facilities or rent a cabin and stay the night, bringing your celebration outside is easier than ever. And don’t miss out on any of the great holiday happenings held at state parks; visit our calendar of events to find events near you.

Find “reel” fishing close to home with Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Neighborhood Fishin’ program. Texas Parks and Wildlife stocks fish at many ponds, lakes and rivers.  Learn more about winter trout stocking in the story below.

Go hiking and explore a nearby park. There are trails you can enjoy with small children to hikes that are more demanding. While you’re out there, a fun thing to do with the kids is search for animal tracks.

Looking for the Rainbow: Winter Trout Stocking

rainbow trout leaping  
In spite of the drought, you can still find rainbow trout in over 100 locations across Texas beginning right about now. Each winter from December through early March, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks rainbow trout in selected locations.

The stocking locations were announced last week — see if they're coming to a waterbody near you! Watch the stocking happen in this video! Keep up with the trout stocking schedule and learn some tips on how to catch rainbow trout. The hatchery-reared trout are 9 to 12 inches long and create a put-and-take fishery; most will be caught within a few weeks after being stocked. PS – Be sure you have your fishing license.

Quail Quandary

quail pair  
The ongoing drought has taken a toll on all Texas wildlife resources, but among the hardest hit is the bobwhite quail. The Texas bobwhite harvest has declined by 80 percent over the last thirty years. This iconic grassland game bird, considered an “indicator species” of the prairie and savanna ecosystems, already faces mounting obstacles to recovery and state wildlife officials say the drought is exacerbating the problem. Hunters and landowners are a key to quail restoration. Watch a video update.

“We’ve been on point monitoring quail declines well before this current drought,” said Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We’ve been taking steps to address the problem, but the drought is raising the sense of urgency.” Read more about bobwhite quail conservation, one of the biggest challenges conservationists face today. Watch a video about farmers’ and ranchers’ efforts to restore the habitat critical to this well-loved game bird.

Whooping Cranes Arriving at Texas Winter Home

whooping crane in marsh  
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping cranes, the last remaining “natural” flock of whooping cranes in the wild, are making their annual return to the Texas coast and may hit a 300-bird Texas milestone for the first time this year. Up to three-fourths of the flock’s annual mortality occurs during the estimated nine-week, 2,400-mile migration each year to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge from Canada; however, healthy habitats in coastal Texas are also critical. Watch this video of the whoopers at home in their Texas habitat.

Texas plays an important role in the species’ future recovery according to Lee Ann Linam, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist. The comeback of the whooping crane will continue to be as vulnerable as the health of our coastal ecosystems. Read more about their status.

Whooping cranes, the tallest birds in North America, stand nearly five feet tall and are solid white in color except for black wing-tips visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched. They are protected by federal and state endangered species laws. Learn how to identify a whooping crane. Anyone sighting a whooping crane is asked to report it to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, extension 4644 or (512) 847-9480. Sightings can also be reported via e-mail at
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