Our Wild Texas – October 2018

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The Battle to Bring Back Horned Lizards

horned lizard facing L

The beloved Texas horned lizard has many nicknames: horny toad, horned frog, horned toad. Many people have childhood memories of playing with the docile little reptiles, and being thrilled to see one shoot blood from its eyes. But today, those same people have noticed horned lizards have pretty much disappeared.

Habitat loss, use of pesticide, fire ants and decline of harvester ants (a favorite food)  formed a perfect storm and put horny toads on the Texas Threatened Species List. But we're working to get our state reptile back on the map.

Reintroduction of a species is a complicated task. This year, we and our partners bred horned lizards and released the hatchlings at Mason Mountain WMA. We hope some will survive, establish nests and have offspring. Meanwhile, we'll continue to learn more about captive breeding and hatchling release, and keep fighting to bring back our horny toads. 

Hatchling Release Video

RAWA Is Our Best Chance to Save Wildlife

a pair of swift foxes

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) is a bipartisan bill that, if passed, will give Texas more than $63 million each year for conservation of at-risk wildlife species. Funding will come from existing monies received from energy and mineral production.

The goal is to help at-risk Texas wildlife, like swift foxes, horned lizards, scissor-tailed flycatchers and otters, before they become endangered or extinct species. What’s more, 10 percent of RAWA funding can go to help people get back to nature, learn about and help at-risk wildlife. Visit Texas Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife to find out more.

RAWA would be the best thing to happen to wildlife conservation in a generation, and it's our best chance of saving at-risk wildlife in Texas. But the bill may not pass unless people who care, people like you, #SpeakUp for wildlife and take action. Contact your U.S. Representatives to let them know you expect their support of RAWA. 

Our Best Chance Video

Catch the Pollinator Wave this Fall

cluster of monarch butterflies resting on a branch

Thousands of monarch butterflies are on their annual road trip to Mexico, and they'll make pit stops in Texas. Check the watch map to track their progress and see photos of monarch roosts. 

Early reports say monarch numbers are up  a glimmer of hope for our official state insect, which is in serious decline and considered an at-risk species. 

We've put together a list of 9 spots to look for migrating monarchs, places in Texas that these butterflies have frequented in the past. You may even witness them roosting en masse in the evening – a breathtaking experience.  

Pollinator Bioblitz, with link to video

If you enjoy taking pictures of pollinators and the flowers they love, join us for the free, fun photo frenzy that is the Texas Pollinator Bioblitz, Oct. 5-21. It's a celebration of birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and all the other animals that serve as pollinators.

Sign up for daily challenges like, "find a pollinator on a tiny flower." Then tag your images with #TXPollinators and post on social media. To learn more about your pollinator or flower, post your photo on iNaturalist. Biologists monitor the site and will often help you figure out what you've found. 

horned lizard conservation license plate link

Weekend Project: Build a Butterfly Garden 

2 tiger swallowtails nectaring on lantana

Fall is the best time to plant a butterfly garden in Texas. When starting yours, there are 2 types of plants to consider: flowering plants for the adult butterflies, and host plants, which are what their caterpillars eatNative Texas plants that are also adult butterfly magnets include:

  • prairie verbena
  • Gregg's blue mistflower
  • Maximilian sunflower
  • purple coneflower (Echinacea)
  • fall aster
Monarch butterfly caterpillar

You can actually grow butterflies in your garden by including host plants for their caterpillars. But they're very picky about what they eat. For instance, milkweeds are the only host plants monarchs use.

To find appropriate plants, use the Native Plant Finder to discover the butterflies in your area, and which of their host plants will grow there. Then plant some!

How to Build Your Garden

5 Reasons to Put Down the Rake

indigo bunting in fallen leaves

If you dread raking leaves, we have good news. It benefits both desirable wildlife and your soil if you leave autumn leaves lying on the ground.

5 reasons to put down the rake:

  1. frogs, turtles & salamanders use the leaves for cover and hibernation 
  2. some butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves
  3. earthworms reside in leaf litter and are a source of food for birds and others
  4. decomposed leaves organically fertilize your soil
  5. soil enriched with decomposed leaves has better water retention

Did You Know...

Butterflies taste with their feet, which helps them choose the correct leaves for egg-laying. 

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