Our Wild Texas – Summer 2019

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Our 4 Fascinating Foxes

kit fox, red fox, gray fox, swift fox

Left to right: kit fox, red fox, gray fox, swift fox

Foxes are members of the dog family but possess cat-like qualities, thus their young may be called pups or kits. There are 4 different fox species in Texas.

  1. The red fox was imported to train tracking dogs. Its many feline traits include elliptical pupils, kits that hiss like kittens, and it will arch its back and puff up when threatened. Most red foxes live in North Central Texas.
  2. The gray fox is the only fox that climbs trees. It will nap in the branches, travel through the tree canopy, and build a den high in a hollow. Gray foxes are found all over the state.  
  3. The kit fox weighs only 3-6 lbs. Built for desert life, its yellowish coloring provides camouflage, and large ears help this tiny fox stay cool. Kit foxes live in the deserts of West Texas. 
  4. The swift fox is similar to the kit fox, and only slightly larger. Once found in 77 counties, they're now in only 2, both in the Panhandle. Read more about swift and kit foxes in the magazine story, "The Other Foxes."

TPWD is working to learn more about swift and kit foxes. But finding a small fox isn’t easy, and we need your help. If you think you see one, report it on iNaturalist

The Fox Finders Video

Aplomado Falcons Making a Comeback

falcon chick held after being banded

The agile Aplomado falcon had all but vanished from Texas by the 1930s, mainly due to loss of the prairie grassland they need to hunt. In 1986 this falcon was listed as an endangered species.

We and our partners, the Peregrine Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, began releasing Aplomado falcons in Texas in 1993. Knowing the birds wouldn't survive without their prairie habitat, we also worked to rebuild and maintain natural grasslands.

Mustang Island was an Aplomado falcon release area, and on June 1 this year two fuzzy falcon chicks were banded, the offspring of a wild Aplomado pair. A few days later, the 500th Aplomado falcon was banded in Texas. We'll continue working to restore these endangered birds so that future generations can also enjoy them. If you'd like to try to see the adult falcon pair, our press release has more information on where to find endangered Aplomado falcons on Mustang Island. 

Draw in Pollinators with Horsemint

purple horsemint growing wild

Horsemint is in abundance this year, and you may have seen its tall stems of purple flowers in roadside fields. You can grow horsemint almost anywhere with enough sun. It's a good cut flower, and best of all, hummingbirds, bees and butterflies are drawn to it.

Horsemint is also known as bee balm, due to its use as a salve for stings. It's sometimes called lemon mint, and Native Americans used it to make a lemony-mint tea to soothe sore throats. Add this native Texan to your garden this fall. 

Don't Be Rattled by Snakes

Indigo snake drinking water in a garden

Summer = snakes. But don't panic! Of about 80 species of snakes in Texas, only 12 are venomous, and 8 of those are rattlesnakes, which avoid people. 

If you see a snake, it probably isn't a rattlesnake – though it may pretend to be one, like the hog-nosed snake (video). This is mimicry, when animals imitate their bigger, badder cousins as a form of self-defense. Some snakes even vibrate their tails to make you believe they have rattles! But their tails are silent, whereas a rattlesnake tail makes a buzzing noise. 

rat snake head in leaves, video link

Think twice before you kill a snake. It may be one of 12 threatened species, like the indigo, and illegal to hunt or kill. Also, snakes eat rats and mice and play a very important part in keeping our rodent populations in check. 

Snakes avoid confrontation, so if you happen upon one, give it space to run away (video). Watch where you walk, and don't reach under rocks or logs or into dark holes. For more tips on sharing space with snakes in the wild, read our magazine story, "Snake Safety."

Rattlesnake license plate with link

Caretakers of the Land

clear river flowing in rock, video link

Without healthy habitat, wildlife will not survive. And it takes effort by landowners to maintain that healthy habitat. This is one reason why the Lone Star Land Steward Awards were created, to recognize landowners who go the extra mile to restore and maintain their land.

This year's winners come from the 7 ecoregions of Texas and include The H. E. Butt Foundation Camps. The Killam Duval County Ranch took the prestigious Texas Leopold Conservation Award.

Quail dancing on rock, vidoe link

The Lone Star Land Steward Awards program is supported by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and we thank our sponsors, including: Toyota, Winker Ranch, Silver Eagle, The Perry R. Bass II Foundation, Dallas Safari Club, and Shield Ranch.

To take a peek at the properties, watch videos of the winners. If you know of any landowners that should be considered for a Lone Star Land Steward Award, you can nominate them.

Thanks to these Lone Star Land Steward sponsors and partners:

Lone Star Land Steward sponsor logos

Did you know?

Screech owls will keep a "pet" snake in their nest box. The snake lives under the nesting material and eats bugs that might prey on the owlets. 

Thanks to the following sponsors and partners:

Nature Rocks