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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2007-03-19                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than seven years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
March 19, 2007
Funeral Services Set for Slain Texas Game Warden
AUSTIN, Texas - Funeral services for Texas Game Warden Justin Hurst have been set for Wednesday, March 21 at 11 a.m. at the First Methodist Church in El Campo. Hurst, 34, was killed in the line of duty on Saturday, March 17.
Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 20, at Triska Funeral Home, 612 Merchant Street, El Campo, Texas. There will be no graveside service; however, following the funeral service there will be a procession to the Legion Hall for a reception.
Hurst started his career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a biologist in August 1995 specializing in waterfowl management along the mid-coast. He was part of the 48th Texas Game Warden Academy and graduated in August of 2002. He served about a year in Brazos County before moving to Wharton County in 2003.
Hurst is survived by his wife, Amanda, and son, Kyle Hunter, age 4 months, his parents, Allen and Pat Hurst of Bryan, a brother, Greg Hurst of Denver, Colorado, and in-laws, Larry and Jeanie Wilcox of Denton, Texas.
Memorial fund donations may be made to Operation Game Thief, c/o Justin Hurst Memorial Fund, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX, 78744. The Houston 100 Club is also accepting donations for the family at: 100 Club Survivor's Fund 1233 West Loop South, Suite 1250, Houston, TX 77027-9107.
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On the Net:
Texas Department of Public Safety News Releases: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/public_information/press.htm
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[ Note: This item is more than seven years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
March 19, 2007
Hunter Takes New Texas State Record Bighorn Sheep
AUSTIN, Texas -- A ram Stephanie Altimus harvested in the Beach Mountains in early January should stand as the new Texas state record desert bighorn sheep. The record sheep scored 184 points under the Boone and Crockett scoring system following the required 60-day required drying period for scoring purposes.
Trans-Pecos Wildlife Management Areas manager Michael Pittman scored the record ram.
"This is a great ram and it shows just how far the Texas bighorn program has come," said Pittman.
The record eclipses Terry Fricks' previous state best of 183 5/8 taken on Elephant Mountain WMA two years ago.
Since 1988, when TPWD reinstated hunting for desert bighorns on an extremely conservative basis, approximately 70 permits have been issued. More than half of the rams harvested in Texas have qualified for the Boone and Crockett Club's big game record book
A ram scoring 179 was also taken this year at Elephant Mountain WMA with a permit donated to the Texas Bighorn Society, which auctioned it off with proceeds going into the bighorn sheep program.
By conducting annual helicopter survey counts, TPWD biologists can ascertain not only how many animals are present, but also if there are surplus bighorn rams that can be harvested through highly conservative hunting opportunities. The most recent survey documented 822 sheep.
This year's record sheep numbers made possible a record 12 bighorn sheep hunting permits in Texas, well above the previous high of eight permits two seasons ago. Nine of the 12 Texas permits issued this year were for sheep hunts on private land, illustrating how private land stewards are benefiting from the restoration effort.
"To anyone unfamiliar with the Texas bighorn sheep restoration program and big game hunting, the price tag for the right to hunt these magnificent animals may seem inflated," said Mike Berger, TPWD director of wildlife. "But it's the cause that fuels the bidding. These folks are investing in conservation." "In addition", added Berger, "we regularly offer desert sheep permits through our public hunting program at virtually no cost to reward the hunters of Texas who have supported this restoration program for decades."
Berger said the decision to offer the permits is based on evidence of additional surplus bighorn sheep observed during the annual aerial census surveys.
Nearly a century ago, wildlife biologists estimated there were about 500 desert bighorn sheep in Texas. Half a century later there were none. Today there are more than 800 of these majestic animals in the state and counting.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists recently completed their annual desert bighorn sheep counts and report populations continue to expand and flourish after years of restoration efforts.
The desert bighorn sheep was once prominent in the remote mountains of West Texas, with populations of more than 1,500 animals in the late 1800s. Due largely to unregulated hunting, bighorn numbers dwindled to about 500, according to the survey conducted by Vernon Bailey in 1903.
Protective measures for bighorn sheep began as early as 1903 with the enactment of a hunting prohibition; however, changing land use caused numbers to decline to an estimated 35 sheep by 1945. The last reported sighting of a native bighorn sheep occurred in October 1958 on the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area. Biologists believe the last native Texas bighorns were gone by the early 1960s.
Efforts to restore bighorns in Texas began in 1954 with the development of a cooperative agreement among state and federal wildlife agencies and private conservation groups. Through landowner and Texas Bighorn Society support, remote mountains in the Trans-Pecos have been enhanced to meet the basic needs of the desert bighorn, including construction of numerous man-made water guzzlers. These capture the area's limited rainfall to provide more reliable water sources for sheep and other wildlife.
The Texas Bighorn Society offers online visitors a chance to observe these animals in the wild via a satellite Web camera and a weather monitoring system near one of these "drinkers" atop Elephant Mountain. To view bighorns in action, go to http://www.texasbighornsociety.org/.
In addition to the conservation work by Texas Bighorn Society members, hunter funded initiatives such as the Big Time Texas Hunts, sheep permit auctions, hunting license buyers, and the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration federal aid program have provided money for ongoing TPWD research and management efforts.
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[ Note: This item is more than seven years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ] [SB]
[ Additional Contacts: Sarah Bibbs 512-389-4577, sarah.bibbs@tpwd.texas.gov; Tom Harvey 512-389-4453, tom.harve@tpwd.texas.gov ]
March 19, 2007
Experts Say Education Key to Solving Urban Coyote Problems
DALLAS, Texas -- Seeing a coyote in the countryside is a part of nature, but when you spot one in your backyard, that's a different story. As urban areas continue to expand and develop the rangeland that was once coyote habitat, sightings of the wild canine continue to grow, and so do the problems.
While injuries to people from coyotes are extremely rare in Texas, domesticated animals don't tend to fare as well. Pet cats and small dogs left outside unattended may become easy meals for hungry coyotes.
While it is almost impossible, as well as impractical, for suburbanites to get rid of coyotes, it is possible to learn to live with and manage coyote problems, according to Dallas County Urban Wildlife Biologist Brett Johnson of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
At Texas' first-ever Urban Wildlife Conference, "Managing Urban Wildlife: Planning for Success," Feb. 20, Johnson explained that coyotes will not simply move out of an area because development moves in. In fact, human activities may unintentionally draw coyotes into an area.
"On a regular basis, cities and private industries try to remove coyotes from an area, but they are incredibly adaptable," said Johnson. "In fact, a coyote can actually make a better living in an urban area than it can out in the country because there are more food resources available. Coyotes are here to stay."
In order to coexist peacefully with the coyote, Johnson advocates a few simple steps. First and foremost, people need to be more aggressive toward coyotes in urban areas.
"If you see one, you should try to scare it," he said. "They're not out to hurt you, but if they get used to humans they have the potential to get bolder."
Combining a loud voice with a negative physical impact increases the likelihood of deterrence.
"Either spray it with a water hose or literally throw something at it. Use a stick or a small rock or something that will create, in the coyote's mind, a negative association with humans," said Johnson.
Johnson said it is also most important to eliminate incentives for coyotes to hang around.
"If coyotes are showing up in your neighborhood, it means they have found a food source of some variety. In urban areas, that often means they're going after pet food or discarded table scraps."
Putting cat or dog food bowls outside can attract coyotes or other nuisance wildlife. Homeowners using bird seed with corn mixed into it, or leaving corn or other food out to attract deer will likely lure coyotes as well.
"We just have to make some simple changes to our behavior, like proper pet food management, keeping pet food indoors and keeping our pets inaccessible to coyotes," said Johnson, who added that garbage is another potential problem. "People need to keep garbage, especially food waste, securely covered or otherwise out of reach of coyotes."
City officials and neighborhood organizations can also help mitigate coyote-related problems by enacting a coyote management program like that which is currently being used in Austin.
When coyotes in northwest Austin began preying on pets in broad daylight in 2004, some of whose owners were just feet away, residents grew concerned, and managing the coyote problem became a priority.
Dorinda Pulliam, Animal Control Director for City of Austin Health and Human Services Department, had been collecting data on coyote sightings for several years.
"I knew that some day somebody was going to ask me about this problem, and that if I could answer with real data, we could get a response based on what's really happening in the community," said Pulliam.
Pulliam suggested a coordinated effort between the City of Austin, Travis County and Texas Wildlife Services.
"The city and the county own most of the properties available as habitat, so collaboration provides not only seamless customer responsiveness in both jurisdictions, but also an ease of coordination on properties where removal activities might be required," Pulliam said.
Because Pulliam's data collection could pinpoint repeated patterns of aggressive coyote behavior in specific locations, the city was able to focus on eliminating only problem coyotes.
Pulliam said another key to Austin's success is a continued effort to educate the public. This bolsters the program's effectiveness, as human behavior is an important part of managing coyotes. She and Randy Farrar, a wildlife biologist with Texas Cooperative Extension in Austin, give presentations to area neighborhood organizations who want to be better informed about coyote management.
The City of Austin also keeps an email database of neighborhood organizations that allows Pulliam to disseminate coyote information throughout the county with just a click of a button.
"It works well because we can efficiently reach people. We can let them know when and why to expect increased coyote activity and we also do seasonal news releases to alert people about coyote issues that can get worse at different times of year," she said.
Johnson and other urban wildlife biologists hope to see program's similar to the City of Austin's duplicated in other Texas cities.
For more information about how to manage urban coyotes, people can phone the TPWD Wildlife Information Hotline at (512) 389-4505 and ask for the number of an urban wildlife biologist near them. Interested parties can also call their local Texas Cooperative Extension county agent. For serious coyote control problems, call the Texas Wildlife Wildlife Services state office in San Antonio at (210) 472-5451.
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