Seasons – August 2023
From the Plateau Land & Wildlife Management Team
As our summer season comes to a close and we look forward to cooler weather (and hopefully some rain!) this fall, now is the time to ensure your property is on track to complete all necessary qualifying Wildlife Management activities, and that they are well documented.
In this issue of Seasons, we will highlight management activities to complete before the end of 2023, a look at Texas serpents, activity suggestions for predator control, upcoming events, news and articles for Texas landowners, and more.
As always, we hope you enjoy all that this season and Seasons has to offer! Stay safe, and stay cool out there friends!
Until next Seasons,
The Plateau Team
Table of Contents
Mid Year Check In: Wildife Management Activity Checklist
Activity Reminder: Predator Control
Plateau Joins Upcoming Landowner Workshops as Featured Guest Speaker
Webinar: Game Camera Surveys – Setting Up for Best Success
News for Texas Landowners
By Nick Fisher, Regional Manager, Dripping Springs Region
Snakes are noticeable in the spring when they first emerge from their winter dormancy, but populations actually reach their highest numbers in August and September. Young snakes are typically born in late summer and early fall, meaning, over the next month or two, more snakes will be present than at any other time of the year. Serpents have been feared and portrayed as evil creatures since the beginning of time, likely due to their ability to control their body without the use of limbs. After spiders, snakes are the most common animal phobia, often without a matter of size or species. Although all are similar in shape, snakes have adapted to thrive in almost all ecoregions of the world from arid deserts to tropical rainforests and even oceanic zones. In Texas, there are over 100 species of snakes currently described ranging over the vast mosaic of habitat the state offers.
As a naturalist and wildlife advocate, a common request from my peers is species identification. Nine out of ten times, a blurry photo of a non-venomous snake from the Colubridae family is sent to my phone with the caption, “rattlesnake?” (Often with a detached head.) If you didn’t spend years studying these patterns and colors, the common first response is to assume the most abundant and feared venomous species in our state – the rattlesnake. Patterns and colors of snakes often vary in order to camouflage with their environment – mostly in an attempt to avoid predation. Not only do many non-venomous snakes appear visually similar to rattlesnakes, but some may coil up and even imitate a “rattle” by use of shaking their tails in leaves or grass when approached. Others might flatten their heads and form a more triangular head shape, also mimicking the venomous Viper family of snakes (i.e. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins).
Learning the natural history of snakes may alert you to where you might find one, or know where to avoid. As with most wildlife, being discovered triggers one of two responses – fight or flight. In my 15+ years of experience searching for and attempting to capture and study snakes, unless completely cornered (very difficult to corner a creature that has no limbs to get in the way) or already captured, the first thing these creatures want to do is get as far away from you, and as out-of-sight, as possible. If you have ever handled a snake, you probably know another common attempt at warding off predators is to “musk” or discharge a foul-smelling liquid to seem less appetizing.
Common Snake Species in Texas
You may find that different species of snakes display different temperaments, often even varying by the individual, so never assume because you picked up one species and didn’t get bit, that the next one will not bite you either. That being said, I have found water snakes from the Nerodia genus (non-venomous) often show aggression first, striking before making their way to the nearest body of water and swimming to safety. You might also find it surprising that the most common water snake in Central Texas is the Diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer.) No, this is not a mix between a diamondback rattlesnake and a water moccasin. This is a thick-bodied, non-venomous snake that can stretch over 5’ in length and is found near most bodies of fresh water. Most of its day is spent basking until escaping to the water when threatened, usually long before you ever knew it was there and not resurfacing until completely safe to do so. The next most common water snake of our area is the plain-bellied water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster,) another non-venomous water snake with thick, dark bars across its back and an off-white underside. Plain-bellied water snakes exhibit similar life history to the diamondback water snake.
Often similar in color to the non-venomous water snakes, the water moccasins, or cottonmouths, that inhabit our region vary from light brown to black and patternless, often losing patterns and darkening with age. The cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorous can be distinguished from the others by close examination (sometimes closer than safe to do so). The elliptical-shaped pupils with a triangular head are the most visibly determinant characteristics of the viper family in Texas.
Alternatively, the one snake that does not fit into this category is a member of the Elapidae family (same as cobras) is the coral snake, (Micrurus tener.) The common rhyme to remember is “Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, friends with Jack” (or venom lack). Although the coral snake is an elusive, relatively timid species that is rarely seen compared to the other venomous snakes of our region, they exhibit fixed fangs that can deliver a painless bite injecting neurotoxic venom into the bloodstream. The “red on black” refers to a non-venomous snake of similar size and colors to the coral, the milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum.
Rattlesnakes are the most widespread species of venomous snakes in Texas and therefore account for the most bites by a venomous snake, although only about 1-2 of the states’ bites are fatal each year and the antivenin is likely readily available when seeking medical treatment. Copperheads and cottonmouths account for less than 5% of the deaths in the U.S. due to their less potent venom that rarely requires antivenin. Of all encounters I have experienced, even rattlesnakes will likely attempt to escape before confronting a potential predator directing an infamous, hair-raising rattle your way letting you know you are getting too close.
Considerations for Snake Encounters
The next time you encounter a snake, take the time to examine it at a safe distance and try and determine if it really is a threat to you, your family, or your pets. Also realize you are likely increasing your chances of being bitten by sticking around in an attempt to dispatch the snake, instead of allowing it to move along (remember, snakes can still deliver a venomous bite with a recently severed head).
A snake that is commonly seen in an area is very likely helping to control a potential vermin problem that could be causing financial damages to your home or vehicles. Snakes are not only important ecosystem organisms as predators, but also prey for birds, mammals, and even other snakes. Several non-venomous snakes including bull snakes and indigo snakes are known to consume rattlesnakes.
If you are unsure of the species of snake, get a photo or make good notes on what you see and ask a professional biologist. I have relocated several snakes from urban homes simply because I enjoy teaching others about wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians. If you are curious or concerned about what kind of snake you may be looking at, and the benefit they may be providing, reach out to a biologist or send us a picture and we will be happy to inform you. Another good resource is the iNaturalist application. Just capturing a photo and submitting it can provide you with a species name, allowing you to do some more research.
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Wildlife Management Activities: Mid Year Check In
by PLW Staff
As we ease into the second half of the year, we want to make sure you are on track to finish your qualifying Wildlife Management activities and that they are well documented. Midyear is the best time to take a look at your plan status and make sure you aren’t playing catch up, or surprised by an Annual Report request from your Appraisal District at the closing of 2023. Here are some suggested activities & timely services to perform after midyear.
Mid year Activities:
– Biologist Site Visit– Spend a couple of hours with a Plateau Biologist on your land, and find out what you might be missing.
– Annual Report – Plateau can review, compile and submit documentation of your Wildlife Management activities to the Appraisal District to ensure you are in compliance.
– Annual Service Agreement – We can fulfill a few, some, or all of your wildlife management activities required each year. Service agreements are fully customizable and unique to each property and its owners.
If you need assistance with your activities, Plateau provides products and services suited to the last half of the year. Give us a call at (512) 894-3479 or send us an email for more information.Back to TopBack to Top
Wildlife Management Activity Reminder: Predator Control
By Kameron Bain, Landowner Account Manager
Predators Play an Important Role in Maintaining a Healthy Wildlife Habitat
Within healthy habitats, native predators provide an essential function to complex ecological systems. Removal of key predators can have unintended, negative consequences. Predators play a contributory role in balancing prey density, which can contribute to improved species diversity and reduced habitat pressure.
A familiar example is witnessed within the Texas Hill Country. As wolves and screwworms (among others) were eradicated in the second half of the 20th century, white-tailed deer populations began to sky-rocket to the point of becoming grossly over-abundant. This artificial high density has resulted in landscape-scale habitat degradation from excessive use of preferred food resources (including trees, shrubs, vines, and forbs) by deer.
Predator Populations Can Also Become Out of Balance
Artificially high or even moderate densities of opportunistic predators can place significant pressures on naturally low-density or recovering wildlife populations. Where the underlying goal of a land manager is to increase or stabilize target wildlife populations, predator management can serve as an important activity contributing to the measurable success of a Wildlife Management Plan. Our other management actions are sometimes the cause of this imbalance, such as feeding high volumes of corn that attract and support abundant raccoon and feral hog populations.
How does predator control fit in my Wildlife Management Plan?
Within any Wildlife Management Plan, predator control should be justified as a complementary practice to help mitigate detrimental effects that could compromise broader wildlife and habitat management goals.
Predators come in many forms, but the most commonly managed species on private lands in Texas include –
- rat snakes
- feral hogs
- imported red fire ants
- house sparrows
Concerning non-native predators, presence/infestation alone justifies control efforts. Non-native species prey both directly and indirectly on native wildlife resulting in an unnatural pressure to which native wildlife have not had an opportunity to adapt. Native predators present a more complex need for justification.
Top 3 Questions for Landowners Considering Predator Control
Land managers need to answer three important questions to justify reducing predator densities as part of a Wildlife Management Plan:
- Do the predators I intend to control directly or indirectly prey on my target species?
- Do predators occur in a density that can result in a measurable negative impact on my target species? (This impact can be cumulative with environmental factors such as drought and other disturbances.) As an example: if I have a deer overpopulation problem, coyote predation on deer fawns may help me achieve my management goals.
- Am I willing to engage in control of sufficient intensity and duration to make a real impact? Native predator control can require years of sustained, intensive effort to have a measurable impact and populations often bounce back quickly once control stops.
What qualifies as predator control?
Proper trapping, active hunting, and harvest-on-site efforts are appropriate activities associated with controlling most predators. Another predator management technique involves monitoring and treating imported red fire ant (IRFA) infestation. Although IRFA and cowbird control are the only predator management activities with specific minimum intensities to qualify, a good faith effort should be made and documented when performing any predator control activity.
What DOES NOT qualify as predator control?
- Controlling small varmints when the defined target species are deer
- Controlling raccoons because they consume deer feed
- Killing non-predatory animals like porcupines
- Undocumented trapping efforts
- Undocumented hunting efforts
What is Plateau’s predator control solution?
Imported Red Fire Ant Treatment (IRFA): Armed with the right equipment and knowledge, our field technicians have the tools to fight back against this invasive pest. We spot treat whenever possible to reduce the amount of bait and limit impacts to native ants. Unlike treating fire ants on your own or hiring just anyone to throw bait on your fire ant mounds, Plateau will track and log where we treat the fire ants on your property, making this a favorite compliance activity for landowners in Wildlife Management valuation. Plateau recommends treating in late spring / early summer and again in the fall, so now is a great time for you to schedule a fall treatment.
Remote Camera Surveys: Monitoring predator populations is just as important as controlling them. Inferences can be made as to the relative abundance of predators on your property, but camera survey data is a more useful tool in determining when trapping/hunting efforts should be intensified or relaxed. They can also justify controlling a species that is otherwise an important member of a natural ecosystem. With this service, a Plateau professional will establish two or more baited infrared game camera stations for 10-14 days, and provide a detailed analysis of the captured pictures.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Predator Control can benefit your land and Wildlife Management goals or would like to schedule an IRFA treatment or Camera Survey, contact us at [email protected] or (512) 894-3479.
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Plateau Joins Upcoming Landowner Workshops as Featured Guest Speaker
- August 25 — Texas AgriLife Extension Multi-County White-tailed Deer Symposium
La Vernia, Texas
- September 21 — Texas Wildlife Association Small Acreage, Big Opportunity Workshop
New Braunfels, Texas
- September 25 — Texas AgriLife Extension Owning Your Piece of Texas
- September 26 — Texas AgriLife Extension Owning Your Piece of Texas
Stay tuned to learn about additional upcoming events!
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Game Camera Surveys – Setting Up for Best Success
David Riley, Operations Manager and Wildlife Biologist, reviews best practices for setting up Trail Cameras to maximize wildlife sightings.
Maintaining healthy wildlife populations that are balanced with available habitat requires active management.
With fall just around the corner, wildlife will soon be on the move, migrating to feed or breed, and otherwise preparing for colder weather. Population counts and wildlife surveys can give landowners insight into what species are traveling through your property and benefiting from your management practices. Properly documented surveys also qualify as a Wildlife Management activity under the census category.
In this webinar, David Riley, Associate Wildlife Biologist, details tips and best practices for conducting wildlife surveys with game cameras. David shares strategies for camera placement, timing, and how to maximize the amount of wildlife captured on camera. This webinar also covers an introduction on documenting this survey to meet qualifying standards for a Wildlife Management Activity.
Plateau can help you complete Game Camera Surveys and compile your documentation. For more information: https://plateauwildlife.com/services/wildlife_remote_camera_surveys/
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News for Texas Landowners
Article by Jessica Domel for Texas Farm Bureau
Citing an immediate danger to the state’s white-tailed and mule deer, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently adopted a pair of emergency Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) rules for the movement of deer from breeding facilities. “This was an enhancement and slight change to existing rules,” John Silovsky, director of TPWD’s wildlife division, said. “Very simply, the emergency rules require all breeder deer to be tested for CWD with a test result of ‘not detected’ prior to transfer to another breeding facility. We have an identical rule in place for them to transfer deer to a release site, but as we continue to see an increase in the number of positive breeding facilities, we thought some additional enhancement—basically additional surveillance of deer—was important for us to try to contain the disease.”
Article by KVUE
AUSTIN, Texas — It’s the type of milestone that no one wants to celebrate. On Friday, Austin broke an record for the most consecutive triple-digit temperature days, as this unprecedented summer grinds on. The previous record of 27 consecutive days happened in 2011, the year of an unfathomable drought. With Friday’s record-breaking 28th consecutive day of the thermometer hitting 100 degrees or hotter, forecasters are worried that this summer may be worse than 2011’s. “We’re not through with this event yet,” former KVUE meteorologist Troy Kimmel said. “I’m very concerned, especially from the wildfire danger. This vegetation is really drying out.” Kimmel is a long-time faculty member at the University of Texas, where he spends his days teaching meteorology.
Article By Amanda O’Donnell for Texas Monthly
There are all kinds of really delightful indicators that a bright, hot Texas summer has arrived: Patio burgers and first swims. Sunsets so late you feel like you’ve gotten away with something. The stars that fly among us. Fireflies, I mean, or (if you’re wrong) lightning bugs. The light-emitting beetles have been known to captivate Texans as early as April and, depending on weather and rainfall, as late as October. The soothing sight of the little critters, bobbing and glowing through tall grass, often feels as reliable as the changing of the seasons. But some Texans have noticed that this June has seemed dimmer. Right? Well, maybe not for everyone. Although we might think of and speak about fireflies as though they’re one large conglomerate, there are more than forty different species in Texas alone…
Article by for Texas Tribune
SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is making it easier for people to enjoy the Texas rivers. The TPWD has a program called the River Access and Conservation Area program, or RACA. Through RACA, the TPWD leases access at private properties around the state to provide public access for people to do activities like fishing and paddling. Through the RACA program, two new river access sites have been opened. They are located on the Brazos River in Milam County and on the San Marcos River in Guadalupe County. For the San Marcos site, this new access point will be beneficial for those who drive to the area. “This is a lease access area that was established to really improve the parking situation at an already well established access point,” Botros said.
Article by Jessica Domel for Texas Farm Bureau
To give Texas hunters an opportunity to hunt white-tailed deer, mule deer, dove, quail, feral hogs and even exotics, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is now accepting entries for its Drawn Hunts. Each year, TPWD issues about 10,000 permits in 60 hunt categories on public and private lands in Texas.
“By providing public hunting opportunities, Parks and Wildlife is basically putting into effect what it advocates to private landowners—that hunting is a key component to wildlife management in Texas,” Kelly Edmiston, TPWD’s public hunting coordinator for the wildlife division, said. “We have been involving the public in managing the resource on state run wildlife management areas since the 1950s.”
Article By Kristen Steenbeeke for Texas Monthly
The first time I heard the chirping, at dusk, I thought it was an odd species of nocturnally active bird. The chirps were high-pitched, like the sound of a basketball player’s sneakers squeaking against the court, and they occasionally shifted into a quick trill like a cricket’s. This “bird” would keep me up at night, since the frequency of its call was higher than the subtle hum of my white noise machine. It seemed to stay in the same general area, though, somewhat unlike a bird, which led me to google “chirping frog Central Texas.” Suddenly an amateur herpetologist, I surmised that it was Eleutherodactylus marnockii, the cliff chirping frog, especially after I listened to some recordings. While the frog typically sticks to rocky outcroppings, it can be found in urban environments as well…
Article by Texas Tribune
Article by Bethany Blankley | The Center Square
Texans will vote on 14 proposed constitutional amendments in November. Each of them was approved by a minimum of two-thirds of lawmakers in the state House and Senate during the regular and special legislative sessions this year.The most significant is Proposition 4, which relates to two measures that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law after the legislature overwhelmingly passed them: SB 2 and HJR 2. The proposition, which is vague and could be confusing to voters, if passed, would make permanent as part of the Texas constitution a $100,000 homestead exemption, create a three-year pilot program to implement a 20% appraisal cap on non-residential property valued below $5 million, and create three new elected positions for appraisal review boards in counties that have a population of over 75,000.
Article by AgriLife Today
Texas A&M AgriLife Research recently kicked off the Texas Climate-Smart Initiative, a five-year large-scale pilot project to work with Texas’ commodity producers to adopt climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices, assess benefits, and develop models for voluntary, market-based climate solutions. The $65 million project, funded by USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, NRCS, is led by AgriLife Research scientists Julie Howe, Ph.D., soil chemistry and fertility professor, and Nithya Rajan, Ph.D., agronomy and agroecology professor, both in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Howe serves as the principal investigator on this project. Her research program primarily focuses on soil chemistry and fertility with an emphasis on the effects of land management on the profitability…
Article by AgriLife
A Lone Star Healthy Streams workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office in Burnet County, 607 N. Vandeveer, Suite 100, in Burnet. The free workshop with lunch provided is offered as a joint effort by AgriLife Extension and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Natural Resources Institute and Lampasas River Watershed Partnership. Three Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education credits for pesticide applicators are available in the integrated pest management category. In addition, advance training credits will be offered to Master Naturalist. RSVP by Aug. 15 to the AgriLife Extension office in Burnet County at 512-756-5463 or online at https://tx.ag/LSHSBurnet.
Article by Peter Holley for Texas Monthly
Texans certainly complain about extreme heat during the hottest stretches of summer, but you’ll rarely, if ever, hear them express fear of the high temperatures that envelop our state each year. For many, the ability to endure heat-related discomfort is worn like a badge of honor—a twisted vestige, perhaps, of frontier grit. “Hot enough for ya?” is our greeting of choice when temperatures spike and shirt collars wilt. If you’re like me, you can probably source this defiant attitude from within your own family. My grandfather, for example, grew up on a Central Texas farm and spent triple-digit summers picking cotton under a blistering sky. He talked about fearing the rattlesnakes he’d encounter, but never the heat. On scorching July days some eight decades later, you could still find him outside…
Article by David Frey for The Wildlife Society
Wild turkeys may have trouble keeping up with climate change as warmer, wetter weather creates a disparity between the arrival of spring and when the birds nest. After unregulated hunting and habitat loss nearly drove wild turkeys to extinction, reintroduction efforts have helped them thrive throughout the U.S.— even in places they never lived before. But in much of the South, eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) have been declining. Their struggles may not get any easier, researchers found, after modeling climate change in five Southern states. “There’s definitely a mismatch between green-up and when they’re reproducing,” said TWS member Wesley Boone, a postdoctoral research scholar at North Carolina State University. Turkey poults survive on a diet of insects to make it through their early months. If those insects hatch earlier…
Article by Paulina Rodriguez for Texas Monthly
WHO: Michael Eason, associate director of conservation and collections at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, and a nationwide team of tree experts. WHAT: A missing oak species—the Quercus tardifolia—that was thought to be extinct, until nine botanical researchers scoured Big Bend in search of one last living tree. WHY IT’S SO GREAT: When the last known specimen of the Quercus tardifolia, better known as the Chisos Mountains oak or lateleaf oak, died or otherwise vanished (no one is quite sure what happened) in 2011, scientists thought it was extinct. That changed last May, when a single living tree was discovered in Big Bend National Park, giving researchers a chance to revive the species…
Article by Christopher Collins for Texas Monthly
On an early summer day in 2016, entomologist Jian Duan arrived at a nondescript office building in north Houston to deliver some bad news—and some good. Texas forestry officials had notified Duan a few days before that they’d made an alarming discovery in Harrison County, four hours to the northeast: they had trapped four adult emerald ash borers in a forested area just south of the East Texas hamlet of Karnack. The destructive beetle, which is native to the forests of Russia and northeast China, had previously been detected in the neighboring state of Louisiana, but this was its first sighting in Texas. The bug had jumped the border, and that was exceptionally bad news for the many varieties of native ash trees that call Texas home. State forest officials found themselves in the grips of a full-fledged beetle crisis.