Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Feral ♂ Nilgai, Boselaphus tragocamelus
Native to India and Pakistan, Nilgai are the largest species of antelope with males able to reach weights up to 306 kg (674.6 lbs) and females weighing up to 213 kg (469.6 lbs). While the females and young males are a pale brown to yellow color, upon maturity the males gain a blue-grey coat for which the species gains its other common names of blue bull or blue cow. Although mating usually occurs from December to March, nilgai can breed all year and the females often bear twins. They consume a variety of browse and live in a variety of land types from grassy woodlands to the foothillls of the Himalayan Mountains. For better or worse, their suitable habitat also includes the scrublands of South Texas where they were introduce for hunting in the 1930s and have since established a sustainable population. As of 2001, their estimated population in India was approximately 100,000, but with few extending into Pakistan. The estimated nilgai population in Texas is approximately 37,000 in the ranches with few estimations on the feral population.

Note: This is possibly the last post of the year. If I have another good End of Year video from Google like last year, I will upload that, but if not, this is it for now, and I'll see you next year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holidays (Hiatus)

A young Green Anole
There will be no post today. With a busy holiday season coming up, I will do a last post on either Thursday or next Tuesday depending on my schedule.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

White-tailed Deer

♂ White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus virginianus
White-tailed deer inhabit the majority of North America from southern Canada down to Bolivia. They can be found in many habitats including woodlands, farmlands, streams, thornbrush deserts, gardens, and lawns. While they may be seen during the day, they are mostly nocturnal, but they do most their feeding during the crepuscular hours, dawn and dusk. Only the male bucks grow antlers which are used during mating season, rut, to spar with other males. The females, does, give birth once a year to one to three young. It is important to know that while many times the young fawns are seen alone, the mother has not abandoned them, but visits only during certain hours so as to not attract predators to the helpless fawn. White-tailed deer are herbivores feeding on a wide variety of plants including Eastern redbud, Shumard oak, trout lilies, blazing star, Virginia creeper, sugar hackberry, white mulberry, green ash, chinkapin oak, bur oak, silver maple, redstem filaree, smooth sumac, Texas kidneywood, fragrant honeysuckle, American beautyberry, sweet white clover, and violet wild petunia. Most white-tailed deer only live 2 to 3 years, but there are records of some living up to 20 years.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Feral Hogs

Feral Hog, Sus scrofa, in South Texas
While feral hogs can be found throughout much of North America, including Hawaii, it is estimated at least half are located in Texas alone. Current estimations put their population to upwards of around 8 million hogs which cause about $1.5 billion in annual damage and control costs. In addition to the damage caused by feral hogs, they spread a variety of diseases that can affect people, livestock, wildlife, and local water supplies. Feral hogs, not to be confused with the native collared peccary, were first introduce to the mainland in 1539 by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. These bred with free-ranged domestic swine and Eurasian wild boars that were introduced years later which has led to variations in appearance and their common name. Feral hogs are capable of breeding before one year of age, may have up to two litters a year with an average size of four to fix, but with reports of up to twelve, and can live on average four to five years and upwards to eight years. These factors in addition to their higher intelligence makes population control extremely difficult. Trapping with preference for guillotine gates and year round hunting are current measures used to try and control the feral hog population, but their range continues to expand.

Note: There is currently no evidence of feral hogs breeding with the resident warthog population.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Texas Horned Lizard

Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum
The Texas Horned Lizard is the most common horned lizard within Texas, but it is a threatened species. While once found throughout most of Texas, it is nearly gone from the eastern third of the state. It can be distinguished from the other two species of horned lizard found within the state by its prominent horns, the two center spines longer than the others, and by the two rows of fringed scales along the sides of the body. While sometimes known as a horny toad due to their toad-like body, they are actually a species of lizard. They will inflated their body when frightened adding to their toad-like appearance, but this is a prelude to its most famous defense: squirting up to 1/3 of its volume of blood out of a pore near its eye.

Texas Horned Lizard at Laguna Atascosa.
Texas Horned Lizards feed on a variety of arthropods, but the majority of their diet, up to 90% of it, is composed of harvester ants. As with many species, there seems to be a number of factors contributing to the decline of Texas Horned Lizards, some of which are more directly tied to harvester ants. These include pesticides reducing harvester ant populations and prolonged periods of extreme drought causing harvest ants to become dormant which, as a major source of food, impacts Texas Horned Lizards. In addition, as horned lizards often bask on gravel and pavement, there is likely an increase of roadkill with the increase of roads, and the number of potential predators, especially feral animals, has likely impacted Texas Horned Lizards. The pet trade also has had a major impact in past. Legislation within Texas and Oklahoma has resulted in the Texas Horned Lizard being protect by law. There is also more awareness of their population thanks to projects like Texas Horned Lizard Watch and encouragement from the Oklahoma Wildlife Diversity Program to report sightings and other observations of Texas Horned Lizards.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Greater Short-horned Lizard

Greater Short-horned Lizard, Phrynosoma hernandesi
The Greater Short-horned Lizard is one of three species of horned lizards found within Texas, one of eight species found within the United States, and one of twelve species within North America. In Texas, it is best distinguished physically from the other two by its shorter horns, heart-shaped head, and single row of scales fringing its body. While limited in Texas to western portions and higher elevations, the Greater Short-horned lizard ranges along the range of the Rocky Mountains and up into Canada. They are an insectivore, eating a wide variety of invertebrates, including harvest ants, but without it make up most of its diet unlike its Texas Horned Lizard cousin. Although they were once thought common, their population has made a noticeable decline. A lack of study and poor survey coverage unfortunately leave their true population status as unknown.