Are There Bears in Texas?

Yes, there are black bears in Texas! These large mammals once covered the entire state of Texas, but are now mostly found in the Trans-Pecos of Texas, with good numbers in the Guadalupe and Big Bend Mountains. They range into New Mexico and Mexico and as east as Kerrville in the western part of the state.

There are bears in East Texas, especially the northern parts of this region, but could be spotted at any time along the Red River of the Sabine River.

The black bear, Ursus americanus, is listed as threatened by the State of Texas.

Black Bears are in Texas

Black Bears Nice by Nature

A wild bear is normally shy and not aggressive towards people. However, a bear that is regularly fed, regularly visits a deer feeder, or has become otherwise habituated to humans may be a problem. A bear that loses its fear of people should be seen as problem.

If you experience a bear at close range, it is recommended that you talk calmly while backing away slowly. Do not make direct eye contact with the bear, and do not attempt to run straight away as the bear may chase out of instinct. If a bear approaches you, stay where you are, raise your arms, jacket or other gear to appear larger and yell at the bear to scare it off.

Bears and Texas Hunting Regulations

Black bears are black. So are many feral hogs. It is recommended that hunters study their game carefully to avoid mistaking a bear for a feral hog or other legal game animal. It is against the law to kill a black bear in Texas, with penalties of up to $10,000, added civil restitution fines, jail time and loss of all hunting privileges.

Bear Safety While Out

To minimize encounters with bears, hunters should keep camps clean to prevent odors that will attract bears and discard gut piles far from campsites. Placing deer corn in piles or in open feeders will attract more bears, while using an automated feeder hung out of reach of bears will decrease bear visits.

Also, switching bait from whole corn to soybeans will reduce bear activity. Another good idea is to attract deer using food plots. This brings in deer for harvest, but does not bring in the bears. Most of all, use common sense precautions if you are in or near the black bear areas of Texas.

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Quail Population in Texas Up

Counting Quail

Each summer the bobwhite quail population in Texas is surveyed. After recent roadside quail counts, researchers at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch confirmed what they have expected all summer: Quail numbers are booming in the Texas Rolling Plains.

“Once the roadside counts were in, our 2016 estimate is an average of 512 birds for a 20-mile route,” says Dale Rollins, executive director for the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch (RPQRR) near Roby. “That’s about ten times the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) counts for the same area.”

By contrast, Rollins conceded that their routes and counting methodology varies somewhat from Texas Parks & Wildlife census protocols but each method points to the same conclusion: the bobwhite quail has made an astounding comeback since their historically low numbers earlier this decade.

Estimating the Quail Population

In the Rolling Plains ecoregion, TPWD recorded 50.2 birds on their 20 mile census routes. These numbers, according to the department’s annual quail forecast is the highest number of quail recorded since 1971.

Rollins credits the ranch’s adherence to sound quail management practices as a reason for the increase. While abundant rainfall has helped their cause, he says that the increase can’t entirely be credited to more moisture.

“We’re perhaps 30% below the ecoregion mean,” says Rollins. “As of September 30th, we’re sitting at 17.7 inches or rainfall at the ranch. We’ve made the best of what rain we’ve received.”

Early in the year, researchers at the ranch indicated that quail numbers would indeed be higher. According to Lloyd LaCoste, RPQRR ranch manager, helicopter and call counts this past spring showed numbers to be appreciably higher than in the past. Each spring, data is taken using the exact same methodology so that data collection efforts are consistent from year to year.

Other Quail Population Techniques

“We conduct spring call counts at 25 “mile markers” spread across the ranch,” says LaCoste. “We count the number of “bobwhite” whistles that we hear as well as the number of individuals calling.”

LaCoste says that they also count scaled quail calls and their numbers recorded as well. Counts are conducted twice weekly at each mile marker for 5 minutes. “Typically we hear about 10 whistles per cock per stop. This year our number of whistles per cock per stop was higher than normal and we had the highest number of birds that we have recorded calling.

March helicopter surveys for bobwhites showed an increase as well. In 2013, only two coveys were detected. By contrast, in the spring of 2015, 32 coveys were detected from the helicopter counts and by spring of 2016, 199 coveys were recorded.

Long-term Health of Quail Population

Rollins says it’s too early to tell if this numbers will mean a long term rebound for the species. Right now he says that ranchers and quail hunters can enjoy the bounty and try to take the current population momentum into the ensuing years.

“Our next hurdle is a steep one: can we “insulate” (sustain) our current bumper crop?” he says. “History is not on our side. But then, think what the historical paradigm was for ice chests. Used to, the chests would only keep ice for a day, perhaps. Now the are some that can store ice for five days. Can we borrow from such success on the quail front?”

Ducks Unlimited Habitat Conservation on Texas Lands

Ducks Unlimited is committed to habitat conservation for waterfowl. For 25 years, private landowners in coastal Texas have been working with Ducks Unlimited and partners to restore wetlands and provide critical habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. More than 80,000 acres have been enrolled in the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP) since its inception in 1991.

“Habitat provided by the TPWP occurs along the entire Texas coast and provides up to 15 percent of all available waterfowl habitat in the Texas Mid-Coast, according to Gulf Coast Joint Venture research,” said DU Manager of Conservation Programs for Texas Dr. Todd Merendino. “This is some of the most significant habitat for waterfowl in Texas because it’s where they need it, when they need it.”

Meeting Habitat Conservation Goals

Originally developed to deliver the habitat goals of the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, the TPWP is a partnership of private landowners, Ducks Unlimited, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It’s important to recognize the conservation investments of private landowners,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Deputy Executive Director Ross Melinchuk. “They not only enroll their property in the program, but they also contribute at least 35 percent of the cost of the project that goes directly to habitat management for ducks and geese on the landscape. Without their engagement, the program simply would not exist.”

Other project costs are offset by TPWP cost-share, which comes from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Futch Foundation, Trull Foundation, ConocoPhillips, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants.

Management Success Through Partnerships in Texas

“The TPWP is successful because of the unique blend of private, state, and federal partners sharing a vision for the conservation of privately owned wetlands and grasslands along the Texas Gulf Coast,” said USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Regional Coordinator Don Wilhelm. “We greatly appreciate that Ducks Unlimited has served as the consistent and unifying influence on this conservation partnership for this first 25 years.”

Delivering habitat across a 30-county area, the cost-share program focuses on reconstructing wetlands and providing water and infrastructure for managing wetland units.

“Partnerships like the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project highlight the valuable outcomes realized when partners and landowners join together to share knowledge and expertise, funding opportunities and long range resource conservation goals,” said Salvador Salinas, NRCS Texas state conservationist. “Wildlife habitats across Texas’ vast coastal region face big challenges such as population growth. Through programs like TPWP, conservation planning and financial assistance, NRCS continues its legacy of helping private landowners help the land in these essential wetland ecosystems.”

Waterfowl Habitat is Large Scale

“One of the most impressive aspects of this program is the scale,” Merendino said. “We’re providing waterfowl habitat across the Texas coast, which is one of the areas where waterfowl are facing dramatic habitat deficits. Research is revealing that certain species, such as northern pintails, are really struggling along the Texas coast.

Programs like TPWP provide critical, reliable waterfowl habitat in one of the most important and most threatened landscapes on the continent.”

Quail Management & Hunting: Coffee Shop Talk

Bobwhite quail are an interesting bird that many of us grew up hunting in Texas. These upland-dwelling, ground-nesting gamebirds have taken it on the chin, so to speak, in recent years, but some folks around Texas are calling it the best quail year ever. Now, we all have a chance to learn even more about bobwhite quail.

Thew Texas Wildlife Associatin (TWA) and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension are inviting everyone to join them for their next Wildlife for Lunch webinar discussing bobwhite hunting and management. The webinar will take place on Thursday, October 20, 2016, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm CDT and the session is being touted as “Coffee Shop Quail Talk: Myths and Misconceptions.”

Bobwhite Quail in Texas

This presentation will cover common myths and misconceptions related to quail ecology, management and conservation to include: impacts of fire ants, feral hogs, turkey, roadrunners, mesomammals, disease and parasites. It will also discuss ecology facts such as: double brooding, life span, reproductive strategy and potential and also impacts of hunting at multiple scales. The speaker will be Robert Perez, quail biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

There is no cost for the coffee shop quail talk and interested persons can participate anywhere with a computer, smartphone, or tablet as long as they have internet access.

To sign up, simply point your browser right here on the day of the webinar and click to join the Wildlife for Lunch webinar. Each web based seminar is fully interactive and allows you to engage the experts, make comments, and ask questions during the course of the presentation.

Texas Quail Hunting Outlook Great in Rolling Plains, South Texas

Bobwhite quail: You either got ’em or you don’t. It’s that simple. Fortunately, the Rolling Plains and South Texas Plains of Texas have them this year!

Quail hunting in Texas comes and goes with bird populations. Although having areas where suitable habitat exist is paramount, precipitation plays a key role in the annual boom-bust cycle when it comes to annual quail production, especially in semi-arid regions such as the Rolling Plains and South Texas.

Quail Population Sets Record in Rolling Plains

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists conduct quail surveys in Texas each year in late summer. The census has been done since 1978, but it was this year that produced the highest average in the Rolling Plains of Texas, 50.2 birds per survey line.

Texas Rolling Plains Quail Population

TPWD personnel count birds by driving 20 mile routes in early morning, when bobwhite quail are most visible. The long term average for the Rolling Plains Region is 20.16, and the previous record was 49.25, in 1987. So it’s been a while, but good news for quail and quail hunters.

But it always wasn’t so rosy. During an extended drought, the Rolling Plains quail survey counted a record low of 2.91 birds per census line in 2013. That’s just a few years ago! Fast-forward to today, after two growing seasons that provided excellent rainfall, and quail numbers in the Rolling Plains have gone from worst to first. Quail are a boom-bust species, so the boom is on.

South Texas Quail Hunting Still Good

Most of South Texas had great quail hunting last season with good outings reported right up to the end of the season. Spring-summer nesting was reported across the region but field observations of broods were mixed this year. Weather conditions were variable along with nesting and brooding activity in the later summer months.

Despite differences in production, the sheer number of quail surviving from last year coupled with even minimal reproduction will likely make for an another good quail year. The average number of bobwhites observed per route was 14 compared to 21 last year. This suggests a slightly below average hunting season for South Texas as a whole, but I wouldn’t sit at home.

The Chaparral and the Daughtrey Wildlife Management Areas provide public quail hunting opportunities. Staff surveys on the Chaparral WMA recorded above average numbers of bobwhite on the area again this year. Buy an APH permit and go!

Texas Quail: Hunting for Birds Elsewhere

TPWD surveys indicate that bobwhite numbers have fallen below average in the Gulf Prairies where only 3.8 bobwhites were observed per route in 2016 compared to 14.9 last year. Although there was good carryover of adult birds along the coast, bobwhite nesting was likely adversely affected by too much rainfall in this region.

Despite a lower estimated population in this region, field reports suggest there are huntable populations of quail on well-drained sites. Hunters should focus on the central and lower coast in native prairie habitats.

The High Plains and Edwards Plateau of Texas reported a general, continued increase quail numbers. Although there are certainly areas within each region of Texas where some quail hunting opportunity remains, this survey is not designed to detect changes in localized populations, especially in fragmented landscapes.

National Hunting and Fishing Day in Texas

Today is National Hunting and Fishing Day in Texas! In recognition of the 45th annual observance of the conservation successes of hunters and anglers, Gov. Greg Abbott has proclaimed Saturday, Sept. 24, as National Hunting and Fishing Day in Texas.

“Hunting and fishing are family traditions in Texas that have been passed down through generations. I am proud that, just last year, we forever enshrined the right to hunt and fish in the Texas Constitution,” said Gov. Abbott. “As we celebrate Hunting and Fishing Day, I encourage all Texans to learn more about ways we can continue to conserve our natural resources so that future generations can protect our connection with the land.”

National Hunting and Fishing Day in Texas

National Hunting and Fishing Day in Texas

It has been more than a century since America’s first environmentalists — hunters and anglers — established the conservation tradition in our nation. These early environmentalists warned that the population growth and industrial development that offered prosperity for our nation also created serious threats to the future of our wildlife resources.

Hunters and anglers fought for the laws and regulations that created a new system of wildlife management that would rescue many species of wildlife from near extinction and would set aside millions of acres of important habitat to help ensure future wildlife abundance.

In Texas, efforts by anglers helped create protection of red drum and other aquatic resources from commercial over-harvest, as well as conservation of aquatic habitat such as seagrasses and the control of invasive exotic aquatic vegetation.

National Hunting and Fishing Day, formalized by Congress in 1971, was created by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to celebrate conservation successes of hunters and anglers. From shopping center exhibits to statewide expos, millions of citizens learned to appreciate America’s sportsman-based system of conservation funding. That system now generates more than $1.7 billion per year, benefiting all who appreciate wildlife and wild places.

McFaddin NWR Acreage, Duck Hunting Increases

McFaddin National Wildife Refuge (NWR) and other public lands are getting additional acreage as a result of money from duck stamp purchases. The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved $33.2 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to purchase, lease or otherwise conserve more than 81,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across the United States.

“The first Migratory Bird Treaty was signed 100 years ago as part of our commitment to protect and conserve North America’s treasured migratory bird species,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “The funding approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission is evidence that this commitment endures today as strongly as ever.”

Of the total funds approved by the commission, $21.5 million will be provided through North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants to conserve more than 68,000 acres of wetlands and adjoining areas in 19 states. NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. For a complete list of projects funded, go here.

To date, NAWCA funds have advanced conservation of 33.5 million acres of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 states and Canada, engaging more than 5,600 partners in more than 2,600 projects. NAWCA grants are funded through federal appropriations as well as fines, penalties and forfeitures collected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; from federal fuel excise taxes on small gasoline engines, as directed by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act; and from interest accrued on Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act funds. Grants made through this program require matching investments. The projects approved today will leverage an additional $51.7 million in matching funds.

The commission also approved expenditure of $11.7 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve more than 13,000 additional acres at four national wildlife refuges – McFaddin in Texas, Felsenthal in Arkansas, Lower Hatchie in Tennessee and Turnbull in Washington. The funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (Duck Stamps), which help provide habitat for wildlife and increased opportunities for refuge visitors who hunt, bird-watch, photograph and view wildlife.

“The sale of Duck Stamps continues to play a pivotal role in conserving our nation’s wildlife,” said Ashe. “Although required by those goose and duck hunting as an annual license, these stamps are also voluntarily purchased by birders, outdoor enthusiasts and fans of the National Wildlife Refuge System who understand the value of preserving some of the most diverse and important wildlife habitats in our nation. The money generated through Duck Stamp sales has been essential in helping maintain and grow this irreplaceable network that also provides all Americans with opportunities to get outside and experience nature.

For every dollar spent on federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents goes toward the acquisition or lease of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp Program and Migratory Bird Conservation Fund have provided more than $800 million to acquire more than 5.7 million acres for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Good news for Texas duck hunters and especially McFaddin NWR.

CWD in Texas Panhandle Mule Deer: Meetings Scheduled

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was found in a hunter-harvested mule deer last year in the Texas Panhandle. The next step is monitoring to determine the spread within the region. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), in partnership with Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has set two informational meetings to help educate landowners, hunters and the public in the Texas Panhandle about CWD management.

Meetings on CWD Regulations

CWD meetings are open to the public and will be held in:

  • Dalhart – Wednesday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m., Dallam County Courthouse, District Courtroom, 501 Denver Ave.
  • Amarillo – Thursday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m., Amarillo Public Library (Downtown Branch), 413 E 4th Ave.

During the meetings, aspects of new CWD regulations will be thoroughly explained including the establishment of CWD zones, mandatory sampling of hunter-harvested deer in the CWD zones and restriction of permitted deer movements to and from the CWD zones.

CWD Rules in Texas Panhandle

New rules banning importation of certain deer and elk carcass parts from states where the disease has been detected, as well as the movement of the same carcass parts from CWD zones within Texas, will also be covered.

The new rules developed by TPWD and TAHC are part of the state’s comprehensive CWD management plan to determine the prevalence and geographic extent of the disease and to contain the disease to the areas where it is known to exist.

For more information about CWD, CWD management and new CWD regulations.