Category Archives: Parks & Wildlife

Black-capped Vireo to be delisted from endangered species roll


As reported recently by the Texas Farm Bureau, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to delist the Black-Capped Vireo from the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to a recovery.

The songbird species, native to only Texas, Oklahoma and the northernmost regions of Mexico, was listed in 1987 as endangered because of the loss of habitat range due in part to goat and other herd grazing, as well as significant nest parasitism from brown-headed cowbirds. Between 1987-2012, however, the available habitat range increased 17 percent due to a 47 percent decrease in goat population, as well as a decrease in brown-headed cowbird population in the area because of trapping by conservation groups. The vireo’s numbers have increased significantly during this time, citing as many as 14,000 male vireos in Texas in 2014 compared to as low as 350 in 1987.

Due to this significant increase in population, the USFWS has decided to propose that the vireo no longer be classified as “endangered” under the ESA. The USFWS also factored in the vireo’s increased population in northern Mexico in its decision because of the migratory habits of the birds across the region.

Some groups have expressed fear that, once the vireo is delisted, commercial activity in its habitat will increase and leave the songbird back at square one. There is also concern that conservation groups will ease trapping efforts on the brown-headed cowbirds or that the herds will return and the habitat range will once again be negatively impacted.

On the other hand, these birds live in the habitat range of several other species listed on the ESA, so their habitat will effectively be quasi-protected. In addition, the vireo will still be protected under the Migratory Bird Act, therefore prohibiting the “taking” of the birds to any place outside of its habitat range.

Since 1973, 38 different plant and animal species have been delisted. Among those, reports Michael Bean of the Austin American-Statesman, are five species from the Lone Star State. These include the nation’s symbol, the American bald eagle, as well as the brown pelican and the American peregrine falcon, all three of which have made dramatic gains after suffering decades of decline. The American alligator and a Texas wildflower known as Johnston’s frankenia have also recovered and been delisted. The northern aplomado falcon, after an absence of more than half a century, has been restored to the Texas coast. After a brush with extinction, the whooping crane is also making a steady comeback – and drawing lots of tourists to the Texas coast to see it.

The USFWS is accepting comments on this proposal until February 13, 2017. You can submit comments in one of the following ways:

(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Search box, enter FWS-R2-ES-2016-0110, the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”

(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS – R2-ES-2016-0110
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803

Texas dove hunters enjoying longer season in 2016

Photo credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife
While September 1 marked the first day of dove season in Texas, Texas wing shooters will get to enjoy both the longest dove season in the Lone Star State in 80 years, as well as better odds.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department reports that this year’s dove population is soaring, due to the continuation of wet weather conditions for a second year in a row. That news, coupled with a new 90-day season this fall means hunters will have 20 more days of opportunity compared with previous years. Texas Parks & Wildlife is integrating those additional days early in the season to take advantage of mourning dove migrations into the state, as well as at the end of the season in the Special White-winged Dove Area to offer more bird hunting days.

“Hunters will now be able to take advantage of those northern birds riding early November cool fronts into Texas, without sacrificing days of opportunity early in the season,” said Dave Morrison, TPWD Small Game Program Director. “We’ve also tacked on extra days to the back end of the season in late January when South Texas prospects are still pretty solid. It’s a win-win for dove hunters.”

As reported by Lynn Burkhead of The Durant Democrat, many of these hunters along the Red River are now on the lookout for one of the two primary types of feeding areas that doves are known to frequent. The first is agricultural fields containing staples such as leftover wheat stubble, especially early on in the season, along with sorghum and corn.

The second type of spot that hunters should be looking for are locations that include natural food resources like native seed-bearing plants including sunflowers and croton.

What you need to know

Dove season in the North Zone runs:

Sept. 1 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 1, 2017

Central Zone from Sept. 1 – Nov. 6 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 8, 2017

South Zone from Sept. 23 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 17 – Jan. 23, 2017.

The daily bag limit for doves statewide is 15 and the possession limit 45.

In the Special White-winged Dove Area, the season runs Sept. 3-4, 10-11, Sept. 23 – Nov. 9, Dec. 17 – Jan. 23, 2017. During the early two weekends in the Special White-winged Dove Area, hunting is allowed only in the afternoon and the daily bag limit is 15 birds, to include not more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped doves. During the general season opens, the aggregate bag limit is 15 with no more than two white-tipped doves.

Shannon Tompkins of The Houston Chronicle reiterates the importance of following all dove hunting regulations before heading afield this season. Texas’ 500-plus game wardens will be afield, too. Over the years, wardens report the same regulations violations leading the list of dove hunters they check.

These violations include:

No hunting license. Texas’ hunting/fishing license year begins Sept. 1. Dove hunters are required to have a Texas migratory game bird stamp endorsement ($7 if purchased separately, included with super-combo license) and have their licenses indicate they have been certified as signed up under the federal Harvest Information Program.

No hunter education certification. In Texas, hunters born Sept. 2, 1971, or later are required to have taken and passed a state-approved hunter education course before hunting. There are exceptions, including the ability to purchase a one-time deferral.

No plug in shotgun. Federal migratory game bird-hunting regulations require shotguns used to hunt migratory game birds be limited to holding no more than three shotshells. That doesn’t mean a hunter with an “unplugged” shotgun can be legal by loading only three shells. If the shotgun can hold more than three shells, it’s a ticket.

Commingling birds. Federal regulations require all hunters have personal possession of the birds they take. No putting all birds in one pile. Each hunter is responsible for keeping possession of each dove taken.

Over-bagging. Poaching, really. Despite the liberal daily bag limit for doves (15) some people can’t abide by the law and take more than their daily limit. This also includes “double-bagging,” where a shooter takes a limit of doves on a morning hunt, then returns to the field that afternoon and takes more birds. That’s a big ticket.