It’s beginning to look a lot like trapping season

The thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner. As we do each thanksgivng season, we make our way back down to Bastrop TX.

For many years now, Ray and I have been working a project in Bastrop. The project focuses on studying the effects of catastrophic fire on wildlife. Our area of study is the remains of a Loblolly pine forest destroyed by fire. The regrowth has gotten so thick, it is hard to see a person just yards infront of me or to see fallen trees and sharp, protruding branches in the pathway.  This lack of sight and overgrowth leads to many falls resulting in a huge accumulation of scars and bruises.


After taking measurements, traps are reset and baited with oats. No animals are harmed in the traps!

These conditions coupled with the array of weather we’ve experienced while trapping  (tropical storms, heat and a case of hypothermia) leads us to refer to our time spent in Bastrop as “The Bastrop Beatdown!”

The name implies it all. Despite being in great shape, I never leave without bruises to show that I earned my keep. Ray as well as the other volunteers show similar markings.


Each time I venture into the park, I go in with the expectation of high numbers of rodents ( in the hundreds) that we will collect data on, some out of the blue weather event and of course new film.


Ray with a Peromyscus



Jessie with a Cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus)

It was at Bastrop several years ago, that a late night jaunt post trapping, to a pond, lead to Ray and I finding the endangered Houston Toads calling in amplexus, for the first time in years. You can watch our short PBS segment over the Houston toads here. Since then, there haven’t been any reports in the park of Houston Toads calling in such high numbers.

Last trip, we caught a Southern flying squirrel in one of our live traps! Proof that you will truly never know what you will find or film when in Bastrop.

We depart this Thursday to Bastrop so be sure to keep an eye out on this blog and on social media for what we find and the new cuts and bruises we acquire.

-Jessie Story

I am an animal.

    Being called an animal is often a derogatory term; hardly.  The other options aren’t that appealing and include plants and fungi.  As a wildlife professor, it’s part of my job to make sure my students know that we humans are in the kingdom Animalia.  But the separation of our species from our wild relatives is of course relatively recent in terms of the time Homo sapiens have been bi-pedaling around the planet.  Yet this change is well entrenched.
    I have spent my entire life in the outdoors in one form or another.  As a kid, I was a nature nut and my adult life includes 4 years in the infantry (which turns out to be very much an outdoor undertaking) with the remainder spent as a wildlife biologist.  I’m 48 now and have what I would consider great balance and the ability to keep up with my 20-something students over most terrain.  I attribute this to my life outdoors (it certainly isn’t because of my exercising).
    I was answering some basic medical questions the other day when the nurse asked me when the last time I had fallen.  I told her I had no idea, I fall all the time.  Wrong answer.  Apparently, in adults, falling is actually a health concern.  I chuckled and explained what I did for a living.  I explained that caves get slippery, I like walking on downed logs to test my balance, I’m in streams all the time and so on.  She told me, when asked in the future, to say I didn’t fall.
    Times like these bring awareness to just how different we wildlife types (you know who you are) are from the civilized world, where falling is prohibited.  For the most part, I come out of my falls looking pretty good.  I’ve never broken a bone o had a serious injury.  Lucky perhaps but I’d like to give some credit where credit is due, to time in the outdoors.
    Again, it’s been a relative blink of the eye that our species have lived in such a level, well lit, non-slip environment.  There is little to challenge our balance or to make us pay attention to where we place our feet.  No strengthening of the joints and muscles from uneven terrain, no leg lifts over downed logs or need to limbo under low limbs.  Walking in the field is not like walking in the civilized world.

    I won’t follow the nurse’s advice, I’m proud of the fact that at 48, I still tend to roll out of many falls looking pretty cool (and have been able to walk away from all).  Time in nature folks, that’s good for what ails you.  Just watch Jessie’s field-honed skills I happened to capture as we headed back to the truck from a cave we explored.  Take notes on her style, you can’t teach this stuff!


We’re guest hosting Big Bend National Park’s Instagram Account!

We are honored to have the opportunity to guest host BIGBENDNPS instagram page all weekend (thanks Aaron)!  You can bet that while the cats away the mice will play.  We’ll be posting pictures and video from the region.  Expect to see rare bats, beautiful snakes, birds, landscapes and more.  Garanteed to make you want to take a spur of the moment road trip southwest!

-Ray & Jessie


Listen to Texas Wild on “PM in the AM” radio show!

Recently, I, Jessie Story, was invited onto KWTS 91.1, West Texas A&M University’s very own radio station. I shed some light on my life as a full time 4.0 GPA graduate student and full time wildlife filmmaker.

Payton and Malcolm certainly make it easy to be yourself infront of the mics while providing plenty of laughs. Listen to the link below to hear a few stories from my days filming wildlife including getting wacked by a beaver while swimming with alligators, me dishing on Ray’s barefoot teaching theories and where I see the show in the future.

Listen in as one of the DJ’s, Payton, opens up about bats drinking from a
pool while he was swimming and his preference to not be near a snake, or see a snake, or look at a snake. . .

Payton Northrup and Malcolm Montgomery of PM in the AM wake you up at 7am and keep you glued to your radio until 9.

Visit, WTMobile app, or tune your FM dial to 91.1.