Hello all and welcome to my first attempt at blogging. I am currently an associate professor of wildlife biology at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU or WT) and have been an avid wildlife watcher and outdoors enthuiast my whole life. I grew up in Florida and loved all the water. I remember getting off the bus in elementary school and rushing home to put on cut-offs and my creek shoes. I would head to Gee Creek and wade up stream catching snakes, turtles, and anything else I could get my hands on. Later, one of my favorite places to explore was the area where Gee Creek and several other streams emptied into Lake Jessup. Jessup has always been known for its large alligator population and it was larger when I explored it than it is currently (421 alligators per linear mile of shoreline according to a 2012 article in the Orlando Sentinal). Despite the large number of large alligators observed, I never felt threatened (except when I tried to touch a basking 8-footer on the tail -- he opened his eyes and raised his head when I was about a foot from touching him. We both quickly agreed this was a bad idea and I backed away and left him in his sunny spot on my trail out of the swamp). I loved this area for many reasons but especially for the fact that once you crossed the wide slough created by the creeks, you found a world devoid of people and a taste of old Florida.
Following high school, I enlisted as an infantryman in the Army. I served from 1986-1990 and was stationed in Georgia for Basic and Advanced Infantry Training and Airborne School. The first 5 times I ever left the eastern time zone I landed by parachute at a drop zone in Alabama. For that matter, I had only been in a large plane one time prior to airborne school and that was my flight from Tampa to Atlanta for Basic Training. Out of my first 6 flights in large airplanes, I only landed with the plane 1 time.
Following the Army, I enrolled at Kansas State University where I received my B.S. in wildlife biology. I followed this with a Masters in Biology where my research focused on swift foxes in western Kansas, and a Ph.D. where I studied factors that influenced the spatial and temporal variation in abundance of short-tailed shrews (one of only a few venomous mammals). In addition to going to school in Kansas, I learned to love the prairie there and spent a lot of time traveling around the state exploring.
My next stop was Wooster Ohio where I worked for a year as a visiting assistant professor. There were great students there and despite my preconceived notions, Ohio was quite nice. I still miss the amphibian migrations that occur during the first warm rains in spring.
I then was offered the job at WTAMU where I have been since 2002. WTAMU is located in the panhandle of Texas in the city of Canyon (just south of Amarillo). At about 3,500' in elevation, Canyon sits atop the southern High Plains and can be very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter (blizzards, etc.). I have been fortunate to travel to most of Texas and to almost all of the states in the US.
My reason for starting this blog is to share with you the wonderful wildlife we have in the panhandle, the state, and our own country. I believe that through knowledge comes appreciation and hope to do my best to share my knowledge and enthuiasm for all things wild!
By the way, this is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.
This past weekend Texas Wild made their way down to Quitaque to mist net for bats at Clarity Tunnel. Thought the trip didn’t quite go the way we planned, forgetting keys and sick crew members, we still persevered! Due to the lack of keys, the mist net location was moved into Caprock Canyon, more specifically a river bed just below our camp site, where we netted two species of bat, the Pallid and Canyon. As per usual standard operating procedure we camp without a tent and enjoyed a night filled with bats, a mesquite fire and heavy heavy dew…. we hope you enjoy this short video giving you a brief view into a night well spent!
It’s hard to believe that with such a heavy work load, I manage everything on my plate. I am proud to say that I, alongside Professor Raymond Matlack, was asked to present at this month’s Student Service Division breakfast —— to showcase our work with Texas Wild. It was a bigger turn out than I expected – with welcoming personalities adding up to an overall delightful experience. To be asked to be a part of an event like that for our university is in my book, BIG, very BIG. Most people don’t know or forget that I am still an undergrad, just someone who has worked themselves to the bone (as well as Raymond Matlack) to have something to call my own. To be recognized alongside Raymond Matlack, a WT professor is something I cannot let go unnoticed. It is a rarity to be recognized by an organization such as that one, let along asked to present as a student. I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to Linda Washington and the Student Service Division who not only welcome me but gave me their morning. Working with Ray has been an indescribable experience one I do not under appreciate or take for granted. I recently had a young lady come up to me at WT and speak with me about Texas Wild’s on goings and the presentation we gave. I was dumbfounded and flattered to be approached by anyone who recognizes our work and follows our doings. Special thanks to all of you for supporting and aiding Ray and I along our way.
Texas Wild is taking the show on the road again. This time we’re traveling across campus to present at the breakfast meeting of the Student Affairs Division. Thanks to Linda Washington for the invite. It doesn’t take much to get TW to share our excitement about wildlife but you certainly had us at free breakfast.
This video captured by Texas Wild, introduces you to the Ant-Lion. An insect that is quite common, but not easily recognized due to its changing appearance during each stage of its life cycle. The Ant-Lion begins as a larvae, also known as doodlebugs, that create a cone shaped pit for prey capture. The larvae builds the pit by crawling backwards throwing out sand by tossing its head back. The name doodlebugs comes from the marks left in the sand from the larvae as its crawls through the sand looking for a location to dig its pit. Once in the pit, the larvae burrows down to the bottom and waits for prey to crawl by. The sides of the pit are constructed to the verge of collapse, making it almost impossible for the prey to crawl out once they have slide down into the pit. The size of prey will increases as the larvae matures. The larvae will build larger pits in order to accommodate large prey size. The larvae will mature into an adult ant lion, after emerging from a cocoon made of sand.
This is a snapping turtle film at Bastrop State Park by the Texas Wild crew, enjoy the video as we take you up close and personal with this powerful creature as it demonstrates its best defensive move.
Ray Matlack & Jessie Story had the experience of getting to be up close and personal with Aoudad this October. Here is some footage of the Texas Wild crew walking among them…. This is not a captive herd.
This is a brief look into the latest bat cave Texas Wild filmed. We would like to thank our friends (Hi and the gang, you know who you are) for letting come down to south Texas and explore your land, film your bats, cliff swallows and of course, Walker. Best Wishes!
On Saturday November 2, Texas Wilds’ Ray Matlack and members of Texas Master Naturalists joined together to spend a day dedicated to furthering their education on mammals. Ray Matlack and the group members spent the morning learning the basics of setting a live trap, running traps, and interacting with common urban wildlife. Ray then spent the afternoon lecturing on mammals, briefing the group on topics such as characteristics, dentition, different orders, reproduction and behaviors. Our thanks goes out the the members of Saturdays event. Texas Wild is more than appreciative of such a great group giving us a few hours of their time. We too, learned a lot.
These are Sandhill cranes, one of Texas Wilds favorite birds. Filmed in Bosque Del Apache New Mexico and Muleshoe, Texas.This video was specifically put together for Raymond Matlack to use in his lectures. Texas Wild hopes you enjoy the sights and sounds of these magnificent birds as much as we do.