Predators galore in the Panhandle

Wow, yesterday was quite a day and as a result, I wasn’t able to get a post up.  But I gathered a lot of media and was processing until midnight when I fell asleep at the computer. First, the day started with a great call from Jim Ray, wildlife biologist for PANTEX, letting us know that my graduate student Lena had captured a new bobcat as part of her thesis research.  Her project is examining a population of bobcats on and around PANTEX to study their use of PANTEX and the shortgrass habitat that usually isn’t considered good habitat for them.  We gathered our equipment and met Jim at the capture site to “work up” the cat.  By this, I mean we anestethize the cat, examine its health, sex, size, etc., and ear-tag, pit tag, and attach a collar-mounted telemetry collar that provides locations of the bobcat every 6 hours.  I videoed this process and am working to edit and post this video.  Please be patient with me as this is the most complex and lengthy video edit for me to date and I have a great start.  I am integrating video from a tripod-mounted camera and wore my GoPro2 on a head band to take you with us up close as we handle the bobcat.  Jim also provided access to a prairie rattlesnake and a Texas horned lizard so I have video of these beatuiful animals too!  WTAMU has been researching various species on PANTEX for over 10 years as part of their very active wildlife management program.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Jim Ray and PANTEX for all of their support, both financial and in terms of all the time Jim spends in the field in support of our student’s research projects.  Don’t feel too bad for Jim, he has a lot more work to do as because he assists us but he gets to see all the amazing wildlife up-close and personal.  You’d be amazed at all the wildlife on what Jim calls “the world’s most secure wildlife management area”.

I was working on video edits when a strong thunderstorm rolled through the area and forced me out in field to see what the rain had moving in the area.  I was accompanied by Melissa and Lena and our first stop was South East Park in Canyon.  The birds were loving the water, or rather, all the food it made available.  Ducks and a variety of other birds were feeding in and around the flooded grassy areas, likely gobbling up insects and other invertebrates forced out of hiding by the down pour.  Predictably, we headed to Palo Duro Canyon next.  We drove to the back of the park to again watch the turkey vultures gracefully sore into their roost while we waited for dark.  The sore gracefully but this grace often disapears when they attempt to land on the small branches of a large cottonwood!  From our vantage point above the trees, Melissa spotted a group of feral pigs on the flats below us with the thermal camera.  We then hit the roads with the thermal camera and flash lights after dark.  It didn’t appear that the park received as much rain as the city of Canyon, and as a result, the amphibians weren’t as diverse as I had hoped.  However, the red spotted toads were everywhere on the roads and we also saw a lepoard frog and a bullfrog (my first in the canyon – good eyes Lena).  We stopped at the wildlife viewing blind on our way out and could hear raccoons fighting over access to the feed.  I can imagine this scream-like sound has frightened a fair number of people enjoying the outdoors at night and has probably been mistaken for everything from moutain lions to bigfoot.  We headed home about 10:30, exhausted, but what a day with wildlife in the Panhandle!  We live in some amazing country, get out and enjoy it – and take your children out and help them to learn to enjoy and appreciate it as well.

I’m trying to decide where to go today, maybe Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  Tune in to find out what I decide and what new adventure I’ll have in the Panhandle.

4 thoughts on “Predators galore in the Panhandle

  1. These were really fun frogs to play with but boy were they slick trying to jump all over the place… especially when they think they are going to be photographed… lol

  2. I’ve yet to see a bull frog in Palo Duro. Lots and lots of red spotteds, some spadefoots, and gobs of Woodhouse’s.

    Have you ever seen Acris or tiger sallies around South East City Park? I keep thinking they’ve gotta be there but I’ve never seen either of those there.

    • No to both of those Paul. I heard Acris at Caprock Canyons last weekend. I’ve only seen tiger salamanders crossing roads aroud playas after heavy rains and seined them out of fishless ponds. I have found a couple in a small cave in Armstrong County. We did see a very nice plain bellied water snake last week in South East Park. It probably won’t be long until someone kills it thinking it is a cottonmouth.

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