About Texas Wild

This blog details our adventures as wildlife photographers and filmmakers. Follow Jessie Story and I as we film our upcoming wildlife series on PBS!

A slight mishap with a 150 gram cotton rat

For 3 years Ray and I have been studying the effects of catastrophic fire on small mammal populations in Bastrop State Park. The small mammal populations referred to are rodents although we’ve gotten plenty of unexpected animals in our live traps.

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White-footed mouse

Ray has been working with small  mammals for 20 or more years now.
In fact, he can work up, that is record the weight, sex, take measurements and identify species, of one rodent in less than 30 seconds. In a project where the number of rodents worked up is variable, a fast set of hands from both crew members is imperative. The numbers of small mammals worked up has varied dramatically since the start of the project. We’ve seen fluctuations in the numbers of rodents captured in a day range from a handful to several hundred, often with multiple rodents in one live-trap.

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Baiting the sample lines

Despite the high numbers of feisty rodents, Ray has an uncanny ability to avoid bites, especially those from hispid cotton rats. Cotton rats put up a fight and pack a punch!

These aforementioned reasons are the cause of my elations. I cannot help but feel joy about the fact that Ray, not only got nailed by a cottonrat but managed to have this mishap infront of the camera.

https://youtu.be/5WTwTkYtOMI

It’s tradition that before weighting any rodents, Ray always calls out an estimation of the rodents weight. Normally, Ray is 99% correct when calling weight before the workup however, as fate would have it, he underestimated the weight.

A rat bite and a misjudgment on camera? Talk about the cherry on top of the cake.

(Note: as crew members, we compete to see who’s mad skills reign supreme. I usually don’t beat the old man much but I hold my own).

– Jessie

Wildlife as art

We are very excited to announce that our “Characters of the Lone Star State ” photography and video exhibit in the Cornette Library was well received.

We are honored to be invited back for an encore. The exhibit, which first displayed in January, will come down today but will be back on display March 31st through new student orientations over the summer!  We’ll spice things up this next time with new videos so come on back!

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Ray and I would like to thank everyone who has supported our work. We have been overwhelmed by the compliments, press and the turn out for the reception.

Special thanks to Zip Prints for their professional service, advice, patience and ability to make-it-happen-last-minute because Ray and I forgot something.

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Big thanks goes out to Buffs Haley Matlack, Keli Lee and Ray for their help at the reception.

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A heartfelt thanks to my parents (J and D Story) for coming to Ray’s rescue for the hanging of the art in my absence. I had a panty hose failure that lead to a wardrobe change and thus a late arrival (no one said being long-legged was easy).

Thanks is also given to Frank Garcia from WTAMU’s Informational Technology for making the electronics run without a glitch.

Last but not least, Mary Jarvis, Friends of the Cornette Library, Rana Mcdonald, WTTV,  Niaola Hopkins of The Canyon News, all of the WT faculty and students who came to the exhibit and our supporters from our community.

We will continue to push the envelope  of wildlife education. Art is just another medium through which wildlife can be understood and appreciated!

– Jessie & Ray

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My wolf Charlie

Dogs descended from wolves through artificial selection (humans choosing for certain traits) of wolf genes by select breedings.  It is important to realize that the overwhelming variety of traits we see in dogs today were present in their wolf ancestors. In other words, we did not create new genes to produce dogs, rather selected from those present in wolves. Our ancestors did this to enhance certain physical and behavioral traits.  These protodogs and
our ancestors altered each others genetics forever when wolves and humans entered into our deal that led to domestication of wolves to dogs.  

The original signatories of our deal were likely just tolerant of the other, but with time, the benefits of our deal became clear.  Wolves that were by chance and circumstance more inclined to spend time near us some 10 or 12 thousand years ago were those affected by the deal.  Likewise, on the human side, those that happened to be inclined to interact with wolves that were certainly ever present at our kill sites to pick our scraps were the ones to benefit from our deal.

Today the wild wolves of the northern hemisphere still roam but their numbers and influence is limited compared to those whose ancestors took the road less traveled.  Dogs have spread right round the globe at the side of humans and their numbers grew to a whopping 525 million on our planet.  In the US we spend over 40 billion dollars per year just to feed our wolves.

My wolf Charlie is one of a good number of wolves to have graced my presence and she is a gem.  Her ancestry is unknown but morphology indicates significant influence of dachshund.  Her coat is long and flowing and she stands 11″ at the shoulder, she’s 36″ long and weighs 14 pounds.

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Charlie barreling through the dewy morning grasslands

Many characteristics of course are still shared between Charlie and her deal-making ancestors, 12,000 years not being long enough to effect too drastic a change.  But Charlie looks more like the cross between a fox and an otter than gray wolf.  Despite these differences she upholds her end of the deal in many ways.

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For humans, the deal provided the vigilance of a wolf for our security and the ferocity of these animals for defense (or offense) and protection.  At 14 pounds, Charlie’s strength is vigilance.  They helped our ancestors hunt and were rewarded with a portion of the kill.

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Charlie voicing displeasure at being left at the truck

But our bond with dogs is more than a simple give and take of resources.  We have become codependent in ways I’m not sure we have the ability to explain.  Dogs decrease our stress and increase our life expectancy so in their absence we seem to function below our maximum abilities.

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Charlie girl no doubt upholds her end of the deal more as a companion and counselor then as defender.  That said, I’ve seen her jump over me from a dead sleep, with no hesitation, to attack a perceived threat!  Jessie was just telling me it was time to film but I have no doubt had that not been the case, my wolf was ready to protect me and uphold her end of the deal.  On my end, I’ll love, care and protect her with all I have.  A deal, after all, is a deal.

– Ray
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Bees in a camper

Quite an interesting phenomenon has occurred at several film locations where we’ve camped. Campers left sitting at various parks and refuges have become occupied by bee colonies. Many of these “bee campers” have been right alongside or near our camper.

The residents build and maintain their hive inside campers by entering through the electical cable and then spread throughout the camper.

http://youtu.be/ZZJttLQLqBU

We always enjoy such a find and of course, use it as an opportunity to capture some film.

Caution is taken when filming a hive. We do hope these pollinators never find their way up our electrical cord and inside our humble abode on the road.

– Jessie