Texas Winter Storm: The Aftermath on Wildlife

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Winter came at full force mid February in Texas. Winter storm “Uri” set record low subfreezing temperatures through out the Lone Star State shutting down almost the entire state, closing business, parks, and roadways. Many Texans were left days without power resulting in residents loss of food as well as local grocery stores being forced to seize all sales of frozen and dairy goods due to lack of storage temperature. Not only did the winter storm leave many Texans without resources, it also made a devastating impact on local wildlife.

TPWD (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department) has seen an alarming increase in wildlife deaths the past few days following winter storm “Uri.” Multiple waterfowl species along with domestic birds have been effected due to food sources covered over by ice and snow and also wetlands freezing through out the state. Research will continue to over see the long term effects of the storm, although the effects may not be know for some time.

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One of the most effected areas happened below the surface. Along the Texas coast many aquatic species perished during the storm, recreational and non-recreational species both suffered a loss. Some recreational species that were impacted include red drum, spotted seatrout, grey snapper, black drum and more. Other Non-recreational species such as silver perch, pinfish, and gulf menhaden also saw a significant loss. Areas most affected include Galveston Bay, San Antonio Bay, and Corpus Christi Bay.

Above the surface a successful rescue mission conducted by TPWD and Game Wardens took place to assist fatigued sea turtles who, during colder temperatures experience a “Cold Stun” leaving them almost too fatigued to move out to deeper waters due to colder temperatures. Local anglers also took initiative on assisting the rescue of the sea turtles utilizing their own boats. All Sea Turtles were eventually safely returned to their habitat after a speedy recovery.

Fish and fowl weren’t the only ones seen affected by the storm. South Texas took a big loss of free range exotic species such as axis deer, nilgai, blackbuck and others. Due to lack of vegetation, these free range African and India native specie’s ability to comprehend such cold temperatures is close to non existent resulting in increased mortality rates through out the South Texas Hill Country. Other game such as Texas’s Whitetail and coyote populations has seen little to no effects being that they are able to better adapt to extreme conditions.

Over the next several weeks TPWD along with Texas Game Wardens will continue to survey and record the impact of “historic weather events” on wildlife in the Lone Star State. It is no question that the team effort from TWPD, Game wardens and local outfitters, guides, hunters & anglers really came together to research and recover the effected wildlife of the winter storm. They (TPWD) continue to ask the public’s help over the next several weeks to report any leads and information regarding any deceased or affected wildlife.

As a hunter and angler myself, it has been without a doubt a gut wrenching feeling seeing the wildlife impacted by this storm. But I can’t help but to see thought to the positive and recognize those outdoorsmen and women who took initiative not only assisting in research and recovery but also those who offered a helping hand to their neighbor who may have been in need. As a community we outdoorsmen tend to give each other a hard time with the controversial spot n stalkers vs tree stand hunters, big game hunters vs waterfowlers, bass fishermen vs. fly fishermen. No matter your passion, it comes to mind that without a doubt we can always depend on each other when in hard times. If you have meat in the freezer, offer it. If you have spare water, offer it. If you have time, offer it. That small cut of meat, that single bottle of water or that simple helping hand can change someones world forever. It’s safe to say that even in modern times, hunters & anglers are needed now more than ever.

Jason Luna

My hope is to reach out to our future generations to pass on the tradition and honor of the harvest with the same caring hand that passed it down to us. I hope to help shape our image as outdoorsmen and women not as blood thirsty hunters that are after every animal in the woods, but as harvesters that honor wildlife and that are passionate about fair chase, ethical hunting and fishing, for those hunters and anglers that live the tradition of the harvest. I hope to inspire others to be that small piece of this big pie known as conservation to take part in caring for the wildlife we admire, the land we know, and the outdoors we love.

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