Texas The regions and wildlife found in Texas.
Texas is filled with a wide variety of animals, insects, flora, reptiles and amphib-ians.
Texas is naturally divided into several sections. These areas are different habitats, or environments, where different things prefer to live.
The Big Bend area is located on the very western tip of Texas. It is red on the map.
The Big Bend is part of a dry desert. It also has mountains. Most of the Big Bend area is a desert with less than 10 inches of rain annually! Only the hardiest of plants can grow in this dry climate. For protection and survival, many of the plants have spines, thorns, or poisonous leaves to keep animals from eating them. Animals have adapted to the hot, dry climate by seeking shade during the hottest parts of the day and coming out to eat and hunt only at dusk when it is relatively cool
Big Bend Country is a region of extremes. The desert is dry and hot in the day and cool at night. Plants and animals are adapted for the desert. The mountains provide cold weather in the winter, where on occasion it even snows. Forests grow on the slopes. The slopes of these mountains can grow trees because the high, cooler mountain tops cause precipitation to fall from clouds moving over the peaks. The Rio Grande River runs along the southern part of the Big Bend Country. It forms the border between Texas and Mexico. The Rio Grande is one of the longest rivers in North America. This region is called "Big Bend" because the Rio Grande River turns here in a big bend.
Many people come to this part of Texas to see its mountains. The three highest mountain ranges are the Guadalupe Mountains, Davis Mountains and Chisos Mountains.
Long ago, the Indians who lived in the Big Bend country of Texas painted pictures on the walls of caves. They painted shapes, people, and animals.
Roadrunners live in the Big Bend area of Texas. Roadrunners are birds that run very fast. Mostly they eat insects and small animals, such as mice and gophers, but roadrunners are also fast enough to catch and eat rattlesnakes!
The Big Bend area also has Tarantulas. They are big, hairy spiders. They have 8 eyes! Some tarantulas have lived 20 years. Although they look scary, a bite is rare and not harmful to humans.
The coyote is a nocturnal animal that howls at night. About the size of a small German shepherd dog, it is usually gray or buff in color, with yellow eyes, erect ears and a bushy, black-tipped tail. This intelligent animal has a keen sense of hearing, sight, and smell. Coyotes will eat almost anything, but they particularly like rabbits and rodents. They use abandoned dens or natural holes or “cavities” as their dens.
Mountain lions are slender and tawny brown in color with a smallish head. The mountain lion is usually 3-4 feet in length with a tail almost as long as its body! Mountain lions live alone and eat meat, such as deer, wild hogs, rabbits, and rodents. They are found throughout the Big Bend Region. Mountain lions are also called cougars, pumas, and panthers.
Lechuguilla is a hardy desert plant. This shrub has yellow- green leaves with purplish to yellow flowers. Once it flowers, the plant dies. All of the plant’s nutrients stored over the years are used in the process of creating a tall stem with blooms at the top, which causes it to die after blooming. The roots of the plant are eaten by deer and javelin but are poisonous to cattle. Native peoples long ago made twine, baskets, and sandals from the fibers of these plants. The center or “heart” of the plant was roasted and eaten. The plant has adapted to the dry environment by storing water in its thick “succulent” (juicy) leaves.
Javelina travel in small herds or "family groups" and are found in the Big Bend desert area. In the winter, they are generally active in the early morning and late afternoon. Javelina are largely nocturnal during the hotter times of the year. They feed primarily on cacti (particularly prickly pear), mesquite beans, lechuguilla, sotol, mast, fruits, and insects. They generally will not run from humans, and are known for being ferocious, willing to bite both humans and dogs. Javalina’s cannot see well.
The National Park Service estimates there are 8 to 12 adult black bears living in Big Bend National Park, located in southern Texas along a bend in the Rio Grande. This population indicates a return of the black bear to the Chisos Mountains, absent since the formation of the park.
There are a reported 75 species of mammals in Big Bend National Park, and another six are suspected to reside there. Most of the mammals are nocturnal due to the extreme heat of the day. Common mammals include deer, shrews, moles, bats, javelina, bobcats, pigs, mountain lion, fox and coyote, to just name a few.
Gray Foxes can also be found in the Big Bend Country. They are the only foxes that can climb trees. The eat mice, voles, rabbits, birds, field mice, insects, fruits and vegetables.
The weasel is found in the desert of Big Bend Country. Even though weasels are small, they are extremely quick. They move across swiftly and are master predators. They make no sound, and approach their prey quietly, pouncing on it after getting in range. Weasels do not hibernate and are therefore active during summer as well as winter seasons. They are also known to be nocturnal.
Badgers are incredibly strong for their size, and the world’s fastest diggers. They all prefer sandy, porous soil and dig extensive tunnels and burrows which are called setts. The American Badger of Big Bend Country is the most carnivorous of the species, using their stellar digging skills to unearth chipmunks, ground hogs and rabbits. They have even been known to eat rattlesnakes and, during the winter, will feed on dead animals.
The Mule Deer received its name from it’s large ears that look almost just like a mule (a type of horse with big ears). With each bound, mule deer may jump as high as 2 feet and as far as 15 feet. Mule deer can run at speeds of up to 40 mph for short distances. The average distance mule deer travel when startled is about 900 meters, although they may go up to 4 miles before stopping.
A White tail deer uses it's tail to communicate with other deer. If a deer senses danger it will raise it's tail as well as stomp the ground and snort by blowing air through it's nostrils. Whitetail deer get their names from the white hair growing on the underside of their tail and belly. A deer's powerful legs allow it to run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and jump fences up to 9 feet tall.
The Big Bend area have Elk, although their numbers are small. Elk have been hunted for generations. American Indians• Hunted elk for food• Used hides for clothing and blankets• Fashioned bones and antlers into tools• Decorated garments with ivories, or traded them for goodsLewis and Clark• The Corps of Discover killed and ate at least 375 elk during the Lewis and Clark Expedition• Each man consumed roughly eight pounds of meat daily• They used elk hides for clothing, moccasins, blankets, ropes, patching canoes and to cover gear
The pronghorn antelope once roamed across two-thirds of the state. You can still see them in parts of Texas, but recently there's been trouble on the range. Pronghorn populations have experienced a sharp decline in the Big Bend region and scientists aren't sure why. One clue may be a tiny stomach worm showing up in record numbers in West Texas pronghorn antelopes. They're teaming up with landowners and hunters to solve the mystery of the disappearing longhorn.
Bighorn sheep, with their thick, gnarled gray horns, once roamed the rugged mountains of northern Mexico and far West Texas. Unregulated hunting and disease carried by domestic and exotic livestock obliterated their numbers. By 1960 they were gone. In recent years, though, they've made a comeback. In 2010, 46 bighorns were relocated over two days from Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area south of Alpine to the Bofecillos Mountains along the Rio Grande at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Five species of skunks are found in Texas, but you probably won't ever meet one kind – the hooded skunk – unless you live in the Big Bend region. A litter of from one to seven young, averaging five, is born from late April to early June. An individual's territory may span 30 to 40 acres. In the wild, skunks tend to den in shallow burrows or hollow logs. They are hardly ever found more than two miles from a water source. Skunks are generally nocturnal and begin foraging at sunset. Skunks are omnivorous and help keep the rodent population in check. They often travel five to ten miles within their territory at night looking for field mice and other small rodents as well as lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, garbage, acorns, and fallen fruit. They also dig for insects, especially beetles, larvae, and earthworms. Their diet includes black widow spiders and scorpions. Skunks eat 70% of insects harmful to humans!
Big Bend is home to an amazing array of lizards! Twenty-two species to be exact. Why are lizards important? What is their role in this ecosystem? Most of the lizards here, are found in the diet of many other creatures. Lizards are the main prey item for roadrunners, one of Big Bend’s most popular birds. They help regulate the populations of other animals here, particularly insects, by feeding upon them. This is a picture of a Southwestern Earless Lizard
Creepy features of scorpions include the pincers which are used for feeding purposes only, and of course the stinger which injects the venom used to kill prey. Whether it is the pinching or the stinging, we should not feel threatened at all. The truth is, a scorpion would never actually attack a human. A sting is painful, much like a honeybee, but may also cause a tingling sensation throughout the body as nerve endings react to the witch’s brew of chemicals in the venom. Deadly to insects, the venom causes only discomfort in larger creatures. Many scorpion predators, including coyotes, owls, snakes, bats, and hawks might eat a lot more of them if they didn’t have to face a possible sting.
Velvet Mite are common in the Big Bend desert area, and many other areas of Texas. They are related to spiders. We believe that they must not taste good, because ants and other insects do not eat them. They like to come out after it rains, and do not harm humans.
The Texas Kangaroo Rat is rare and is listed as a threatened species by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. They live in underground dens with the entrance at the base or roots of a small mesquite tree. They make trails to their burrows. Texas Kangaroo Rats are highly nocturnal, only coming out when it is completely dark. The diet of the Texas Kangaroo Rat consists of seeds, stems, and leaves of grasses, forbs, and some perennials. Domestic crops such as oats and introduced grasses like Johnson grass are the most important plants in their diet. Texas Kangaroo Rats store food to get them through periods of scarcity.
Southern Dog Face There are over 160 different types of Butterflies in Big Bend Country….. and even many more moths!! Each year towards the end of the summer and through the fall, we begin to see a migration of Monarch Butterflies, at this time of year it is common to see certain flowering bushes teeming with twenty or more.
Checkered White Gulf fritillary Texan crescent Orange Skipperling
Chisos Metal Mark Golden Banded Skipper Chisos Giant Skipper Bromeliad Scrub-Hairstreak
Pipevine Swallowtail Mexican Dartwhite Red Admiral American Snout
Big Bend Tree Lizard Texas Banded Gecko…. Big Bend is home to an amazing array of lizards and Geckos! Twenty-two species to be exact.
Mojave rattlesnake Black-tailed Rattlesnake Rock Rattlesnake Big Bend Milk Snake Rattlesnakes are poisonous, especially the young. The Milk Snake is safe. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Big Bend Slider Western Box Turtle Three toed Box Turtle
Birds of prey that live in the area include Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and other hawks, American Kestrels, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and Turkey Vultures.
Scaled Quail, Montezuma Quail, Gambel's Quail and Wild Turkey, can also be seen in the park, as can ravens and a few species of Jays.
Dozens of species of songbirds, including warblers, orioles, blackbirds, sparrows, towhees, and more can be seen in Big Bend as well.
Remember: We have only discussed what the Big Bend region is like. The next slide show will be about the Panhandle Plains of Texas.