Texas Game Wardens Begin Exchange Program with South African National Parks Game Rangers
AUSTIN – Texas Game Wardens recently traveled to Kruger National Park in South Africa to begin an annual professional exchange program with South African National Parks Game Rangers.
The program aims at providing professional growth and leadership development opportunities between the two agencies and to increase education and awareness of international wildlife trafficking, which negatively affects conservation efforts in both Texas and South Africa. The illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife parts is a multibillion-dollar international business following only narcotics, human trafficking, and weapons in estimated profits.
“The illegal sale and exploitation of wildlife resources is a global problem that has a direct negative effect on the State of Texas and could lead to the loss of Texas native species, either through the harvest of native species or introduction of non-indigenous invasive species,” said Col. Grahame Jones, Law Enforcement Director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Texas Game Wardens have increased the focus on wildlife trafficking operations over the last decade, which includes navigating through internet forums and online marketplaces where trade in both live wildlife and wildlife parts frequently occurs. Game wardens work to identify suspect sales and negotiate undercover transactions with willing sellers to purchase a wide variety of native and non-native wildlife species from around the world.
Kruger National Park is over 7,500 square miles in size and has international borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Since 2010, Kruger Game Rangers have battled against heightened rhino poaching efforts targeting the rhino’s horn, elephant poaching for ivory, and recently an increase in lion poaching for the sale of teeth, claws, and bones in international markets, in addition to subsistence poaching. It occurs in a park with over 1.8 million annual visitors. This environment creates enormous challenges for those tasked with protecting the area’s natural resources.
While at Kruger, Texas Game Wardens met with park management to discuss shared issues and how they relate to wildlife crimes in Texas. Game wardens also participated in a snare patrol to locate and remove 95 snares along the Sabie River and conducted foot patrols, which included a crime scene overview at the location of a poached rhino and death investigation and tusk removal of a deceased elephant. Additionally, the game wardens toured the Kruger K9 facility and participated in a tracking scenario.
“The opportunity to work beside the dedicated and passionate Game Rangers at Kruger National Park and see the challenges and strategies to overcome those challenges first hand was an insightful and invaluable learning experience,” said Chief Chris Davis with TPWD’s Law Enforcement Division. “Places like Kruger National Park are the epicenter for conservation law enforcement and the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking.”
Plans are underway for Kruger National Park staff to visit in January of 2020 to be immersed in Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operations and continue to learn and grow professionally through diverse perspectives and opportunities.
To view or download photos of Texas Game Wardens and Kruger National Park Game Rangers working together during their recent trip, please visit the TPWD Flickr page at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmHR5cZP.
Hunting Conditions Forecasted to Yield a Fruitful Waterfowl Season
Reduced bag limits for pintails heading into the season; Goose population continues to flounder
AUSTIN— Hunters heading to the field this fall with hopes to fill their plates with delicious ducks are in luck as biologists predict an excellent waterfowl season.
“Overall habitat conditions are good for ducks and duck hunters for many parts of Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We just need some timely cold fonts and moisture this fall, and I believe many folks will get the opportunity to enjoy the young ducks the Dakotas produced this summer.”
Most of the Gulf Coast and East Texas remains drier than usual, Kraai added. Typically, when there is less water spread out across the landscape, it concentrates birds in areas where hunters tend to be waiting and hunting success increases.
The general duck hunting season kicks off in the Texas Panhandle (High Plains Mallard Management Unit) Oct. 26-27 and resumes Nov. 1- Jan. 26, 2020. In the South Zone, duck season runs Nov. 2- Dec. 1 and returns Dec. 14- Jan. 26, 2020. Duck hunting in the North Zone opens Nov. 9- Dec. 1 and resumes Dec. 7-Jan. 26, 2020. We remind hunters that “dusky ducks” are off-limits during the first five days of the season.
Before heading to the field, waterfowl hunters should note the regulatory change for northern pintails. The bag limit for pintails is now one per day from two per day due to a decrease in population.
Goose hunting also kicks off Nov. 2 statewide and runs through Jan. 26, 2020 in the East Zone and Feb. 2, 2020, in the West Zone.
“Quite different from the good duck production, timing of the goose hatch and vegetation green-up in the Arctic has been a few weeks off of each other for several years in a row,” said Kraai. “This mismatch once again has resulted in low gosling survival. At best, we can say there will be a few more young birds in the flock this year compared to the last couple of years.”
Continental goose populations, especially mid-continent snow geese, are declining for the first time in a long time due to four to five consecutive years of this poor gosling survival, Kraai said. The older and wise birds remaining in the flock tend to make for increased frustration with hunters and likely lower success.
White-fronted and small Canada geese tend to be doing much better than their snow goose cousins. Hunters in the panhandle and rolling plains north of Abilene should see similar robust populations and success this winter.
Through the late summer and early fall, Texas saw almost zero cold fronts moving through the breeding grounds to the north, making for a frustrating teal season with a very slow and stretched out-migration.
“At the end of the teal season, there were still significant concentrations of blue-winged teal remaining in the Dakotas and Nebraska,” said Kraai. “We will need a change in weather patterns soon to trigger a more pronounced migration before the regular season starts. The birds are there, and they need a good push of cold weather to get them moving soon.”
Hunters who want the convenience of purchasing a license online can do so securely from the official Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s license site. Access it directly from the department’s website, visit www.txfgsales.com, or text TPWD LICENSE to 468-311 to receive a link.
Hunters can also purchase a license in person at sporting goods stores and other retailers or by calling the TPWD License Section at 1-800-895-4248.
Texas Game Wardens Recognized for Life-Saving Heroics at Annual Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony
AUSTIN— Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith honored several men and women for their outstanding acts of service at the 15th annual Law Enforcement Division Awards Ceremony Oct. 18.
The ceremony recognized Texas game wardens, non-commissioned TPWD employees, first responders from other agencies, and members of the general public.
“I am extremely honored to work with these men and women who define and exemplify what it is to be a public servant,” said Col. Grahame Jones, TPWD Law Enforcement Director. “I am also proud of our partnerships with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and the communities we serve.”
This year’s award recipients include game wardens who showed outstanding displays of teamwork and leadership in response to medical emergencies. Among the many heroic efforts recognized, include:
In May 2019, the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department made a radio call for any units to respond to a subdivision on Lake Livingston. An elderly couple had driven their truck into the water and became trapped in the vehicle. Two Trinity County Deputies, a Trinity County firefighter, and a game warden dove down to try to gain access to the truck, which was about four feet under the surface, but the doors were locked. They tried several times to break a window but were unsuccessful until one of the deputies broke the rear window, severely cutting his hand. They all began trying to locate the couple inside the truck. A deputy and the warden found the woman, pulled her from the pickup, and brought her to the surface. The deputies swam her back to shore while the warden dove back underwater, located the family dog, and pulled it to the surface. The deputy and warden continued diving down to the truck to find the man. After he was found and brought back to shore, paramedics performed CPR. They were not able to revive him, but they saved the woman and the dog without injury.
In Alto, in April 2019, about 100 people were in attendance at the Caddo Culture Day Celebration when two tornadoes ripped through the area near the Caddo Mounds State Historic Area. A game warden used local county roads to plot a course to the historical site. When the ways became unpassable, he continued on foot and found a good Samaritan who agreed to take him by ATV to Caddo Mounds. When he arrived on the scene, he began to render aid to the attendees and helped coordinate the helicopters and first responders as they came. The tornado injured about 40 people at the site, ten of which were in critical condition, and one person died from their injuries.
Other heroic lifesaving efforts recognized include a U.S. Army medic who, while camping on Lake Lavon, heard boaters calling for help after someone on a towed kneeboard lost their balance and fell into the water. When the operator of the vessel attempted to retrieve the kneeboarder, a horrible accident occurred. The individual was struck by the boat and received life-threatening injuries. The medic retrieved his emergency trauma pack and began to render life-saving first aid to the boater until emergency medical units arrived.