Reader Charlie Hennigan sent in these images of a black deer he encountered near Luling, TX.
At first glance (on my iPhone) I thought it was a chocolate-phase fallow deer. Texas has many free-ranging exotics and fallow deer are one of the most prolific. But after close examination I have determined this is a black (melanistic) whitetail.
Whereas albinism is a lack of pigment, melanism is a hyper blast of black pigment. It is fairly common in some species such as fox squirrels and is evident in jaguars and leopards.
“Black panthers” for example are not a separate species, but simply melanistic jaguars and leopards.
Luling is located 49 miles south of Austin. Over the years I have documented a number of melanistic whitetails within about a 50-mile radius of Austin. Several have been northwest of Austin and around San Marcos.
Hennigan said the owner of the land where he was hunting reported seeing numerous does this color over the years, but very few bucks. This is probably because that part of the state has what wildlife managers would consider an out-of whack-buck to doe ratio. It can run as high as 10 does to one buck on certain tracts of land so it would not be surprising to see far more melanistic does than bucks.
Also, hunters are more likely to kill the bucks, and in recent years several melanistic bucks have been reported taken in Texas. It is not illegal to kill color-phase whitetails in Texas, and there is no official count of them among the 600,000 plus deer killed here every year.
I have personally never laid eyes on a melanistic whitetail, but I have seen both piebald and leucistic (with blue eyes) whitetails in the wild. I am headed to the Austin area quite a bit this fall, and I plan to check-out some of the areas with historically high proportions of melanism. With luck, I will capture some photos.
Whitetails are intriguing animals, and any variation in color, antler or size is always the talk about deer camp.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department recently awarded Ducks Unlimited $600,000 for conservation projects on waterfowl breeding grounds in Prairie Canada. This commitment brings Texas’s cumulative contribution for habitat conservation on Canadian breeding grounds to more than $4 million.
Recognizing the migratory nature of waterfowl, state wildlife agencies have been contributing to habitat conservation in Canada since 1965. More than 40 states participated this year, and funding comes primarily through hunting license sales, according to a news release.
In Texas, all funding comes from the state Migratory Game Bird Stamp fund. This fund is solely supported by the sale of Migratory Game Bird Stamps, required of all migratory bird hunters in Texas. These funds may be used to support waterfowl habitat conservation in Canada, and Texas has been doing so since 1985.
A Williamson County Game warden investigated three juveniles who captured and abused an injured bird by tossing it in the air several times, striking it a couple of times with a football, then pouring gasoline on it and setting it on fire.
One of the boys had posted the delinquent acts on social media and Cedar Park Police Department intercepted the videos before they were deleted.
The game warden determined the bird was a federally-protected migratory white-winged dove. He made contact with each of the three boys and their parents, obtained their stories and filed cases for taking white-winged dove by illegal means in closed season. All three boys had just received probation for burglary of a habitation. Cases are pending.
Zebra mussels have been positively identified for the first time in Lake Travis in the Colorado River Basin in Central Texas, just weeks after biologists confirmed the aquatic invasive species had also spread to the Guadalupe River Basin.
The rapidly reproducing zebra mussels, originally from Eurasia, can have serious economic, environmental and recreational impacts on Texas reservoirs and rivers. Zebra mussels can cover shoreline rocks and litter beaches with treacherously sharp shells, clog public-water intakes, and damage boats and motors left in infested waters.
In Texas, it is unlawful to possess or transport zebra mussels, dead or alive. Boaters are required to drain all water from their boat and onboard receptacles before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water in order to prevent the transfer of zebra mussels. The requirement to drain applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not.