How the winter storm impacted wildlife in Texas

Local News

WACO, Texas – The Texas Master Naturalist Program is exploring the effects of this year’s harsh winter on wildlife across the state.

Texas experienced one of the harshest winters on record this year.

“This event was one of the top five winter storms in the state of Texas, in terms of the amount of snow and the amount of the state affected,” says John Nielsen Gammon, Texas A&M University Regents Professor and Texas State Climatologist.

The Texas Master Naturalist Program launched a study to see how wildlife across the state is fairing after the record-breaking low temperatures, and it found that some of Texas’s wildlife population may have a hard time bouncing back.

“We haven’t seen any since, so we are assuming we have lost our Thompson Gazels,” says James Gallagher, TPWD Natural Resource Specialist.

“We had huge numbers of Mexican Freetail Bats killed by the freeze,” says Nathan Fuller, TPWD Bat Biologist.

“92 turtles were cold-stunned in 2020, so we had almost 13,000 cold stuns that were counted in 2021, but a lot of them were unaccounted for,” says the Texas A&M Sea Grant Agent.

While others, like wild pigs, thrived in the winter conditions.

“Before Uri, we had way too many of them. We haven’t found a single fatality that can be contributed to the winter storm, and now the best we can tell there’s even more of them out there,” says Gallagher.

Some native plants may also be in a similar situation.

“In terms of looking at native plants, those plants in the Hill Country and around, rosettes survived. I didn’t lose one plant that had a rosette above ground already,” says Craig Hensley, TPWD Texas Nature Trackers Biologist.

Experts believe there is even more good news.

“As long as our wildlife populations are strong, they will be able to withstand it. Healthy populations are resilient and are able to sustain major losses from time to time,” says Jonah Evans, TPWD Mammologist and Non-Game and Rare Species Program Leader.

To watch the entire webinar by the Texas Master Naturalist Program, you can click here.

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