Last chance for the wolf in Texas

It’s time to stand up against the establishment in Texas and let TPWD know that you care about wolves


It was 46 years ago in December that the last two wild Mexican wolves were killed in the United States.  It happened not in Arizona or New Mexico where government officials can’t agree on how to move forward in continuing a twenty year wolf recovery effort, but in Texas, just north of Big Bend National Park. With news of both states wanting to take control of recovery efforts from the federal government, the possibility of new wolf recovery efforts in Texas and other states takes on new meaning.

Our conservation leaders in Texas need to stop ignoring the scientific facts clearly indicating the importance of conserving apex predators like the wolf. Here in the largest international city surrounded by former wolf habitat, the El Paso Sierra Club Group is taking a stand for the wolf by launching a new online campaign urging Texas Parks and Wildlife to develop and execute a scientifically reviewed plan to return the wolf to the wilds of Texas to benefit the ecosystem and ecotourism.  I hope that you will join the effort in any way you can.  For more information on how you can get involved contact me at ricklobello@gmail.com.

I have just posted on YouTube a new video of a wild caught Mexican wolf I filmed in 1978 that few people have seen in its entirety.  The 8mm silent footage may end up going down in history like so many other videos of animals that have gone extinct.  I hope that never happens, but it could.  The film shows one of the last wild Mexican wolves known to science before it went extinct in the wild.  It was captured in 1978 in northern Mexico by the legendary trapper Roy McBride.  Roy and I went to graduate school together at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas and one day when I was working as a park ranger at Big Bend National Park he invited me to come to his ranch to see one of the wolves he caught in Mexico.  Roy was hired by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to capture all the wolves he could before they went extinct in a  last ditch effort to save the species.   Previously I uploaded some of this footage set to music where on YouTube it now has over 63,000 views.   The footage I just uploaded in its entirety intentionally has no narration or music to help dramatize the fact that in Texas our conservation leaders in Austin have been totally silent when it comes to any effort to help return the wolf back to its rightful home in the wilds of West Texas.  The fate of this critically endangered species hangs in the balance and today the only wolves known to Texas survive only in zoos.

In one short century what took nature eons to perfect, came to a crashing end when the last Mexican wolves were killed in Texas.  It took nearly twenty years for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to develop and execute a plan to put captive bred wolves back in the wild in 1998. Unfortunately the current effort continues to struggle because of bureaucratic meddling.   Today, a little over 100 critically endangered wolves survive in parts of northern Mexico and a small area of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

We are living at a time when Americans are showing that they are fed up with the establishment, not just in Washington, but also in State Capitals like Austin. Join the new movement to conserve our wildlife heritage, speak up for wolves.

Take action at elpasosierraclub.org.

 

For the love of cacti

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Haystack cactus (Echinocereus stramineus), often confused with the strawberry cactus, (Echinocereus enneacanthus) in Big Bend National Park, by Rick LoBello

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When I worked at Big Bend National Park I spent much of my time studying the desert plants that surrounded my home at Panther Junction.   My favorite was the large mound forming strawberry cactus commonly called pitaya.   In the spring some of the larger strawberry cactus mounds would burst into bloom with dozens of red flowers that would later in the summer turn into red fruits that tasted like strawberries.  Unlike the fruits of the more common prickly-pear cactus covered with tiny spines called glochids, the strawberry cactus had fewer larger spines that were easy to take off.   Every summer I would collect the fruits of the strawberry cactus, put them in the refrigerator and then eat them with whip cream.  Back in those days it was a 200 round trip drive to get groceries in Alpine, so the bounty of the desert was very appealing to me on a hot summer day.

I have always loved cacti and obviously now that you have read my story, not just because of their beauty.   Earlier this year local authors Gertrud and Ad Konings donated boxes of their beautiful coffee table book – Cacti of Texas in their Natural Habitat to help the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition (CDEC) with its membership program. This book is no doubt the most colorful and complete book for its size ever published on the cacti of Texas.   I have looked over all kinds of cactus books over the years and few books can compare. As the membership chair of the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition I am in charge of giving out free copies of this colorful and informative book to all new and renewing members.   So far the going has been slow, but with the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta coming up next month and the holidays soon after, I am hoping that hundreds of people in El Paso will want to have their own copy.  

If you don’t have much affection for the cacti of Texas, it is no doubt because you have no idea how amazing each species is, uniquely adapted to living in our arid desert.
Everyone living in the Chihuahuan Desert should be able to name at least a dozen or more species. Did you know that the Chihuahuan Desert is considered the epicenter of cacti diversity with 318 species of 1500 species worldwide.  In Texas alone there are 136 species and the Konings were able to include a photograph of each and every one in their book.

Thanks to the generosity of the Konings you can have your own FREE copy by becoming a member of CDEC for only $20!   At this time the books are not being shipped from El Paso, but if you live in El Paso and become a member we will get you a copy by dropping one off where you live or work or when you attend an upcoming CDEC event. The book sells for $59.99 plus postage when you get one on Amazon.com so don’t miss out on adding this title to your home library.

Every day as new developments destroy more and more large areas of desert, the cacti living in our area and all the wildlife species associated with them are disappearing.  Want to help conserve them?  The first step is learning the names of the common species in our area.   Cacti of Texas in their Natural Habitat will help you do just that.