Bastrop State Park Volunteer Work Parties to Save the Houston Toad, By Dale Martin

As most people in Texas know, early September 2011 brought a devastating wildfire to the Bastrop state Park.  A few park structures built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930’s were damaged, thousands of trees burned along with acres and acres of underbrush. An endangered species resident of the Park became even more endangered: The Houston Toad. 

From December 2011 thru February 2012, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department led six volunteer work parties to restore the banks around the known Houston toad ponds in Bastrop State Park.  Though people were hoping the toads made it okay, surveys of the area have resulted in no Houston Toad calls being heard at some of the ponds. 

Friday, January 27, I drove up to Bastrop State Park from Houston and set up camp in the Deer Run campground for a two-night stay.  A few weeks prior, I had signed up for the January 28 volunteer work party.

Saturday morning, at 8:30am, I and 62 other volunteers gathered at The Refectory, checked in, received our hard hats and instructions from TPWD Park Interpreter/Volunteer Coordinator Katie Raney.  She, her team of TPWD staffers, and the 63 volunteers were going to caravan out to pond #2 to put down mulch along the pond and drainage banks. 

The ground cover had been burned off leaving nothing in the way of cover for any Houston Toads who may emerge from their underground burrows to call to females or hear and respond to male calls.  Providing 50% coverage of mulch provides some camouflage for the toads while they are on the surface and provides something they can hide under to avoid predators. The mulch is also important for promoting plant growth and helping to attract insects…just what the toads need.  

We arrived at and parked on the shoulder of the roadway near some big piles of mulch–about 10 or 20 cubic yards or more.  Katie walked us out to the pond about 200-300 yards from the road and showed us what she wanted in the way of mulch coverage.  Six of us stayed at the pond as the rest of the group strung themselves along the route back to the road

Volunteers began shoveling mulch into the tall, orange,  Home Depot buckets.  The buckets were passed from person to person down to the pond area where six of us took the incoming buckets as they arrived and shook out mulch between the high-water mark and the tree line. 

As we worked our way towards the road, the line got more compressed and became more like an actual bucket brigade where a bucket (or buckets) was passed hand-to-hand without any steps being taken by the passers. 

Once the mulch distributors reached the road, Katie declared it was time for a lunch break.  We had mulched the north side of the pond and the north bank of the pond drainage to the roadway. 

After lunch, as we again formed a bucket brigade line to feed the mulch distributors, I opted to be part of the line. 

Apparently, we were either so fired up from lunch or we had all gotten much better at passing buckets because we finished mulching the south side of the pond and its drainage banks in half the time it took us to do the north bank in the morning.  Once we put our equipment away–shovels, rakes, buckets, hard hats, etc–Katie thanked us and everyone left for home. 

Early Saturday morning, February 11, I drove up to Bastrop State Park to again participate in the last volunteer work party of the season–it is close to toad breeding season and Park staff don’t want to disrupt the toads’ activities.

This time, we went to toad pond #8, a pond which toad specialists had heard Houston toads calling earlier in the week.  Just like the work party a couple of weeks ago, we set up a bucket-brigade line between the mulch pile and the pond, and a mulch distribution team at the pond.  The first buckets started down the line about 10:00am.

Unknown to us down at the pond or along much of the bucket-brigade line, there was some unexpected excitement at the mulch pile: Someone uncovered a coral snake that had been hunkered down in the pile, likely staying warm during the 30-degree temperatures that night and morning. A TPWD staffer was posted to guard the snake from curious volunteers who wanted to look at it. 

By about noon, we finished putting down a 50%-coverage of mulch on the banks of the pond. Katie declared our work complete and led us through the Park back to our cars.

Dale Martin is a wonderful long time devoted volunteer at the Houston Zoo.  He assists our staff photographer and the web team.  

If you want to hear more about how the Houston Toads are doing after the Bastrop fires join us at the Zoo for our Wildlife Speaker Series  event on Friday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m.  Get up close and personal with a live Houston Toad and get an update on the wild Toads from our Amphibian Conservation Manager, Paul Crump.  Dr. Michael Lannoo of Indiana University School of Medicine will give a presentation titled: A Window into the Global Amphibian Crisis: Discovering the Biology of North America’s Most Secretive Frog, the Crawfish frog, as it Approaches Extinction.  Buy your tickets HERE.



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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

So sorry for the loss of this beautiful creature. Kan Balam.

Is this the one that had the limp?

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

So sorry for your loss. He was a brilliant cat and he is at peace now and free.

So sorry they had to go through this, a decision that is emotional and difficult, and necessary.

Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.

Sending my love to Kan Balam's keepers ❤️ This is the hardest part of our jobs 💔

We just saw Kan Balam on Monday😔.... he will be missed❤️

I am so sorry for your loss, each of these animals are precious ....

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

Hugs to all of you keepers that took special care of Kan Balam.

Awe, I’m so sad to hear his quality of life was declining. But, I’m happy to know he had a long and wonderful life thanks to the wonderful teams at the Houston Zoo. He was a beautiful cat.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

Heartfelt condolences to the veterinary and keeper staff. Thank you for taking care of him

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.

Thank you for providing him with a caring and enriched life. So sorry for your loss!

My thoughts of sympathy are with you all. I can't even imagine the sadness you feel today.

So sorry to read this. It is always a hard decision. RIP and run free sweet boy.

I’m so sorry for your loss. He was a beautiful cat.

So sad. Native Houstonian. He was one of my favorites.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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We've heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing? ... See MoreSee Less

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Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?

 

Comment on Facebook

Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

Andrew Kaufmann Look its Richard Jr! 😂

Wow ... good photo shot ... show the world that you need to protect your pipe ... if not, freezing water will expand the pipe and crack the pipe !!!

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

My gutters had glaciers in them!

I fell for the mouse thing too..

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Johnnie R. Summerlin, cool, see the "stalagm ice"?

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Ashley Nguyen

Vicente Gonzalez

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