Big City Biologists – Texas Parks and Wildlife [Official]


[traffic noise] This state and the world in general
is becoming more and more urban. Typically when I tell people I’m
an urban wildlife biologist they say things like, ‘do you study rats and cockroaches?’ There’s a misconception that cities
are not the place for wildlife and it’s just not true. [music] I think it’s a great surprise
to most people that there is such a position as
an urban wildlife biologist. [music] Urban wildlife biologists are kind
of like the animals here in the city. We’re highly adaptable and we take advantage of any
opportunity that comes along. THINK OF TEXAS WILDLIFE AND YOU MIGHT NOT THINK
OF HOUSTON, DALLAS OR EL PASO. BUT SPENDING A DAY WITH
BIOLOGISTS WHO WORK HERE MIGHT CHANGE YOUR MIND. Part of our job as an
urban biologist is to help urban residents understand the wildlife that’s
living all around them. Right down there? Makes it more stable with
the heavy side downů ON A JUNE MORNING IN
EASTERN EL PASO URBAN BIOLOGIST LOIS BALIN WORKS WITH A VOLUNTEER CREW TO DIG AND DIG A HOLE IN THE DESERT. Let’s give it our first try, guys. I think we’re going to be a
little off on this one. THOUGH IT LOOKS LIKE SOME
STRANGE PLUMBING PROJECT… …very important here
is that it all goes downhill. THEY’RE ACTUALLY BUILDING
A HOUSE FOR A FAMILY OF OWLS. We’re making an artificial nest
burrow for burrowing owls. Yeah, yeah, further in… This is an urban wildlife
sanctuary park, Rio Bosque Wetlands and it’s a place that we can
provide more habitat for the owls. BURROWING OWLS NEED THIS
HOUSING ASSISTANCE BECAUSE MORE AND
MORE PEOPLE ARE CALLING EL PASO HOME. There’s a lot of construction
going on and a lot of owls being displaced. SO AS FAST AS FOLKS CAN BUILD
THESE ARTIFICIAL BURROWS, …I think we’ve got it now. GRATEFUL OWLS ARE MOVING IN. There will be a momma bird here in less than a week. Every one of these that
we’ve put in gets a ‘no vacancy’ sign in 5 days. I believe that’s good. Let’s just cover
the heck out of it. Where are we going
for breakfast? [music] You never know what’s going
to happen on a certain day. I got a call about a mountain lion
in Central El Paso. We definitely have mountain lions. We’ve even had black bear
come through El Paso so that’s why I go to investigate. It’s close to a high school. We’ve got neighbors that have kids. You know it’s kind of scary seeing
a mountain lion roaming around. In less than a second
it was gone. LOIS GETS THE DETAILS
OF THE SIGHTING AND, WITH LOCAL
GAME WARDENS, SEARCHES FOR EVIDENCE. I’m going to look for tracks BUT THE ROCKY SOIL
YIELDS NO CLUES. I didn’t find any physical evidence. We’re always looking for proof so we can go to the next level
if we need to. [music] AS CITIES GROW, PEOPLE
MAY THREATEN WILDLIFE OR FEEL THREATENED
BY WILDLIFE. URBAN BIOLOGISTS WORK TO
PREVENT NEGATIVE ENCOUNTERS
WITH NATURE AND PROMOTE POSITIVE ONES, EVEN IN THE STATE’S LARGEST CITY. In 2005 the city of Houston
Parks Department realized that there was an
opportunity for bat viewing at Waugh Drive bridge
here in Houston. We didn’t know anything about
the colony that was here. We knew they were
Mexican free-tailed bats but we didn’t know
much about them. ENTER: THE BAT TEAM. I organized a group of volunteers called the Houston Bat Team. We came down and started
monitoring the bat population, just making general observations. It’s full all the way. THE VOLUNTEERS COLLECT
ENVIRONMENTAL DATA AT THE BRIDGE, ESTIMATE THE NUMBERS OF BATS
THAT CALL IT HOME, AND HELP THE PUBLIC BETTER
UNDERSTAND BATS. It’s just packed. See? Look how full it is. Wow! -Isn’t that neat?
-It’s neat. There’s 250,000 to 300,000
bats that are in the bridge We think some do migrate but
there are some that stay. …are they starting to do it? And here they come! So we can have bat viewing
year-round here in Houston, which is pretty cool when you think
about a nature tourism opportunity. This is a Mexican free-tailed bat. They eat 2 and a half tons
of insects every night. So do you think they’re
beneficial to us? Oh yeah, big time People come down to the bridge to get a better view,
to get more information. See them coming out? And hopefully that same information
helps change attitudes toward bats. An urban species that they’re
living right next to is actually a beneficial species as well. When we have a nuisance
wildlife situation you can inevitably tie it back
to humans misbehaving. We try to get people not to
feed urban wildlife species. Inevitably that becomes a problem. Hello, is this Peggy? WHEN JOHN DAVIS SPEAKS TO
FOLKS IN THE DALLAS AREA HE STRESSES THE BEST WAY
TO PROVIDE FOR WILDLIFE IS TO LANDSCAPE WITH
NATIVE PLANTS. Can anyone name the native
species in this photograph? It always cracks me up when
someone says, “the McDonald’s!” The grackle is the answer. There’s one, there’s one,
there’s one, there’s one. Grackles absolutely love Bradford Pears. How many of you want more
grackles in the city, anybody? So my point being, we’re actually
creating some of these very problems that we would like to get rid of and by planting native plants
we can offset some of that. GROWING NATIVE PLANTS IS
CATCHING ON IN SOME SURPRISING PLACES. [whack] Tierra Verde is a very, very
unusual golf course. From the very beginning
they were designing with wildlife habitat in mind. Tierra Verde is the first municipal
golf course in the world to achieve Audubon international
signature certification. What they tried to do when
they built the golf course is preserve native habitat in
corridors all over the facility for wildlife to go throughout
the property. AND THE DESIGN DOESN’T JUST
BENEFIT URBAN WILDLIFE. We don’t have to use as much water. We don’t have to use as much
man hours to mow. No pesticides, and that’s great for
us on an economic sense. We keep a master list of all the
species on the golf course. [whack] The biggest thing about the golf
course is all the nature that’s here. It just makes it an enjoyable
round to come out and play. AND JOHN IS ALWAYS HAPPY
TO OFFER SOME GUIDANCE WHEN HE CAN HELP. This is looking really nice The urban biologists are
such a resource for us. …some Broomsedge Bluestem
mixed in down thereů. We have to find ways to develop while still being able to keep
wildlife habitat around and I believe Tierra Verde is a really
good example of doing that. What kind of lizards are they? It’s a fence lizard. The main focus is to
make people aware of habitat and wildlife so that they will want
to help protect it. There he goesů Everyday in any urban area
we lose green space where urban wildlife could be. We can live in harmony if we try and it’s just a matter of learning
how to make that happen. Humans are the ones that
make decisions about what happens to wildlife and
wildlife habitat in this state. And so I feel very, very passionately about the importance of the jobs that
we’re doing in these urban environments. I love my job. [music]

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