Wildlife


Before I go into my Texas Hill Country Wildlife experiences let me preface all of this by saying we live on 3.5 acres which back to a 200 acre ranch so it's a good setting for dramatic wildlife. The sightings occurred over the course of seven years.

 

I am deathly afraid of mice, rats and snakes. Spiders, scorpions and other arachnia do not bother me so I may have seen more than I mention but since they don't send me into a panic, I may not have even noticed them.  

Please take all of this into account when you read this post or you may never set foot in Texas.  I almost didn't move here because I was sure there were snakes everywhere. Not so, I've seen two the entire time I've lived here.

Armadillo

Some Texans go their entire life and never see a live Armadillo. They see plenty of them alongside the road, but none of them rooting around, enjoying life.

This armadillo, about the size of a fat house cat, came for a visit last spring and camped out in our front yard for an entire month. Our Jack Russell terrier went berserk every time she caught sight of it, but wasn't able to get out of her fenced backyard to go and investigate this bizarre looking creature.

I never knew that armadillos like to dig. We blamed in on the dog for awhile before realizing the armadillo was tearing up my planter boxes out front.

Buzzards

One flew several feet overhead as I was traveling sixty miles per hour -- this was my first sighting.  Their large bodies and expansive wing span, around six foot, had me craning my neck the first time I saw this impressive bird.

In flight, buzzards are a thing of beauty, as they glide through the air with ease.  However, once landed, you wonder if that was the same bird when their featherless head is revealed.  I've seen them flying solo or in tandem, in constant search for the next roadside victim (see section on Deer).  Once a meal is found, the table is set for a party of 10 to 20.

Deer

In most parts of the nation, deer sightings happen during the waning and waxing of day.  Not so in the Hill Country.

Driving through neighborhoods, deer can be found crossing streets, parked in packs under trees, foraging in front yards and running alongside highways. Not known for their impeccable timing, they can also be found in a heap on roadways.

When the deer population is this prolific, deer can become viewed as pests. I've heard them described as oversized rats. Succulent vegetables, flowers or landscaping plants are some of their favorite snacks.

No standard sized fence will keep deer from your yard.  I’ve personally seen deer stand beside a six foot fence and bound over in one fluid motion.   To keep deer out of what you don’t want them in, you'll need an eight foot fence.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes either love you or they don’t.  “I have to bathe in DEET." The mosquitoes are relentless and attack in the day and night. They become more fierce as the sun starts to sink so grab your repellent. However, my husband can run around in nothing but shorts and not be bothered by them. I keep a personal size bug spray in the car. Don't allow any standing water to accumulate around your home.  I found a mosquito repellant made from garlic that I now spray around our house and patio that seems to help a lot. 

Additional animals will include the occasional possum and raccoon.  Possums really don’t bother much they just aren’t the most attractive critter.  I had a raccoon that was making a nightly visit to see what was being served at the houseside garbage can -- the kind of garbage cans that are around now that are tall with a hinged lid.  From a small animal's view, this seems impossible to get into.  I don’t quite know how the raccoon did it, but everyday I would find claw marks across the plastic garbage bags with small bits of garbage surrounding the container.  I have since closed this late night café by securing the lid with a bungie cord.

Scorpions

The look of scorpions when first seen, had me scrambling for higher ground.  These little land pests with the lobster looking front body and curled tail are part of life here.  I've seen them from about 1" to 4" in length, fully stretched. This little guy is about actual size of what was in my shower. When we were viewing vacant homes, looking for our piece of the hill country, we would often see scorpions right at the threshold as we walked through the door of vacant homes.

Their sting is equivalent to a bee sting. I know first hand because one crawled into my sandal and stung me under my toe.  There are remedies that you can purchase at the hardware store to help keep the scorpions at bay, but they are lurking, waiting.

Snakes

Snakes, what snakes!  Haven’t seen any, other than a small gardner snake.
[Update July 2008] -- got to see my first snake this summer. We had a bunch of rain and I mean torrential rains. For whatever reason, a small snake ended up in the pool out back. Fortunately, it was spotted BEFORE anyone got into the pool. It was inside the pool trap and my husband flushed it out in the pool where he scooped it up in the pool net and then we plopped it into a bucket and put the lid on.

I had no idea what to do with it next. I called Parks and Wildlife and they just seemed confused that we hadn't already killed it. Apparently most people just lop off their heads with a shovel or a hoe, but we didn't have any snake experience, so we had a live snake trapped in a bucket. We finally decided to open the bucket and put it out of its misery. After it was dead, we took a good look at the snake and compared it to photos on a snake identification website we found. It was a baby rattler as best we could tell.

Now we are just wondering where the mother and the nest is. I'm staying away from tall grass these days.

[August 2008] My daughter had a friend over this weekend and as they headed down the front steps to go jump on the trampoline they nearly stepped on a snake laying across our front stairs. Egads. Again this was after a substantial bit of rain. I'm not sure if the weather is related, but there is a bit of a pattern. This one turned out to be non-poisonous and we let it slither away -- who am I kidding, Bruce was away and there was no way I was going anywhere near a snake - dangerous or not.

I have definitely had my fill of snakes for the year -- dare I say "decade."

Spiders

Yes, there are spiders, but I rarely see them.  We did have a very large visitor going after the Shiner Bock recently...