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The Thundering Herd-August 2018

4th of July

America’s Independence day celebration came and went here at Caprock.  4th of July weekend is always full of families and even family reunions all getting together to spend quality time and once again, this year didn’t disappoint.  It is always heartwarming to see how the park connects family and friends for a weekend or even just an afternoon.

Heat Wave

Toward the middle of July, the park saw some extremely high temperatures climbing as high as 115 degrees!  Of course, that translated to even higher temperatures down inside the canyons.  Each of our park rangers have temperature “laser guns” that they use to determine the temperature of the ground surface.  These are used as interpretive tools to help educate visitors of the dangers high temperatures like these afford and the risks associated with hiking in the summer heat for our four-legged friends who are closer to the ground.  These devices showed temperatures upwards of 150 degrees on the ground surface!  Fortunately, there were no injuries or rescues and everyone who visited the park used good judgment in dealing with the heat wave here at Caprock.

Restoring our Native Prairies

For a few years now, Caprock Canyons has been undergoing our “Restoration Project” to restore areas of our native prairies to what they once were historically.  What would that have looked like in the past?  A vast ocean of mixed grass prairie able to sustain a wealth of wildlife including animals such as the Black-tailed prairie dog, Pronghorn, and of course the monarch of the prairie- the American bison among many others.  Unfortunately, our native prairies here have become invaded and overtaken by invasive plant species such as Honey mesquite and Red-berry juniper.  But, we’re working on it!  In order for our prairies to again become the thriving ecosystem they once were, these plants must be removed.  The park has targeted areas where removal of these plants are of top priority by using a variety of methods with the least invasive methods being preferred.  The methods used will vary and will be dependent upon a number of different factors but could include individual plant spraying/pellet treatment, aerial spraying, or mechanical treatment.  This month, conditions were optimum for individual plant spraying and pellet treatment and the rangers were busy treating these targeted areas of the prairie.  Looking to learn more about habitat management and restoration, Texas Master Naturalist new members visited the park during this time and were a great help in the treatment of the Redberry juniper.

Upcoming Programs & Events

August 3, 10, 17, 24, & 31

  • Bat Tour, 6:30 p.m., Reservations Required-Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot!

August 4:

  • Caprock Van Tour, 10:00 a.m., Reservations Required-Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot!
  • Goin’ Batty, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion-Program is designed for children 12 and under.

August 11:

  • Birding 101, 8:30 a.m., Meet at the Visitor’s Center Pavilion-Please bring binoculars if you have them.
  • Caprock Bingo, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion
  • Nighttime Narratives, 8:45 p.m., Interpretive Amphitheater

August 18:

  • Caprock Van Tour, 10:00 a.m., Reservations Required-  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot!
  • Goin’ Batty, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion-Program is designed for children 12 and under.
  • Music Under the Stars, 7:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion-Event is FREE with your paid park entrance fee!
  • The Texas State Bison Herd, 8:45 p.m., Interpretive Amphitheater

August 25:

  • Birding 101, 8:30 a.m., Meet at the Visitor’s Center Pavilion-Please bring binoculars if you have them.
  • Caprock Bingo, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion
  • Paleos of the Panhandle, 8:30 p.m., Interpretive Amphitheater

Quote of the Month:

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology.  We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”  ~Lyndon B. Johnson

Interpreter’s Corner:

You don’t have to look very hard to find them here in the Texas Panhandle and they are a lizard that most of us had the pleasure of finding in our backyards.  You guessed it!  The Texas horned lizard is alive and well here at Caprock Canyons and the surrounding areas of the park.  You are sure to see one along any of the trails or out in the prairie on any hot summer day.  Unfortunately, this seemingly miniature dinosaur isn’t doing too “hot” in other parts of Texas.  Today, the Texas horned lizard is considered threatened.  I’m constantly reminded of this during the summer months here at the park when visitors from East Texas and other parts of the country encounter them and are either unfamiliar with them or are simply overjoyed at the prospect of seeing them once again.  Researchers throughout the years of their decline have conducted various studies to determine the cause of their disappearance in many parts of Texas.  It seems that its decline is the effect of many factors including habitat loss, the pet trade industry, pesticides, and fire ants.  Unfortunately, pesticide use for the fire ant not only targets those ant species, but many others.  Pesticides reduce or even eliminate the preferred food source of the Texas horned lizard, the harvester ant.  The imported fire ant is also believed to out-compete other ant species for food and habitat making the food source of the lizard even more difficult to find.  The Texas horned lizard prefers to live in prairie grasslands and habitat destruction is another threat to its population.  Cities and urban sprawl are considered a large contributing factor to their disappearance as well as the increase in agricultural farmlands.  Hopefully, with more research and insight, future Texas children will still be able to know this iconic lizard of Texas.

Le’Ann