Nature

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

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10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

The ecologically diverse landscape of the Hill Country is home to native species, including several on the endangered list, which are not found anywhere else in the world. Land stewardship programs, state parks and natural areas protect natural habitats and provide opportunities to view and learn about our native wildlife.

Here are ten species you might encounter in the Texas Hill country.

1. Guadalupe Bass, Micropterus treculii

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Guadalupe bass, also known as black bass or Guadalupe spotted bass, is the official state fish of Texas. It is actually a member of the sunfish family and lives in small streams in parts of the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Colorado and Brazos Rivers. While small populations reside outside of the Edwards Plateau, this species does not live anywhere else on earth.

Guadalupe bass are small, green in color and do not have distinguishable vertical bars like the smallmouth bass. They are adapted to small streams, but have a propensity for fast flowing water. This makes Guadalupe bass a popular sport fishing species.

2. White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus texanus

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Terry Ross

Texas has the largest white-tailed deer population in the country, with an estimated three to four million deer residing throughout the state. The deer prefer the wooded, brushy terrain of the Hill Country, so there is an abundant population in the area. This habitat offers good cover and a variety of food sources, such as twigs, plants, fruit and grass. When it comes to food, white-tailed deer make no distinction between wild wooded terrain and human dwellings. They frequently enter yards in suburban areas and damage landscaping and gardens.

They are reddish-brown in color during the summer months and grayish-brown in winter. The tail is usually held erect, especially when fleeing, to show its white underside. Fawns have bright white spots on their coats until they are about six months old. Bucks grow a new set of antlers every year and shed the old ones when the breeding season is over between December and March.

3. Texas Map Turtle, Graptemys versa

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Texas map turtle is truly unique to the Texas Hill Country. It is only found in the Colorado River and its tributary streams within the Edwards Plateau. It is the smallest species of the map turtle family, only reaching up to seven inches in length, and females grow larger than males. The temperature of the turtles’ surroundings determines the gender of hatchlings. Lower temperatures produce males, and higher temperatures produce females.

Texas map turtles are dark olive to brown in color, with yellow-orange or orange line markings – resembling lines on a map – on its shell, head, limbs and tail. The underside of its head has three yellow or orange spots. They are strong swimmers, and you might catch a glimpse of them perched on a rock or tree trunk basking in the sun.

4. Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Tadarida brasiliensis

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Mexican free-tailed bat is the state flying mammal of Texas. Also known as Brazilian free-tailed bats, they primarily live in caves in the Balcones Escarpment and the Edwards Plateau. However, they can roost in any dark, dry space. They are famous for their habitat under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, which attracts visitors from all over the world. Every summer evening, hordes of visitors line the bridge to catch a glimpse of the bat colony as it flies out en masse for their nightly feeding. The bats’ diet is mainly comprised of moths, crickets, grasshoppers and mosquitos.

These medium-sized bats have broad ears, large feet and half of their tail hangs free. Their fur is short, velvety and reddish to black in color. They can live up to eleven years in the wild and migrate to Mexico, Central America and South America for the coldest winter months.

This bat is a known carrier of rabies, so exercise caution if you ever encounter one.

5. Texas Blind Salamander, Eurycea rathbuni

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Brian Gratwicke

The Texas blind salamander lives in the water-filled caves of the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County. Since it is adapted to live in water underground, it does not have eyes. Instead, it has two small black dots under the skin where the eyes would be. It has very little skin pigment and red external gills. The salamander hunts by sensing water pressure waves created by the movement of tiny snails, shrimp and other aquatic invertebrates.

Pollution and overuse of water in the Edwards Aquifer threaten the salamander’s survival. It is currently on the Texas and U.S. endangered species lists.

6. San Marcos Salamander, Eurycea nana

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This amphibian resides only in the clear, flowing spring water of the upper San Marcos River in Hays County. The salamander is small, slender and dark reddish-brown in color, which matches the color of the moss and algae in its natural habitat. It feeds on tiny crustaceans, aquatic insects and snails.

Because it prefers cool, flowing water, the reduced flow of water from Hill Country springs threatens the survival of this species of salamander. It is currently on the Texas and U.S. threatened species list.

7. Golden-cheeked warbler, Dendroica chrysoparia

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Golden-cheeked warbler nests only in the woodlands in the ravines and canyons of central Texas. They prefer tall Ashe juniper, oak and other hardwood trees, using long strips of bark, spider webs, grasses, cocoons, and animal fur to build their nests. The warblers migrate to Texas in March to nest and raise their young, then leave in July to spend the fall and winter months in Mexico and Central America.

They are on the Texas and U.S. endangered species lists, some habitat areas were cleared to build houses and roadways or for farming purposes. Visitors to the Hill Country can spot golden-cheeked warblers at the numerous state parks in the area.

8. Nine-banded Armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/leppyone

The nine-banded armadillo is the state small mammal of Texas and resides throughout most of the state. It is about the size of a cat, with a body length of 15 to 17 inches and tail length of 14 to 16 inches. They usually weigh between eight and 17 pounds and have bony, scaled shells, which protects them from predators.

Armadillos are diggers. They dig burrows for shelter, and dig in soft soil for food, such as grubs, insects and other invertebrates. They occasionally eat berries and bird eggs found close to or on the ground.

9. Coyote, Canis latrans

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Terry Ross

Coyotes are populous throughout the state of Texas. They are aggressive livestock predators, but they also offer protection to crops by controlling rodent and rabbit populations. Coyotes normally live from 10 to 12 years and can adapt to almost any habitat, including the brushy, wooded terrain of the Hill Country. Some area residents have seen coyotes roaming around their suburban neighborhoods.

Coyotes are similar in size to small German shepherds, with long, slender legs, a bushy tail and large ears they hold erect. Their coats are usually gray or buff colored, and they weigh an average of 25 to 40 pounds. They are very intelligent, nocturnal and opportunistic. They will eat almost anything, including rabbits, rodents, insects, lizards, snakes, fruits and vegetables.

10. Black-capped Vireo, Vireo atricapilla

10 Wildlife Species in The Texas Hill Country

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Black-capped vireos nest in Texas, throughout the Edwards Plateau, April to July, and then migrate to the western coast of Mexico for the winter. They build cup-shaped nests in the fork of a branch in small shrubs like shin oak or sumac. Vireos return to the same area to nest year after year.

These small birds only reach about four to five inches long and have a lifespan of five to six years.

Black-capped Vireos are on the Texas and U.S. endangered species lists, because the low growing woody cover they need for nesting has been cleared or overgrazed by livestock and deer.