EXOTICS RESEARCH

ELK OVERVIEW

Overview

Texas is home to dozens of exotic species, several of which can be found in the Trans-Pecos. These include African species (such as scimitar-horned oryx, gemsbok, and aoudad), Indian species (such as blackbuck antelope and axis deer), and feral hogs.

Aoudad are a hardy desert sheep, native to the coastal and some inland mountains of northern Africa. While considered vulnerable in their native ranges, aoudad are abundant in the mountains of the Trans-Pecos. Little is known about their ecology in their newfound ranges, though considerable evidence suggests that they are susceptible to numerous diseases which affects native wildlife.

Similar to aoudad, feral hogs are highly invasive the Trans-Pecos. Feral hogs must utilize water resources to manage their body heat, which largely limits them to riparian habitats, where cooler temperatures and more moisture make a suitable habitat for them. Unfortunately, these are some of the most sensitive habitats in the region and are inhabited by native species. Also, like aoudad, they are known to carry many diseases, and their wallowing habits have led to contamination of surface water resources.

Other exotic animals studied by BRI researchers include Elk. Elk were once part of the natural part of the Texas landscape. However, our knowledge of how many elk and where they occurred prior to the 1900s remains a mystery. We do know from historical records that the subspecies of elk that once roamed the Guadalupe Mountains was the Merriam’s elk. Unfortunately this desert subspecies was extirpated by the 1900s.

As early as 1927, landowners have attempted to bring back elk to their former range in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas. Even Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assisted with elk stocking as recent as the 1980s. To complicate matters, the status of elk was changed from a game animal (where permits were issued by Texas parks and Wildlife Department following field surveys) to an exotic by the 75th Texas Legislature in 1997. Because of the exotic status, little data exist on their status or distribution. However, BRI researchers have studied elk populations in the Trans-Pecos.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the Borderlands Research Institute, and other agencies have partnered to understand the complex interaction of native and non-native species in the Trans-Pecos. Effective management strategies require an understanding of the mechanisms by which these species interact. Researchers and biologists are currently working to unravel these processes, and provide strategies to minimize the impacts of non-native species to recover native species populations.

Projects