Controlling invasive populations of exotic species is necessary because many native species have been lost due to misuse of the land for nearly a century. This phenomenon has created opportunities, i.e. open niches, for these exotic species to establish, thus the importance of reintroducing many of the wildlife species that have been extirpated from these natural ecosystems.
Rio Grande Wild Turkeys were once common in the Cross Timbers and Blackland Prairie edges. Until their reintroduction to LLELA in February 2005, there were no local breeding populations in south eastern Denton and surrounding counties. As part of an ecological restoration project, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The University of North Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Turkey Federation partnered to trap, band and release 49 Rio Grande Turkeys. The turkeys were trapped in Jack County from a population near Jacksboro on Dr. Ken Dickson’s ranch. The birds were transported to LLELA, where they were banded and released. Twenty-five of these birds were also fitted with radio transmitters enabling graduate students to track their locations. The transmitters provided data on the mortality of the flock through the first year at LLELA and provided information on the locations of good foraging habitat and roosting sites. The most fundamental question to be answered is: can a self sustaining population of turkeys be reintroduced to what is essentially an island wildlife preserve of 2,000 acres in a “sea” of urban development? Stay tuned…
Additional wildlife species reintroductions are planned. Most of these require habitat improvements to be made in advance and those steps are currently being taken. A partial list of the species under consideration to be reintroduced includes, but is not limited to the following animals: black-tailed jackrabbit, plains pocket gopher, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, muskrat, black-tailed prairie dog, collared lizard, and Texas horned lizard.
Plants are usually considered collectively as the “habitat” occupied by animals, although they, like the above animals, represent members of a distinct community indicative of the ecosystems that we strive to restore. And they too are being reintroduced, sometimes plant by plant, species by species, from our “plant rescue” activities in Denton and surrounding counties when development threatens their survival. LLELA staff and volunteers work with members of other conservation organizations, municipalities, and government agencies to save valuable biodiversity from being lost forever. In that regard LLELA and its restoration sites serve as a repository for north central Texas biodiversity.