The Texas State reptile is the Texas horned lizard. When I
was young, we’d find these funny little creatures everywhere and what little
kid couldn’t resist playing with them? We used to call them horny toads. We’d
turn them on their backs and stroke their tummies until they’d go to sleep. You
don’t see them much anymore. Their main staple is the harvester ant but with
the introduction of the fire ant, the harvester ants have decreased thus
causing a significant decrease in the horned lizard in central Texas. Might be
different for other areas but I know it’s been years since I’ve seen one here.
|photo from Wikipedia|
The firefly or “lightening bug” is another creature we see very little of now. When I was younger, we’d see them all the time. I always loved catching them and putting them in a jar for a short time to enjoy their antics before releasing them to the night sky. Just last spring, we spied one in our front yard for the first time in twenty years. We were very excited. I did find a website that collected firefly sightings from Texas and it seems there are pockets here and about where you can still find swarms of them. They like the marshy areas and I imagine the draughts we’ve had in recent years have affected the firefly populations in our area.
|photo from Wikipedia|
These recollections got me to thinking about other animals and their dimensioning numbers. When folks first settled the west, I imagine they saw a great many species of animals that are no longer as prevalent. For example, before Europeans settled in Texas, the cougar or mountain lion roamed all over Texas. Now the majestic felines keep to scattered counties of Texas and the mountainous country in West Texas.
Black bears in Texas used to be quite abundant. From 1850s until 1950s, folks would hunt these animals just for fun and by the 1950s it was very rare to find a black bear in Texas. By the 1970s, hunting restrictions were put into place and by 1983, it was illegal to hunt black bears in Texas at all and they were placed on the endangered species list. Twenty-some-odd years later, there seems to be a growing population of bears in west and east Texas, thrilling wildlife biologists.
I supposed the point I’m trying to make with this short reflection is that along with everything else we need to remember when we write, authors should research the existence of animals, insects and birds for the time period of their setting. I remember reading a book where an author mentioned a black bear in Texas and I’m thinking, eh? The book was a modern western written around 1980 and I don’t recall ever hearing of bears in Texas at that time so it kinda threw me off. I imagine there might have been a few rare sightings then but …