Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 2, July, 2000 Page: 69
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Colorado County Wildlife Under Siege
use and conservation of natural resources and a greater appreciation of the natural scene,
with glorious samples preserved in city, county, state, and national parks.
Heavy Handed Human Encroachment
Ice Age Mammals: Because evidence of their fossils has been found, we know that several
thousands of years ago Colorado County and vicinity was the home of a now-extinct
megafauna including such awesome creatures as mastodons and mammoths (early types of
elephants), megabison, massive ground sloths, armor-plated glyptodonts (a sort of giant ar-
madillo), horses, tapirs, camels, large bears, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, and lions, plus
an array of smaller creatures. These species were, however, on the wane by the time people
from the West arrived. In fact, North America lost 73% of its fauna having adult weights of
more than 98 pounds as a result of this poorly understood extinction.' The newcomers,
apparently derived from "experienced" Asiatic big game hunters, may have, according to
some authorities, even helped complete the final extermination of the mighty Ice Age as-
Modern Mammals: In the early 1800s, according to the best estimates of mammalogists
and local observers, probably 45 kinds of non-human mammals were either year-around or
part-time residents of Colorado County. These included one opossum, one shrew, one mole,
at least eight kinds of bats, one hare, two rabbits, five squirrels, one beaver, eight small
rodents, three wild canids, one bear, four wild felids, seven small carnivores of the raccoon
and weasel families, and three hoofed ungulates.2
Today, almost two hundred years later, there are only 38 native mammals in
Colorado County, 37 of those listed above, plus another naturally-intruding native, the nine-
banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus). This list also includes the beaver (Castor
canadensis) that was extirpated near the turn of the century but purposely re-established in
the 1950s. Eight species present in 1800 are now missing. These are red wolf (Canis rufus),
black bear (Ursus americanus), river otter (Lontra canadensis), jaguar (Panthera onca),
ocelot (Felis pardalis), mountain lion (Felis concolor), collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu),
and buffalo (Bos bison). Since settlement, however, the county has unfortunately gained six
human-introduced, exotic, and mostly noxious species: Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus),
roof rat (Rattus rattus), house mouse (Mus musculus), nutria (Myocastor coypus), red
fox (Vulpes vulpes), and feral hog (Sus scrofa). In addition to settler-derived domestic
1 Timothy F Flannary, "Debating Extinction," Science, vol. 283, no. 5399, p. 182, 1999.
2 See, for example, David J. Schmidly, Texas Mammals East of the Balcones Fault Zone (College
Station: Texas A&M Press, 1983) and William B. Dewees, Letters from and an Early Settler of Texas (Louisville,
Kentucky: Morton and Griswold,l1852).
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 2, July, 2000, periodical, July 2000; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151409/m1/5/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.