Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 2, July, 2000 Page: 71
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Colorado County Wildlife Under Siege
Fire reduction has allowed a tremendous encroachment of shrub/tree vegeta-
tion on areas formerly in grassy prairie. This conversion in plant types has been a boon to
increases in mammals favoring a mix of woody cover and grassland edges. These include
Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginianus), eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), fox
squirrel (Sciurus niger), coyote (Canis latrans), raccoon (Procyon lotor), striped skunk
(Mephitis mephitis), and even the highly-adaptable white-tailed deer (Odocoileus
virginianus) once it began to receive adequate breeding stock protection.
Specific Species Changes
Small Mammals: In fallow rice fields in the Eagle Lake area in 1938, such small inverte-
brate-eating mammals as least-shrews (Cryptotis parva) and fulvous harvest mice
(Reithrodontomysfulvescens) were abundant, while grass-eating marsh rice rats (Oryzomys
palustris) and hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) were less numerous. The reverse
was true in the same area 46 years later in 1984. Possibly, post World War II agricultural
practices, including the widespread application of newly-developed chemical additives (pes-
ticides in particular), seriously depressed the food supplies of insectivorous types like the
shrew and mouse, and produced an environment favoring small, graminivorous animals.
Nine-banded Armadillo: This Neotropical edentate emerged from the Rio Grande Valley
in the early years of the twentieth century. It slowly spread until today it occurs north to
Kansas and Missouri and east to South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. According to the late
State Game Warden Thomas T. Waddell's field notes, the first armadillo observed in Colo-
rado County was in 1908, and in Fayette and Austin counties in 1911. It is uncertain whether
human land use patterns provided an environment for triggering this expansion.
Gray Squirrel: Of the two resident tree squirrels, the smaller gray squirrel traditionally
inhabited old growth hardwoods along waterways. The larger fox squirrel has the ability to
use this same habitat, but thrives equally well in second-growth forest, brush lands, thin
wooded stands along feeder streams, and even in prairie motts. Through the years, however,
logging and other riverine forest manipulations severely reduced quality, gray squirrel habi-
tat. Field notes by the late State Game Warden Thomas T. Waddell show that gray squirrels
were taken by hunters as late as 1938 and 1939 along the Colorado River bottom in areas
where today gray squirrels no longer live. The adaptable fox squirrels have usurped most of
the riparian wood lands that now seem to lack the quality preferred by the gray squirrel.
American Beaver: The beaver disappeared from the watersheds of Colorado County in the
first or second decade of the twentieth century with the massive rodent's last stand probably
on Cummins Creek. Vernon Bailey writes of beaver in this locality in 1904, quoting a letter
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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/m1/7/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed February 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.