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      Nature Report: First Day of Spring

      Well, it's officially the first day of spring, but if you are a Texas tortoise emerging from your brief winter rest, then there sure isn't much to eat out there in the South Texas wildlands.

      Texas tortoises don't actually hibernate, but rather take a short winter siesta called brumation.

      However, this year as they hungrily emerge from shallow burrows many are succumbing to starvation, as there is little to eat. The ranchland is already littered with the carapaces or shells of Texas tortoises that have not been able to sustain themselves in the brush country.

      Tortoises suffer other calamities, such as being turned over by curious coyotes and not being able to right themselves, or even being upturned by a rival, but exceptional drought is an insidious killer. Texas tortoises are among the hardiest creatures in the South Texas wildlands and can live for 80 years or more, so it is particularly alarming when they begin to suffer. The prolonged drought has left many ranchlands so parched that there is not a blade of grass or fresh shrub available for the tortoises to munch on.

      Even the prickly pear cactus, which is a favorite food for the tortoises, is so desiccated on many properties that it offers little in the way of nutrition or moisture. Despite the dry condition of prickly pear, javelinas are eating the thorny cactus simply because there is little else to dine on, but they are suffering as well. With the forecast calling for continued drought, the crisis for wildlife increases daily as food and water become scarcer. The creatures of the chaparral are well adapted to periodic drought, but prolonged drought will take its toll on even the hardiest denizens of the arid brush country. With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore.