While people suffered and died in the now legendary Texas deep freeze of February 2021, the exotic animals of Texas Canyon Ranch were also dealt a severe blow.
When Winter Storm Uri arrived in Texas between February 13 and 17, Texans suffered badly, and some died. But it wasn’t only humans who suffered. Well known Texas working cattle and wildlife ranch, Canyon Ranch, experienced animal losses and infrastructure damage so severe it has been forced to cancel most scheduled hunting for the rest of the year.
Despite no electricity and limited heat, and ranch staff’s around-the-clock efforts during the storm to keep water pipes from freezing, keep wildlife and livestock fed and watered, the watering troughs free from ice, and to minimize the water damage to the main lodge camp, houses and other structures, the ranch and its wildlife suffered dramatic losses. As a result, the ranch has been forced to cancel all remaining group hunts for this year. Only "premier" hunts will be offered, allowing one or two hunters at a time to hunt with a private guide and a limited harvest.
According to Bill Hall, Business Manager for Canyon Ranch, "We have notified everyone who had scheduled a group hunt for 2021 that we have had to cancel. Hopefully, we can reschedule them once our facilities have been fully restored, and we are comfortable with the wildlife recovery process."
With Winter Storm Uri, Texas experienced the kind of cold, ice and snow it hasn’t seen for decades. Well known Texas wildlife biologist Rick Taylor has been consulted, and stated that Canyon Ranch, which includes 21,913 acres on the Edwards Plateau between Sonora and Rocksprings, sits at the heart of one of Texas’s hardest hit regions. Temperatures on the ranch dipped into the low single digits and stayed there for days. This part of Texas includes a number of wildlife ranches that are home to both native and exotic species of animals, and Canyon Ranch is one of those experiencing dramatic wildlife losses.
Bill Hall says, "We are heartbroken by the toll the storm took on our animals. We are afraid that more than 2,000 of our over 4,000 Axis deer population were lost, along with about 60% of our Black Buck antelope population. Fortunately, few of our Oryx were lost, although we can tell they are impacted by how slow they are to move away when approached. They just don’t have the energy to run. No Red Deer were lost, and, needless to say, as always the feral hogs are doing just fine."
The ranch is busy repairing the damaged pipes and other infrastructure, and Hall hopes the February freeze will not have a lasting impact on the ranch’s ecology. A few trees were lost, but the grasslands and most plant life are expected to recover well. It will take some years for the wildlife to get back to pre-2021 levels, but it will, although the ranch is considering maintaining a reduced population of highly prolific Axis deer.
In addition to the wildlife already mentioned, Canyon Ranch features extraordinary ecological diversity, including fallow deer, whitetail deer, Rio Grande turkey, javelinas, bobcats, coyotes, about 60 bird species and more than 181 plant species. Extensive zoological and botanical studies have been conducted on the ranch, and Canyon Ranch works closely with Texas A&M’s rangeland management program in an effort to restore the rangeland to as it was before settlement.
Canyon Ranch is under a Texas Parks and Wildlife MLDP – Managed Lands Deer Permits program and performs continuous ongoing rangeland and wildlife habitat management intended to constantly improve the conditions for wildlife. Hunting and harvests are carefully managed under the guidance of wildlife biologists with a focus on improving the herd health. As a hunting ranch Canyon Ranch is also is a member of the Exotic Wildlife Association.
Canyon Ranch is one of the largest working ranches and recreational properties on the Edwards Plateau, consisting of 21,913 acres between Sonora and Rocksprings, Texas. Established in 1880 and currently owned by Bearden Investments, Canyon Ranch and its managers are dedicated to sustaining the ecological and biological diversity of the ranch while providing hunting and other recreational experiences for a limited number of visitors. Canyon Ranch has been featured in many episodes of Savage Outdoors TV on the Sportsman Channel.
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