Spring has arrived in Dallas. The temperatures are rising and periodically dropping with an occasional spring storm in the forecast. So what does this mean for nature in Dallas parks?
Just as the warm weather draws out people to the parks, it also draws snakes out of their winter slumber. Now through mid-June is a very active time period for snakes. Snakes can be found almost anywhere in Dallas, especially near creeks or natural areas. They are an important part of the ecosystem and help keep the rodent population under control. Since a small number of them may also be venomous, it is a good safety practice to simply leave them alone. It is common to find snakes along trails and sidewalks in the morning and early evening. Keeping your dog on a leash is a city ordinance and is advised to help keep your pets safe from snakes.
Many of our mammal wildlife species hit their peak breeding season right around Valentine’s Day. The species that do really well around the city often have about a 60 gestation period, so you may start seeing some baby animals soon. Specifically coyotes, skunks and raccoons tend to be more noticeable. This time of year, it’s normal to see a skunk during the day. It may simply be lactating mother skunk looking for more food. Of course, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t appear sick and is acting normal; and is actually trying to avoid you. It’s always best to leave them alone, in case they have rabies. Many bird species are also nesting at this time. Most nesting bird species are legally protected, so please leave them alone. If it is obvious that the mother has abandoned her babies you’re encouraged to contact a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department permitted wildlife rehabber (Dallas County Wildlife Rehabbers).
The spring migration north for Monarch Butterflies starts in the Dallas area in mid-March. We started spotting monarchs in the area late last week. As flowers start to bloom strongly along the migration route, they will start showing up in greater numbers. Last year they peaked from March 28 - April 15. Good areas to look for early arriving Monarch Butterflies on Dallas park properties include: the prairie remnants around White Rock Lake, Harry S. Moss, the butterfly gardens at Everglade and Crawford, and the natural areas around William Blair Jr. and Mountain Creek Lake. Pay special attention to plants with yellow, pink, orange, purple and red flowers. Enjoy!
Speaking of blooming flowers, there are lots of interesting plants blooming around Dallas parks. One of the more unique flowers blooming in Dallas parks are the trout lilies. They started blooming several week ago, and we are on the backside of their blooming season. You just have to get out and look for the isolated colonies. They like areas that have never been plowed under, so look at wooded areas with leaf litter and hillsides. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department maintains a large number of “Wildflower Area” locations throughout the city. These areas will have limited to no mowing until mid-June. By mid-June, many of the plants have already gone to seed, and the area may be mowed for maintenance purposes. In the Fall of 2016, rotational mowing was started on the prairie remnants around White Rock Lake. This was an effort to start controlling woody species. It will be exciting to see how the prairie responds this spring. For more information, please visit Dallas Urban Biologist.