NFWF Awards $250,000 Grant to the
Borderlands Research Institute
T he National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a $250,000 grant to the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) for a grassland enhancement project in Marfa and Marathon. The funds will be matched dollar for dollar by private sources including funds from landowners and dollars raised by BRI, doubling the impact of the grant.

In partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the project will enhance 6,000 acres of grassland habitat in the Marfa Plateau and Marathon Basin that has been negatively affected by invasive mesquite, creosote, tarbush and whitethorn acacia. Once the affected areas are treated, BRI researchers will monitor response to treatments and develop region-specific science-driven management recommendations.

“This project is an extension of our collaborative work with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and private landowners to better understand and manage grassland habitats,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University. “We appreciate NFWF’s support of our work to improve habitat for West Texas wildlife.”

Project Spotlight: Kit Fox
W here can kit fox be found in Texas? That’s the research objective of a Borderlands Research Institute study currently being conducted in the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas. Kit fox have been sighted in West Texas before, but the distribution and status of the nocturnal creature is unknown. The BRI study aims to assess the distribution of kit fox in Texas and to aid in their conservation through public involvement and management recommendations. Researchers are also looking at the co-occurrence of kit fox with other mesocarnivores such as coyotes, gray fox, bobcats, and skunks.

Researchers have identified areas of historical and more recent observations of kit fox in Texas by combing through published databases and scientific reports along with canvassing local wildlife biologists and natural resource managers. Suitable habitat can be found in all nine counties in the Trans-Pecos, and now researchers are surveying those areas using remote trail cameras. A network of citizen scientists and graduate students are working on the project. Once the project is complete, BRI researchers will map their potential distribution and will expand public awareness through education and outreach. The study is being funded by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and project photos have been posted online.

Student Profile: Matt Hewitt
Y ou might say that Matt Hewitt’s interest in wildlife is in his DNA, considering his parents met at a wildlife conference and his great-grandfather, Les Robinette, was an accomplished large mammal researcher in Utah and Colorado. Matt was born in Utah, but just three weeks after he was born, the family moved to South Texas after his dad accepted a job at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Matt’s childhood was spent in the rural environs of Kingsville, where his love for the outdoors and wildlife was nurtured by his mom and dad.

He graduated from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Range and Wildlife Management and worked as a hunting guide and ranch hand while going to school. As he finished up his undergraduate degree and participated in various internships, there was never a question in his mind that he would continue his education in wildlife management.

“There’s not a huge number of choices in graduate programs for wildlife,” he said. “I had heard really good things about Borderlands Research Institute, and when I learned there was a research project exploring kit fox distribution in West Texas, I jumped on it because it involved carnivores.”

Matt’s project began in March of 2018 and the field work will continue until March 2019. He will then write up his thesis and plans on graduating in December 2019. Matt is enjoying his time in Alpine but looks forward to the next step after graduate school.

“A PhD is not out of the question, and I wouldn’t be opposed to spending some time as a ranch manager,” he said. “I’m still figuring things out. In the meantime, I’m going to do the best job I can with this kit fox project. I’m fortunate to be able to see a different ranch every weekend. The landowners we work with are amazing. They’ve been very cooperative and supportive of us. We really appreciate it.”

Fun Fact: Why Do Kit Foxes Have Big Ears?
L ike jackrabbits, mule deer and other desert animals, kit foxes’ large ears allow them to hear predators from far away, and they also help them to cool off. To reduce the need for panting, which causes loss of precious water, kit foxes can release excess heat through the blood vessels in their oversized ears in a process called vasodilation. In this specialized method of thermoregulation, these animals are able to release heat when their body temperature is higher than the ambient temperature, so when they’re in underground dens or in the shade of a bush, the blood vessels in their ears dilate and expel excess heat.
San Antonio Livestock Exposition
W e’d like to give a shout-out to one of our long-standing partners, the San Antonio Livestock Exposition (S . A . L . E . ), also known as the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. For 18 days each February, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo hosts over two million visitors, and has grown to be one of the largest and most prestigious single events in the city of San Antonio.

“We are proud to support the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University in its efforts to promote stewardship of wildlife and natural resources and educational programs that encourage conservation,” said Cody Davenport, S.A.L.E.’s Executive Director and CEO.

Since 2010, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has provided $375,000 in fellowships to BRI graduate students studying Natural Resource Management at Sul Ross State University, and these BRI fellows are among the 9,100 Texas students who have benefited from S.A.L.E. scholarships. With Sul Ross State University and other educational partners, S.A.L.E. is approaching a commitment of $200 million for Texas youth through scholarships, grants, endowments, auctions, a calf scramble program and show premiums.
Awarded the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year for over a decade, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has the world’s best bucking stock and rodeo athletes compete during 18 days of rodeo. Add world-class entertainment, livestock and horse shows, educational exhibits, family-friendly activities, shopping and a carnival; they truly have something for everyone.

For more information about the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, please visit or call 210.225.5851.
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832