Permian Basin Area Foundation Supports BRI with $300K Grant for Respect Big Bend Effort
P ermian Basin Area Foundation is providing a $300,000 grant to the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) to support stakeholder engagement and outreach as part of the Respect Big Bend Coalition’s efforts in West Texas.

Respect Big Bend is a collaboration between local landowners, community residents and leadership, scientists, industry, researchers, and conservationists formed to address energy development's impact in the greater Big Bend region of far West Texas. BRI is taking a leadership role in coordinating and implementing the outreach and education aspects of the project.

“Borderlands Research Institute is a great asset to West Texas, and we applaud their scientific approach in advancing best practices for land and wildlife conservation,” said Guy McCrary, president and CEO of Permian Basin Area Foundation. “We are pleased to join with the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation and others in supporting the Respect Big Bend Coalition. We believe that BRI is well-positioned to advance this important initiative.”

BRI is coordinating the first landowner workshop for the effort in partnership with the Texas Agricultural Land Trust. The workshop title is “Saving Working Lands: Preparing Landowners for Energy Development,” and it is scheduled Nov. 14, 2019 from 10:30am – 2:00pm. The workshop will be held at the Espino Conference Center at Sul Ross State University. The agenda can be found at , and registration for this free event will be open soon at .

Project Spotlight:
Mule Deer in the Black Gap Complex
A BRI researcher uses telemetry to gather location data on collared mule deer.
H istorically mule deer occurred across vast areas of Texas, residing across the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle and Edwards Plateau regions. However, this changed by the early-1900s when populations were isolated to just a few pockets in the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos regions because of changing land use practices, over-hunting, and urbanization. Since then mule deer populations have rebounded in most areas in the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle thanks to efforts from private landowners and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Drought, habitat quality, disease, and predation are some of the factors that limit mule deer population growth.

One such area of Texas that has fewer mule deer than expected is Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (BGWMA). During the 1960s this area’s estimated population ranged from 2,000–4,000 mule deer within the wildlife management area. In contrast, the estimated mule deer population was less than 200 individuals at the WMA in 2013.

In order to understand why mule deer numbers struggled, researchers with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Cemex (USA and Mexico) and Borderlands Research Institute conducted a restoration project in the BGWMA and a neighboring ranch. Our goal was to try to boost the mule deer populations at these locations with multiple translocation efforts as well as to compare different release methods for future translocations.

Student Spotlight:
John Clayton (Kiddo) Campbell
B orderlands Research Institute graduate student Kiddo Campbell considers himself lucky. Most graduate students spend their last year of school worried about what’s going to come next. Kiddo already knows. He was hired as a Natural Resource Specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in August 2018 and has been juggling a full-time job in his chosen field along with his graduate studies and thesis project.
When he’s not on the clock for TPWD, he’s busy working on his thesis project, which is investigating mule deer translocation methods at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. He expects to graduate in December 2019. The experience and knowledge gained from this school project will serve him well in his position at TPWD.
“There’s so much that goes into successful wildlife management. It takes collaboration with private landowners along with working with state, national and even international governments,” he explained. “You have to look at the bigger picture. Mule deer move large distances and the river isn’t a boundary. Everyone who is interested in mule deer management has to work together toward common goals.”
As Kiddo wraps up his last few months at Sul Ross State University, he continues to count his lucky stars that he ended up studying wildlife biology, and especially that he ended up in Alpine.
“I did not have much wildlife experience when I arrived here as an undergraduate student, but thanks to BRI, I’ve had so many opportunities to get out there and learn about all the wildlife out here. It’s been an amazing experience, one that led directly to my first full-time job. I feel very fortunate and hope to continue being part of the BRI family and give back to others as much as I can.”
Fun Fact: Mule Deer Stotting
A mule deer fawn stotting. Mule deer are adept at clearing brush and rocky terrain and evading predators with this signature high, stiff-legged jump.
I f you’ve ever spooked a mule deer, you may have seen it bound away in stiff-legged jumps, kind of like a pogo stick. This escape behavior is called stotting and is something that distinguishes mule deer from white-tailed deer. White-tailed deer sprint; mule deer stot (and hide, but that’s for another time).
So why do mule deer stot? The answer is mostly landscape- and habitat-related. By stotting, a mule deer escaping a predator can glimpse the path ahead, can jump over brush and rocks with surprising speed and agility, and can suddenly change direction, even jumping backward. These unpredictable and obstacle-clearing moves allow mule deer to outmaneuver predators in broken terrain.
As you can probably infer, such moves would not be as advantageous in a forest or on the open plains. However, on the mule deer-preferred desert scrublands and steep, rocky slopes of the Western US, mule deer are well equipped to make an exit.
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832