District 4 Wildlife Biologist Johnny Arredondo says the mission of the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife is to “manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing, and recreation outdoors and opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. ”
The regions of Texas are based on the ecology of the region, he says. Region 4 is the Edwards Plateau, from Travis County to Lampasas. Its part of the TPWD mission is to manage natural resources in three counties, Kerr, Real and Bandera. “Natural resources” include animals, plants, water and land.
A big part of his job is teaching, he says. “Texas is 98% privately owned, so my primary job is to educate property owners and provide technical guidance so they can better maintain their property. Managing what we had before has led to what we have today, and how we use what we have today will determine what we have in the future. I want people to enjoy what we have now so that future generations can enjoy what we have today. So, in addition to landowners, I teach the public, who can be anyone from city dwellers to young hunters, why it is important to manage our natural resources.
He says his main focus is wildlife management, monitoring animal populations. It is a job that varies according to the day, the week and the time of year. He spends about half of his time in his office and the other half in the field working from his truck.
“Some days I’m on the computer or on the phone answering questions from landowners or the public about anything from sick deer to wildlife reports. In the field, I may watch animals such as deer, quail or doves, or watch non-game animals. At first, biologists mainly worked on “game biology”, but now we work with all animals. Everything has its own niche in habitat, so when we manage for one species, we manage for all species.
He says that since the 1940s this also includes exotic species that have been imported into the region. They present their own problems in competition with native species. “Introducing a new species or an invasive species is like throwing a key in a well-functioning machinery, and we are always faced with this. So part of what I do is help with research. All the information we give people is based on scientific evidence, and it can come from many sources, including the public. To find a biologist, anyone can visit tpwd.texas.gov and search by region.
“For example, in the Hill Country, we closely monitor two species, cougars and black bears, so when people see evidence of this, we appreciate being notified. The black bear, in particular, is a species protected, so it is illegal to kill them, but sometimes people confuse them with wild pigs. Pigs cause a lot of habitat damage, but black bears do not. If we find a bear near an urban environment, we will try to launch it and move it to a better location.
Here in the Hill Country, Arredondo says we have the largest deer population in Texas, so he uses the Managed Land Deer program to balance deer numbers with the habitat they depend on. It can help landowners inspect their property to determine “carrying capacity” or the maximum number of deer the land can support. He counts the actual deer he sees and he also examines the plants the deer eat or use for shelter. If there are too many deer on the property, they will damage this habitat, which in winter can lead to starvation. Hunting is a tool that can help manage the population. If ordinary hunting license tags are not sufficient, TPWD can issue MLDP tags, which can be used instead.
He says, “Our goal is to make sure that none of the venison is wasted. The owner may let other hunters take deer, including through programs such as the TPWD Youth Hunts or other organizations holding hunts for veterans or injured women. Surplus animals captured can also be donated, through Hunters for the Hungry, to all kinds of shelters and pantries. By working with local processors, hunters provide good meat to people who need it.
Arredondo says he was born and raised in Corpus Christi, graduating from Mary Carroll High School in 1997. “In high school, I was trying to decide if I was going into construction or biology. But I grew up in the outdoors, hunting and fishing with my father, Johnny Arredondo Sr., as the middle child between my two brothers. My dad always said, ‘You’re going to hit some bumpy roads. Overcome them and move on. It played an important role in my childhood and led to my decision, biology.
Arredondo went to Texas A&M University-Kingsville, just after changing its name from Texas A&I, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Rangeland and Wildlife Management in 2003. He served as a research technician at the university for three years, then studied quail at the Caesar Institute for Wildlife Research in Kleberg.
In 2006, he joined TPWD as a biologist, working in the Trans-Pecos region for six years, before taking a lateral transfer to the Hill Country. In his spare time, he enjoys working with his hands, with metal, wood and leather.
Arredondo says he is married, has a son, but is following his father’s example. “My family comes first, but I keep them separate from my job.”