There’s a big mammalian predator said to roam the North Texas countryside. But this elusive killer is a ghost. Only the most fleeting of glimpses are ever allowed. Impossible to photograph, and mysterious in its habits and sign–this clever creature often mimics our more common varieties. I’m not talking about Bigfoot or Sasquatch… I’m talking about that OTHER crytpid–the long-tailed tawny one. I’ve been told with some adamancy, that they got ’em in the LBJ National Grasslands, and I wanted to check it out for myself.

In the scheme of things, the LBJ National Grasslands is not very urban. In fact, the rolling countryside of northern Wise County is about a rural as it gets. Nonetheless, the grasslands are located squarely within the self-imposed boundaries of this website’s coverage area, so that makes it fair game for a DFW Urban Wildlife trail camera survey in my book.

For those who are not familiar, the grasslands consist of 73 units of public land managed by the US Forest Service. The tracts are scattered all across north-central Wise country, and vary in size and terrain. Outdoor recreation is name of the game in the grasslands. Horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and hunting are all popular activities here.

LBJ National Grasslands in Wise County.
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The grasslands abound with wildlife. White-tailed Deer, Feral Hogs, Coyotes, Bobcats, foxes, and other common North Texas small mammals can all be found here. Ducks, geese, Wild Turkey, Bobwhite Quail, and many other birds make use of the varied terrains. And, if my sources are correct, there may be another–less frequently documented–animal sharing the grasslands as well.

For this project, I gathered up some of my older trail cameras–still serviceable, but nearing retirement.  Technology has passed these cameras by. They still trigger reliably, but as you will see, they lack in image quality. It was time to put them out to pasture, and I couldn’t think of a better last hurrah for these units than a long term survey of the grasslands in Wise County.  

My plan was to scout out some remote, but highly trafficked game trails, and watch them with trail cameras for an extended period of time–nine months to be exact. Using this strategy, I was sure to capture many candid pictures of wildlife living in the grasslands. Who knows what else I might record?

In early February, I scraped and crawled into some of the more inaccessible parts of the grasslands in order to find prime locations for these sets. I carefully chose places that showed signs of an abundance of wildlife activity, while at the same time revealing a dearth of human intrusion. For the better part of a year my cameras watched over these remote and very busy game trails.  Hundreds of photos were taken. The following is a sampling of shots that were recorded…

Location One

For this set I chose an intermittent pond located at the margin of a grassy prairie and a dense woodland. For much of the year, this would be an important watering hole in this particular part of the grasslands. The nature of the pond changed dramatically over the course of the year, though. Pay special attention to the way it grows and shrinks with the changing of the seasons.

A pair of does wandering through early in the year.
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There are five deer in this picture. Can you find them all?
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The deer seemed to enjoy the additional water.
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A pair of young bucks horsing around near the water’s edge in late July.
A Raccoon (bottom right) hunting in what little water still remains in late July.
Note the hog wallow in the lower left of the picture.
A young buck sharing what’s left of the water with a foraging Raccoon.
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Three deer come bounding by in early September.
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Location Two

Here, I discovered a pinch point between dense vegetation and a deep cut ravine. If you wanted to get through this part of the forest, this was the place to make the transit. This was a very busy spot.

The first visitor at this location was this handsome Bobcat.
Note the cheek ruffs and striping on the front legs.
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A couple of days later it was a Feral Hog that made an appearance.
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This deer had just recently dropped an antler.
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Does accessing the pass in April.
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Antler growth in late June
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Developing a nice rack two weeks into July.
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Inspecting the camera. Deer can hear the trigger mechanism.
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Feeding on vines.
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Hello!
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Location Three

Location three was a crossroads of sorts. A number of game trails intersected in this small clearing deep in the woods. This was easily the most active spot surveyed during this effort.

A Striped Skunk was the first animal to appear at this set.
He visited in mid-February.
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Next was this mammoth Feral Hog.
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Speaking of mammoth, this Raccoon was a Goliath.
Mr. Coyote was all business.
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A late March buck.
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Does on the trail just an hour after a buck had passed through.
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A spotted Bobcat in early April.
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There are three deer in this picture. One has bedded down.
Can you find them all?
Virginia Opossum on the trail in mid-April.
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This doe was easily recognized thanks to
the distinctive white markings on her snout and forehead.
This is her in February (left) and again in May (right)
A mamma pig and her piglets.
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In May, another Feral Hog.
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Nine-banded Armadillo.
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Fawns began appearing in front of the camera in early July.
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They were photographed frequently.
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A pair of July fawns nursing their mother.
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In August, a nighttime shot.
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A buck and a spiderweb in front of the camera in mid-October.
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Here another deer has bedded down in front of the camera.
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Location Four

This spot was surveyed from on high. I set my camera looking down onto a busy game trail running through a deep ravine. During times of heavy rain, this gully would certainly fill with water, swamping and washing away any vegetation that might grow there in the dry season. The resulting open ground made this cut a natural pathway for animals looking to avoid the green brier tangles in the forest above.

A Coyote transits the ravine in mid-March.
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Five deer in the ravine.
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A train of deer following the trail in late March.
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A pair of Feral Hogs in early April.
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A Raccoon following the same path as the other critters.
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An April shower has turned the game trail into a shallow stream.
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A feral Hog piglet on the trail in mid-June. There are more–his compadres
are hidden from view by the extensive vegetation growth.
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A nice buck in the October tall grass.

As expected, a long term project like this one revealed much about the wildlife of the LBJ National Grasslands. All of the usual suspects were present and accounted for. But, in spite of constant surveillance for the better part of the year, nothing out of the ordinary was photographed.

So, this time around they don’t got ’em in the grasslands. Some of you may be surprised by this outcome, and other of you not so much. Maybe things will be different next time, there’s still a lot of grasslands to explore. Stay tuned!