Erin Wehland of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department poses in front of a mural at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service building in Burnet. She has worked as a natural resource specialist and wildlife biologist for the TPWD for nearly nine years. Staff photo by Nathan Bush
Wildlife has been a guiding light for Erin Wehland ever since she was a young girl growing up in Nebraska.
“My dad loved animals,” said the wildlife biologist. “We had a variety of different animals growing up. It’s fun to watch their interactions. They have their own personalities, just like people, except maybe they don’t talk back.”
After graduating from the University of Nebraska with a degree in natural resources, Wehland found her way into the heart of Texas, trading the harsh winters of her home state for sunny skies and better weather.
“I had worked in Nebraska and did some stints in Missouri and Florida before moving back to Nebraska,” Wehland said. “I applied for a (graduate) position down in Kingsville. The snow was blowing, which made South Texas sound great.”
Since moving to Central Texas, Wehland has served as a natural resource specialist/wildlife biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for nearly nine years.
“Our duties really vary,” she said. “It really depends on the time of year and what our priorities are. I guess you could say we wear a lot of different hats.”
Here’s what else Wehland had to say about her ever-changing job with the TPWD and what she cherishes most about the position.
Natural resource specialist/wildlife biologist
I spend a lot of time working with private landowners, either for wildlife tax evaluations or agricultural appraisals. That’s an ongoing, year-round request at this point. I do site visits and write management recommendations. We host workshops for wildlife tax evaluations for people so that they can attend and get an idea of what to do.
We also work toimprove habitats, especiallyin the Hill Country area, and we manage deer populations. It’s important because we have so many deer that it’s actually affecting our woody vegetation and our woody plant species.
People just don’t realize the effect these deer can have on the landscape. I get a lot of property owners who say, ‘Look at this gorgeous oak tree.’ I ask them, ‘How many do you have that are waist-high?’ A lot of times, it’s very few unless they have an area that is kind of protected. I’m not saying we need to get rid of any deer — I don’t advocate that at all. We just need to bring it down for better regrowth.
Wildlife management is sometimes people management. Urban wildlife can be some of the hardest things to manage because of all the different opinions. Deer are a very charismatic species. It can be very problematic when you get into places like cities and you can see things like car accidents, damage to the landscape as they eat plants, and stuff like that.
You have the two extremes. You have someone who wants to get rid of every one of the deer and somebody else who wants them all to stay there. You have to be very transparent and be able to negotiate what the overall goals for the community are and make sure they’re meeting them.
I really enjoy the hands-on work. For example, we do dove banding. That season is coming up this summer, so we’re getting ready for that. We trap doves and put bands on them. It’s always interesting and a fun thing to do.
Honestly, I love doing site visits on people’s properties. Every property is different, and you get to see some things that you may not get to see otherwise. A lot of people have pride in what they have, and the vast majority want to improve their land and make it better. I think that’s great since Texas is mostly privately owned.