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The Range Vegetation of Kerr County, Texas, in Relation to Livestock and White-Tailed Deer

Helmut Karl Buechner
The American Midland Naturalist
Vol. 31, No. 3 (May, 1944), pp. 697-743
DOI: 10.2307/2421416
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2421416
Page Count: 47
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Range Vegetation of Kerr County, Texas, in Relation to Livestock and White-Tailed Deer
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Abstract

The investigation reported on here deals with the range vegetation of Kerr County, Texas, and some of its associated livestock and deer relationships. The natural vegetation of the county is a more or less open oak grassland, with some cedar occurring in small areas, probably under natural conditions, on steep, rocky slopes unsuitable for the establishment of the oaks. In accordance with physiographic and edaphic factors, the various oaks segregate into well-defined communities. Shinoak is found correlated with thin, rocky soils at the highest elevations; liveoak with the deeper soils on gentle slopes and bottomlands; Spanish oak with the caliche soils of steeper slopes and in headwater draws; and 'blackjack oak with siliceous soils. Stream vegetation is usually dominated by sycamore, Bray oak, hackberry, river walnut, pecan, and cypress. The vegetation of Kerr County may be divided into five areas: (1), the Liveoak-Shinoak Divide; (2), the Blackjack Divide; (3), the Liveoak-Spanish Oak Erosion Area; (4) the Cedar Brakes; and (5), the Riparian. Each of these areas is composed of various communities that are determined in part by soils and physiography, and in part by livestock grazing pressures. Generally, the arborescent vegetation is determined by the former, and the ground vegetation by the latter. The various ground vegetation communities follow well-defined stages of secondary succession, and depend upon the degree of livestock grazing pressure. In retrogressive order these communities or seral stages are: (1), the climax, dominated by little bluestem grass and speargrass; (2), the grama stage, dominated by sideoats grama and hairy grama; (3), the buffalo grass or curly mesquite stage, dominated by neither one of these grasses, depending upon the amount of available soil moisture; (4), the three-awn grass stage, dominated by red three-awn, Reverchon three-awn, and Aristida wrightii; and (5), the forb stage, dominated by unpalatable forbs such as mealy sage, Evax spp., and hoarhound. The most economical of these stages to maintain on the average ranch in Kerr County are the grama stage and the curly mesquite stage. Range lands in the county are mostly stocked at 70 to more than 100 animal units per section. These rates of stocking cause the elimination of the valuable, more palatable grasses and produce the three-awn grass or forb stage of succession. Much of the ground vegetation at the present time is in the three-awn seral stage; only on properly stocked ranges are curly mesquite or grama grasses dominant. Indications are that not more than 50 animal units (including deer) should be placed on one section of 640 acres. Many of the ranches are leased for white-tailed deer hunting. Since deer provide a substantial portion of the ranch income, it is desirable that they be manifest on all of the range lands of the county, is the control of available in the maintenance of shootable white-tailed deer populations, though not yet manifest on all or the range lands of the county, is the control of available browse. Overstocking with goats has been responsible for great reductions in available browse; and if the practice is continued, declines in the deer population are inevitable. The range lands of Kerr County are particularly well-adapted for the production of deer; effort should be directed more completely toward the inclusion of these animals in the range management programs. Maintenance of more favorable vegetative conditions, through lighter grazing and direction of management practices to include deer as well as livestock, should insure the continuance of deer in shootable numbers.

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