Wildlife thriving at the coronavirus-closed Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

The Wild Basin is home to Central Texas' endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler. (Courtesy Barbara Dugelby)
The Wild Basin is home to Central Texas' endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler. (Courtesy Barbara Dugelby)

The Wild Basin is home to Central Texas' endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler. (Courtesy Barbara Dugelby)

Image description
One of the preserve's game cameras caught an image of a coyote using a trail near the visitor's center. (Courtesy Barbara Dugelby)
Image description
Bobcats have been seen near the visitor's center. (Courtesy Barbara Dugelby)
Image description
Though doing so is not permitted, hikers have created social trails within the preserve, causing a decrease in vegetation. (Courtesy Barbara Dugelby)
Image description
The same social trail has seen an increase in vegetation since the trails have closed. (Courtesy Barbara Dugelby)

As national parks and protected lands experience coronavirus closures, many have reported increased activity among wildlife. The same can be said for Austin’s Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, according to Barbra Dugelby, director of the Wild Basin Creative Research Center.

The Wild Basin encompasses 227 acres of Texas Hill Country habitat, which Dugelby said has been thriving since the preserve closed about a month ago.

There are 13 motion-activated game cameras installed throughout the trails, and Dugelby and several other essential staff members have been using the footage to monitor how the wildlife is responding to the lack of visitors.

“For the first time in probably 15, maybe 20 years, we’ve observed a wild turkey on the trails,” Dugelby said. “When the preserve was founded 45 years ago, there were wild turkeys, but they’ve since disappeared.”

The cameras have also spotted bobcats and coyotes near the visitor’s center and trailhead for the first time; Dugelby said those areas are normally bustling with people.

After only one month, there has been a reemergence of flora in areas where staff had previously been struggling to achieve growth.

“The wildflowers are really abundant on the edge of the trails,” Dugelby said.

Prior to the reduction of visitors brought about by the pandemic, hikers would occasionally stray off the designated trail, forming what Dugelby referred to as “social trails.” She said the regrowth of flora has been especially abundant in those areas.

The park’s research team is also gearing up to implement an acoustic study this summer.

“We’re actually just about to start a preserve-wide sound study to document how human and other noises affect wildlife,” Dugelby said.

Home to a number of protected species, the Wild Basin is nestled along the Capital of Texas Hwy., which emits a large amount of noise pollution from nearby traffic.

Over the years, as the highway became more active, the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler nested further from the roadway, according to monitoring from a biologist within the park.

Dugelby and staff said they hope to use this knowledge to further educate the community on how easily humans can impact wildlife. She said this may be accomplished through the use of interpretative graphics or additional signage within the preserve.

The Wild Basin has only been closed to the public a handful of times since it was established. Dugelby said the preserve is ready to welcome hikers back when it is deemed safe and that she hopes visitors will practice “leave no trace” principles, which include leaving flora and fauna alone and remaining on the designated trails as much as possible.

We look forward to the day—hopefully soon—when the crisis has passed and we can welcome you all back to the preserve trails, visitor center and educational activities,” Dugelby wrote in the preserve's community newsletter.

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


The Office of Police Oversight released its first comprehensive report detailing its operations though 2019 and 2020 this June. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Office of Police Oversight report finds complaints against Austin police officers went up, but discipline fell in 2020

The new report centers on the office's three main functions, including tracking APD officer discipline, reviewing the city's police policies, and engaging with Austin residents.

Volunteers of Austin Vaccine Angels gathered after becoming fully vaccinated. (Courtesy Jodi Holzband)
Grassroots groups aimed at vaccine outreach look toward the future

For the past five months, grassroots volunteer groups have been working to connect thousands of Central Texans to COVID-19 vaccines.

Rollingwood City Council discussed measures to offset Zilker Park traffic during a June 16 meeting. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rollingwood to install barrier to reduce Zilker Park traffic through city streets

The city will install barriers at peak times from Friday evening to Monday morning to reduce cut-through traffic.

Leander ISD admin building
Leander ISD board passes $387M budget with 2% raises, new campus staffing

The budget includes 2% midpoint staff raises, campus positions for Tarvin Elementary opening in August, start-up positions for Elementary School No. 29 opening in 2022 and other district expenditures.

Washington Prime Group Inc. owns six area shopping centers, including The Arboretum. (Courtesy The Arboretum)
Owner of Austin-area shopping centers files for bankruptcy; entertainment complex coming to Cedar Park and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Leander ISD is expected to add over 12,000 students in 10 years to its current population of 40,761 students. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Committee suggests $933M bond project list to Leander ISD board

The $933.4 million reccomendation includes elementary school, middle school, high school and districtwide projects.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Lakeway council to discuss proposal to build houses, extend Flint Rock Road

Development agreement between city and developer would identify right of way for road extension

Photo of a woman and girl walking the trail with the Austin skyline behind them
Travis County commits to electrify fleet, doubles down on climate goals

Commissioners directed staff this week to develop a plan to fully electrify Travis County's fleet of vehicles, a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions for the county.

The Bloomhouse—an 1,100-square-foot home in the hills of West Austin—was built in the 1970s by University of Texas architecture students for fellow student Dalton Bloom. It was featured in the Austin Weird Homes Tour of 2020. (Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Weird Homes Tour ends; Z’Tejas to close Arboretum restaurant and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

All employees will receive a 2% increase off their midpoint salary. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lake Travis ISD approves a 2% midpoint raise for staff

Trustees approved salary adjustments for the upcoming school year.

The former hotel off I-35 had most recently been used as a COVID-19 homeless Protection Lodge. (Courtesy City of Austin)
East Cesar Chavez encampment residents move into former South Austin hotel

Through Austin's HEAL initiative, residents of an encampment near East Austin's Terrazas Branch Libarary were relocated to a South Austin shelter before that camp is cleared away.

Lake Travis ISD will apply for the final round of funding from the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Program, or ESSER III. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lake Travis ISD will seek community input on how to spend federal COVID-19 relief

Lake Travis ISD opened a community survey focused on how to best use this federal funding in its COVID recovery.