BROWNSVILLE (AP) – Strong winds and high tides may have contributed to the deaths of more than 60 brown pelicans killed by oncoming traffic along a highway near Texas’ border with Mexico. The Brownsville Herald reports that northerly winds and surging tides Thursday likely pushed pelicans to roost near a concrete traffic divider on a highway connecting Port Isabel and Brownsville. Tom deMaar, senior veterinarian at Brownsville’s Gladys Porter Zoo, was driving when he saw the birds close to oncoming traffic. DeMaar and a sheriff’s deputy stopped and tried to get the pelicans to relocate. But traffic moved fast through the area – where speed limits are 75 miles per hour – and 64 pelicans eventually were killed. Authorities later posted temporary signs warning drivers of pelicans in the roadway.
SAN MARCOS (AP) – Up to 300 live, endangered salamanders disappeared from a federal facility south of Austin over Thanksgiving, and authorities say they may have been stolen because of a potential black market value of $15,000. The Austin American Statesman reports that most of those missing are Texas blind salamanders. They are pale, 3- to 4-inch amphibians with frilly gills that can regenerate lost limbs and are believed to live only in roughly 25-square miles of aquifer beneath San Marcos. It’s also possible a predator got into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center, removed the lids from the salamanders’ covered tanks and ate them without being detected. San Marcos police are working with the agency to investigate. The facility’s 120-acre campus is about 35 miles from Austin.
FORT POLK, La. (AP) – A Texas animal welfare group has stepped forward to take in hundreds of horses that roam Fort Polk in hopes of saving their lives. The Humane Society of North Texas is relocating nearly 400 horses from the Vernon Parish Army post to its location in Decatur, Texas. The Army announced in August it would remove the horses from training areas on and around the base, saying they presented a safety risk. The Town Talk reports the group has relocated about 50 horses so far and will take more groups, of 30 to 50, over the next two years. The group has an adoption event Saturday, where interested people can view the first group of horses. The relocation effort is expected to cost about $50,000. You can visit http://www.hsnt.org to donate.
AUSTIN (AP) – City officials have hung bags of condoms and information about safe sex from trees at an Austin park, but did so without informing their agency bosses or the parks department. The Austin American Statesman reports that authorities in Walnut Creek Park took down the bags Thursday, considering them litter – unaware they were part of a city initiative. Austin Public Health Director Shannon Jones said that condoms, lube and safe sex information were first hung in the park last month and replenished Wednesday. But Jones didn’t learn about the program until a TV report. He said the department will investigate the program’s vetting process. Walnut Creek Park, where HIV transmissions are a problem, was the only park to get the materials. It’s unclear how many bags were placed there.
HOUSTON (AP) – Police are investigating a 19-year-old man who was shot and killed in an apparent robbery attempt outside a Houston IHOP. The Houston Chronicle reports that gunfire erupted at the restaurant along Interstate 45 around 2 a.m. Saturday. Houston homicide investigator Christopher Elder said the victim, who hasn’t been publicly identified, went with his friends to a check-cashing store, then drove to the IHOP and parked. A white car that might have been following them, and had at least two men inside, then pulled into the same parking lot. One man climbed out and tapped on the passenger door window of the first car, demanding any money received from the check-cashing store. When the first car sped away, the man opened fire. The victim was wounded and died.
PASADENA (AP) – Investigators are trying to determine what caused an overnight fire in a suburban Houston house that killed a 17-year-old girl and injured her mother. The Houston Chronicle reports that the blaze broke out around 12:30 a.m. Saturday in a two-story home in Pasadena, southeast of Houston’s city center. Pasadena Fire Marshal David Brannon said the teen, her mother and her grandmother were in the house when it caught fire. The grandmother escaped unharmed. The teen’s mother jumped from a second-floor window and was hospitalized, suffering from smoke inhalation. She is expected to survive. The girl, whose name was not released, died in the fire.
DALLAS (AP) – Advocates say the child-protection system in Texas should be revamped to better monitor adoptions and prevent a reoccurrence of the seven special-needs children found near Houston isolated and living in filthy conditions. Ruthanne Mefford, chief executive of Child Advocates of Fort Bend, says a statewide program may be needed to ensure children’s safety even after an adoption is formalized. The teenagers discovered in the home were adopted in 2003 and 2004. State officials say a caseworker doesn’t conduct a welfare check after an adoption is completed unless there’s a complaint. The adoptive mother of the teens and a man documents show is her husband have been charged. Authorities have acknowledged the troubled, understaffed Child Protective Services’ agency is in need of a broader overhaul.