2018 has been an exciting year for critter sightings in the Lake Travis area. And not just the usual creepy crawlers like hairy spiders and snakes. We’re talking exotic game, like gazelles and a ghost deer, casually roaming around Lake Travis neighborhoods.
Okay, that’s not their real names. That’s what I called them, but that’s because I’m not a real Texan …
I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. And yes, there are lots of wide open spaces in Virginia, but I didn’t grow up in the country. I was a city girl. My family wasn’t the outdoorsy type. We didn’t fish or hunt or camp. That said, this makes my recent animal adventures in Lakeway even more amusing because I’m so out of my element when it comes to native wildlife. Or wildlife in general.
In 1999, I moved to Austin from Richmond and immediately fell in love with Texas. I landed in Lakeway in 2007, and I’ve been here ever since. But in my nearly 20 years of Texas living, I’ve never seen animals like this!
Today we’re going to take a look at the wild (pun intended) animal sightings we’ve seen in Lake Travis, that makes us feel like we’re on an episode of Animal Planet. I’ll share my city girl perspective, but luckily that’s being remedied thanks to my friends who happen to be real outdoorsmen (and women!).
Real name: Blackbuck Antelopes
City girl name: gazelles
This duo first showed up on our radar in mid-May. I was running on the trail in Lakeway City Park when I spotted them.
At first glance, I had no idea what I was looking at. I did a double-take to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Then I noticed the corkscrew horns. When I finally thought to take a video, a dog on the trail spooked them. The antelopes took off and started bounding through the air. They ran right by me!
My city girl brain was like, “Oh, no! I’m gonna get trampled by two gazelles!” That didn’t happen. I managed to get a video of them walking away.
A few weeks later, I drove by them on Hurst Creek Road, just grazing in someone’s yard. I turned my car around because I was on a mission to capture the antelopes on video. It. Was. On.
I was dressed up in a sundress and heels at the time, but I managed to get out of my car quietly without falling, and I strolled towards them. As soon as I got close, they stared right at me.
My city girl brain was like, “Omg! These gazelles ..uhm, antelopes …are going to charge and attack me!?” They didn’t.
We stared at each other for a while. I was praying for no cars because we were in the middle of Hurst Creek Road and there’s usually quite a bit of traffic.
One of the antelopes started to cross the street. My brain was screaming, “No cars! Please, no cars!” I swear, that antelope has psychic abilities because he looked before he crossed the road. Then they took off and disappeared into the woods.
Real name: Axis Deer
City girl name: ghost deer
A week after the exciting encounter with the antelopes, I was on my way home at dusk and noticed a huge, spotted animal by the road. At first, I thought it was a Great Dane, but then I saw the antlers. It was some kind of majestic beast!
My city girl brain was like, “Ooooh, it’s a ghost deer!” That isn’t even a thing.
It turned out to be an Axis Deer. Another exotic! Now we had a trifecta of exotics — 2 antelopes and an Axis. Lakeway resident Pete Chase confirmed this animal sighting when he took this fantastic picture of the Axis. It’s a young buck that has been hanging out in the same area of Lakeway as the antelopes.
Real name: Burmese Python & Rattlesnakes
City girl name: “Run for your life!”
Luckily, I did not have a personal encounter with any of these snakes. Pythons made headlines because there were rumblings that two of them may be loose in the West Lake Hills area. Then news surfaced about a dead python on the road in Steiner Ranch. People were guesstimating the snake was 8-10 feet long.
Then the serious rattlesnake sightings started and never ended. Four Points News ran a story about all of the scary rattlesnake and rat snake encounters in the area with some incredible photos.
Real name: Red Headed Centipede
City girl name: death crawler
This frightening critter was also at Lakeway City Park, just crawling on the sidewalk. Unlike spotting the antelopes or the Axis, I was not entirely thrilled to see this Red Headed Centipede.
It looked like an old, evil, death bug. But, I took a deep breath and squatted down close to it to take video and pics.
My city girl brain panicked, “What if it’s deadly and it leaps up and sticks to my face like an alien facehugger?!” That didn’t happen.
Real name: Rio Grande Turkey
City girl name: fat birds
A friend alerted me to the turkeys who had been spotted at the Lakeway Texaco for months. These two Rio Grande Turkeys ended up being two jakes (young males). We heard rumors that they did find their “jennys” (young females) nearby, so it’s safe to assume mating season was a success.
Every so often, Lake Travis residents still post about the turkeys’ whereabouts. One neighbor said they were hanging out on his roof not too long ago.
My city girl brain was like, “Wait, turkeys can fly!?!” Yes, wild turkeys can fly in short bursts.
Real name: Buck Moth Caterpillar
City girl name: poisonous thingy
This creepy crawler wasn’t nearly as creeptastic as the centipede. But the weird spikey looking things on its back were worrisome. Hmm.
Again, my city girl brain was like, “If I touch it, it will probably kill me.”
It’s a Buck Moth Caterpillar, and it’s prevalent in Central Texas. There are types of caterpillars that sting, and this is one of them. The sting is supposedly very painful and usually sends someone to the ER for medical attention.
Finally, my city girl brain was right about something!
Have you seen any animals in the Lake Travis area that make you feel like you’re on an episode of Animal Planet? Let us know in the comments section on our Facebook page.