Texas is filled with a world of wonder when it comes to the stock of wildlife packing the state with the most unique variety of animals in nearly every type of environment.
At the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the new Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife displays all of these species and more in various dioramas replicating their natural environments.
Farish Hall recently opened on October 24.
Anyone familiar with the popular tune, Deep in the Heart of Texas knows to expect that coyotes wail along the trail and rabbits rush around the brush here in the Lone Star State. Visitors might not know the other animals they may find in the region. From the elk, bison, and bighorn sheep that tread our land to the peregrine falcons, whooping cranes, and waterfowl that soar through our skies, Texas has the highest wildlife diversity of any other state in the U.S.
Dr. Dan Brooks, curator of vertebrate zoology at HMNS, explained how Farish Hall displays a diverse array of species that one may encounter here in the state of Texas, both presently and in the past.
“I really wanted to give people a snapshot of what’s here today and then gone for good,” Brooks said. “There’s close to 300 different species in this exhibit and so many new things. We want to provide opportunities for visitors to get up close with each of these species, especially the ones that may not be around much longer or are already extinct.”
Species such as white-tailed deer, pronghorn, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, alligators, and various egrets and herons were all but extinct at one point in our state, but today are present in stable numbers. Ocelots, jaguarundi, and whooping cranes are still teetering on the brink of extinction in Texas even though populations are more stable today than they used to be.
Black bears, although formerly widespread, remain locally extinct throughout much of the state. Sadly, jaguars are totally absent from Texas, unlikely to return. The passenger pigeon, ivory-billed woodpecker, and Carolina parakeet are globally extinct—gone forever.
Every one of these species is available for viewing within the Farish Hall.
With over 425 specimens, representing well over 250 species, on display, the new hall offers the most species-rich assemblage of Texas wildlife on the planet. Over 50 species, or approximately 20 percent of those on display, are classified under some level of threat.
“One of the most important services a museum provides to its patrons is serving as a monument of history and, for this reason, many of the dioramas within the exhibit emphasize what our state’s wildlife looked like prior to extensive human colonization,” Brooks said.
Through kiosks and the dioramas themselves, visitors also learn of invasive species that threaten native species and their habitats, as well as extinct and vanishing species, and aberrantly colored individual animals.
Along with the kiosks, seven dioramas featuring each of these animal species are included in the exhibit. Dioramas highlighting East Texas Piney Woods, Coastal Oak Motte, Coastal Prairie, and Wetland are included as nearby regions, whereas Rio Grande Dry Forest, Guadalupe Mountains, and High Plains are further afield in other parts of the state. Dr. Brooks has done intensive fieldwork in all of the represented biomes on display.
For tickets or more information on the new Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife, visit www.hmns.org or call (713) 639-4629.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive, is in the heart of the Museum District.