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Massive Menagerie

A&M boasts one of the largest wildlife collections in the world.

By Tom Behrens

The Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection in College Station can best be described as a kind of research library. However, instead of books, the shelves are chock-full of preserved animals of all shapes and sizes. Snakes and smaller creatures peer out from rows and rows of bottles, while larger specimens are housed in 35-gallon blue barrels.

Items in the collection range from North American big game to birds. The fish collection, the largest, numbers 675,000, with specimens dating back to the 1870s. Reptiles are next in number, with 90,000. There are 15,000 birds. Although the contents of the collection come from all over the world, 65 percent of the specimens come from Texas.

“The rarest thing we have in our collection is a passenger pigeon egg,” says Heather Prestridge, assistant curator for TCWC.

The TCWC, housed in a 25,000-square-foot building, is part of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University. William B. Davis founded the collection in 1938.

“A lot of times [the specimens TCWC receives] are part of a research project a graduate student, faculty or staff member at A&M does,” says Prestridge. “Typically we don’t accept many specimens from the general public. Everything has to be collected legally. We are most interested in things attached to scientific studies.”

“We work hand in hand with TPWD biologists. Before they go out to survey a particular bird or animal population in a part of the state, many times they will come and reference our collection so that they know what has been collected in the area in the past. Instead of having to go out, look for and make their own lists of species, they are listed right here,” she says.

Although the collection is primarily used for research purposes, it is open to the public, and guided tours are available with advance reservations. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call (979) 845-5783 or visit <www.wfsc.tamu.edu/TCWC/tcwc.htm>.

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