Black Panther Hoax Pt. 2 (Unusual Suspects)

Black panthers are the most controversial felid topic in North America.

As noted in part 1 of this series there is no such species recognized as “black panther” anywhere on the planet much less in the United States of America.

The “black panthers” seen in zoos, wildlife demonstrations and in media are melanistic (black) leopards and jaguars. They are anomalies within these species and not a separate one altogether.

So, what are people seeing? There is no doubt there are many, many reports.

The late Don Zaidle who wrote extensively on man-eating animals was doing some research on wild cats and suggested 16 years ago I look at the jaguarundi as a possible “black panther” suspect. Shortly after I actually saw one of these cats north of their accepted range and it sort of clicked that people could be seeing them and labeling “black panther”.

After all, virtually no one outside of hardcore wildlife fans even knows that jaguarundi exists so “black panther” is an easy tag to give them.

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Jaguarundi photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

I started writing on jaguarundis being a possible “black panther” back in 2002 with an article at The Anomalist.

Jaguarundis are known to range from South America to the Mexican borders of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The key word here is “known”. That means scientists have observed or captured the species within those areas, however they are reported to range much farther north in the Lone Star State and perhaps elsewhere.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials solicited information from the public and received numerous reports of the species in the 1960s, including several sightings from central and east Texas. Additional sightings were reported from as far away as Florida, Oklahoma, and Colorado

In a study conducted in 1984, TPWD biologists noted a string of unconfirmed jaguarundi sightings in Brazoria County, which corners the hugely populated areas of both Houston and Galveston.

Brazoria County is more than 200 miles north of the counties of Cameron and Willacy, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has designated as being the only confirmed areas of Texas that houses jaguarundis.

I saw mine in Jefferson County which is 300 miles north of their accepted range and have fielded multiple reliable reports from the region-even one from a wildlife biologist.

There are some black panther reports howefer that do not fit the mold of the jaguarundi.

The aforementioned jaguar is a potential candidate because they exhibit melanism and once ranged into Louisiana to the east and California to the west with some accounts as far north as Oklahoma before being considered eliminated in the United States.

Jaguars in the last 15 years have been proven to move in and out of New Mexico and Arizona although the last known American-traveling jaguar was killed in Mexico.

I have gathered several alleged jaguar sightings from Texas along the Rio Grande River region and into the Trans-Pecos. These sightings are under investigation but unlike New Mexico and Arizona there are no official trail camera programs attempting to study any possible movements into Texas. The Trans-Pecos is a huge area and is vastly uninhabited so it is possible there are jaguars touching Texas soil no one has seen.

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Melanistic jaguar photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In terms of anecdotal evidence, I now have three specific reports that after interviewing eyewitnesses lead me to believe they possibly could have seen a jaguar. Two are in Texas and on is in Louisiana. Two of those are standard colored jaguars and the other is melanistic.

It is unlikely that all black panther reports are melanistic jaguars. In fact none of the alleged panther videos or photos I have seen even look like jaguars so that eliminates them as the top suspect in these cases although the jury is out on a few accounts I have investigated.

Another possible source is melanistic bobcats. Bobcats have been documented to produce melanistic offspring and I know for a fact many people cannot judge their size.

In the last 12 months I have examined more than a dozen game camera photos sent by readers who thought they had captured a cougar but had really gotten a large bobcat or in a couple of cases one with an extra long tail.

That’s no slight on the people sending the photos. Unless you deal with these animals it can be hard to gauge.

If people are thinking standard bobcats are cougars could some of the melanistic ones be called black panthers?

It is possible.

I believe the answer to this mystery does not fall with a solitary species but several and I believe the bulk of reports come from a source I will write on the third installment that has some pretty compelling evidence.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Presence of Two Pink Dolphins Proven in Louisiana (Video)

Southwest Louisiana–A pink Atlantic bottlenose dolphin has stolen hearts and been the subject of many social media discussions along the Gulf Coast dating back to the mid 2000s.

I have personally shot still photos of the creature and captured it on video along with writing about it here at The Wildlife Journalist®.

You can see a video captured by a reader in 2016 in the Gulf off of Louisiana here.

You can view my 2013 video filmed in the ship channel near Cameron, La. (Lake Calcasieu area) here.

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This is the pink dolphin the author photographed in Lake Calcasieu in 2010.

A recent ground-breaking video captured by Capt. Thomas Adams gives proof of what many have suspected-there is more than one pink dolphin in the area.

On Aug. 17 he captured two pink dolphins jumping in front of a ship in the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

Capt. Adams has been gracious enough to allow us to use the video here.

There have been rumors of multiple pink dolphins in the Calcasieu system but this is the first concrete proof I have seen.

According to Heidi Whitehead with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, at least one pink dolphin has been observed for more than a decade.

We initially began receiving reports of the “pink” bottlenose in Calcasieu in 2007 and we worked with NOAA to educate people and reduce vessel traffic around the animal for the protection of the animal because there were so many wanting to get out to see it.  There was also a pink dolphin observed in the Houston ship channel near Bolivar several years ago but it has not been confirmed whether or not this was a different animal than the Calcasieu one as we have seen evidence from our photo-ID work that dolphins travel between Galveston and Louisiana.

Whitehead earlier this year provided us with a fact sheet from NOAA on pink and white dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and it includes accounts from other locations.

The first (report) was reported during the summer of 1994 in Little Lake near New Orleans, Louisiana. The all-white dolphin was spotted in a group of 4-5 individuals for 20 to 30 minutes and never seen again. In September 2003, another all white dolphin calf was first observed in a group of more than 40 dolphins south of Galveston, Texas. It was re-sighted several times in the same vicinity through August 2004 (Fertl et al., 1999; Fertl et al., 2004).

This is what NOAA has to say about “Pinky” from the Lake Calcasieu area.

Although the dolphin is often referred to as a “pink” dolphin because of its pink coloration, it is considered an albino. The dolphin’s mother is not albino and has the gray coloring typical of coastal bottlenose dolphins. Dolphin calves are typically born dark gray in color.

According to NOAA there have been “white” dolphin sightings along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Other “white” dolphins have been sighted in the Southeast U.S. between 2012-2014, these include off the coast of South Carolina, NE Florida and Georgia, and in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida

If you see a pink or white dolphin call the Southeast US Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-877-433-8299. They are interested in getting information on these unique animals.

Anomalies in nature matter because they raise awareness to the beauty and importance of wildlife and in this case also the forgotten sea called The Gulf of Mexico.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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Black Panther Hoax (Pt. 1-Cougars and Circus Trains)

A hoax has been perpetuated on American wildlife enthusiasts and it centers on the existence of the black panther.

There is no such species recognized as “black panther” anywhere on the planet much less in the United States of America.

The “black panthers” seen in zoos, wildlife demonstrations and in media are melanistic (black) leopards and jaguars. They are anomalies within these species and not a separate one altogether.

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A black jaguar. Not the spots which cannot be seen at certain angles. (US Fish and Wildlife Service Photo)

There is no large cat on the planet that is officially recognized as a “black panther”. The only ones that qualify are the aforementioned melanistic leopards and jaguars. And there are no black cougars.

Other than a grainy black and white photo from Costa Rica in the 1950s there has never been any real evidence of a black cougar (mountain lion, puma, panther) killed by a hunter, mounted by a taxidermist or born at wildlife facilities around the world. At least none that I have seen and I have investigated this phenomenon heavily for more than 20 years.

If melanistic cougars were the source of the thousands of black panther reports in America the sizable captive population would have already shown melanism. We have even verified an albino cougar born in Europe but melanism is not in the cards in my opinion.

Fellow investigator Todd Jurasek heard about a large black cat mounted at a restaurant in his home state of Oklahoma from researcher Glenn McDonald.

What he found is what he believes is a black cougar that had been dyed black.

“I saw on the hind parts what looked like areas where the dye didn’t take or is wearing off. It definitely looked like a cougar and didn’t have any spots like a melanistic jaguar or leopard would have,” he said.

unnamed-4.jpgAfter Todd checked it out and reported to his source,  McDonald  provided two links to taxidermists who have in recent years created “black panthers” from cougars to show that it has been done. I also found a couple.

You can check different versions here and here.

If this were a truly black cougar I would be ecstatic but I just don’t see it.

Cougars do come in a range of brown colors with some being an almost chocolate color. Such a cat seen in low light conditions could certainly appear as a black. Young cougars are darker in color than their parents and come with spots and on occasion they keep some spots and darker coloration into their first two years of life. These could also potentially be a source “black panther” reports.

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This cougar is a much darker shade of brown than many specimens. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

An extremely prolific theory is that many years ago a circus train crashed and black leopards escaped and gave birth to the black cats reported throughout the country. The problem is there would have to be a male and female. Then they would have to survive, produce young and those offspring survive.

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There was a circus train wreck in Gary, Indiana in 1918 but no black leopards were reported to have spawned from this tragedy. (Public Domain Photo)

Considering the bulk of a wild cat’s hunting skills are taught, this is not likely.

There is no way there are hundreds, if not thousands of black leopards running around the country due to a circus train crash. So far, all intensive re-wilding efforts of tigers have failed  so how could circus leopards escape, survive and create a nation-wide population?

Then again, I have heard about these crashes all over the place so maybe there was an epidemic of them and somehow no lions or tigers (or elephants) escaped and bred, only black leopards. (Sarcasm mode turned off.)

Let’s go ahead and scratch the circus train theory.

So, what are the cats people are reporting seeing around the country? We will investigate in the next installment with some interesting photographic evidence.

Until then check out my mini-podcast on the topic and ponder the following question.

If there is a black panther hoax who is perpetrating it?

Chester Moore, Jr.

Secret Rattlesnake Stockings? Plus The Texas “Lynx”

In a secret effort to replenish diminishing timber rattlesnake stocks, government officials have been stocking captive-bred specimens of the timber rattlesnake.

At least that’s the story that has been floating around East Texas for years.

It is unclear as to which agency is responsible but some reports indicate it could be the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while another rumor has it linked to a clandestine university project.

I say “story” but the truth is I have heard numerous tales of rattlesnake restoration efforts in the Pineywoods of East Texas. One gentleman even told me his uncle’s brother-in-law had some released next to his farm near Crockett. Hundreds of them.

Where did these stories originate?

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This photo of an East Texas timber rattler was submitted by Amber Deranger several years ago.

Well, rattlesnakes have technically been released into certain areas in the Pineywoods.

However, scientists did not breed them in captivity and they are not part of some secret restoration effort.

These released rattlesnakes are simply ones that were captured as part of a radio-telemetry study conducted by officials with the U.S. Forest Service. Timber rattlesnake were captured in the wild, fitted with radio transmitters and released back into the wild so researchers could track their movements.

There never has been a timber rattlesnake stocking program in Texas or anywhere else for that matter.

I first wrote on this topic and destroyed the myth of the rattlesnake stocking in 2006 when I spoke to TPWD biologist Ricky Maxey.

He said the rumors have been floating around since the 1990s.

“I used to work in the Big Thicket area out of Beaumont and we used to get questions about rattlesnake stockings frequently. And it seems the rumors are still pretty rampant,” Maxey said.

“Someone could have seen Forest Service officials capturing the snakes or releasing the ones fitted with transmitters and the rumor could have started there. It could be the case of a true story getting less and less truthful as it’s told,” he said.

This story is similar to another albeit slightly less widespread tale of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) releasing Canada lynx into the Pineywoods region. I first heard of these stockings taking place in the Livingston area but later heard they also occurred near Toledo Bend reservoir and in the Big Thicket National Preserve.

Occasionally people would see one of these “lynx”, which are allegedly much larger than a Texas bobcat.

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The only lynx in Texas is Lynx rufus, the bobcat. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

The problem is these stories are bogus. Totally bogus.

TPWD or any other agency for that matter have never stocked Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) into any destination in Texas and for that matter would have no reason to do so. They have never lived in the region and their very close cousin the bobcat (Lynx  rufus) is doing incredibly well here.

Bobcats can vary greatly in size as previously noted. Ear tuft length also varies among individuals. Most bobcats have short but some are comparable to those of their northern cousins.

Spot patterns also vary wildly with some having virtually no spots on the top half and others possessing well-defined spots. A few individuals have a unique pattern traits of spots within spots that look sort of like the rosettes of an ocelot or jaguar.

People seeing this somewhat unusual looking bobcats sometimes associate them with Canada lynx and at some point a stocking legend began. In a way that is a shame because, our very own “lynx” the bobcat, is an amazing cat.

Having these mysteries solved might ruin your favorite local legend but the fact is there really is no mystery. The rattlesnake stocking was not a stocking at all but re-release of a few snakes fitted with transmitters.

And the lynx story is false all the way.

Remember not everything you read on the Internet is true and tales told around the campfire tend to get taller with age.

Hear more details of the “lynx” stocking on this episode of The Wildlife Journalist® mini-podcast.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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Sea Turtle Release Touches Hearts (Video)

Port Aransas, TX—The smiles were even bigger than the waves.

As the white foam of breakers hit the beach, Lauren Scott and Reannah Hollaway were beaming.

The two recent high school graduates are best friends and share an equal love of sea turtles.

Reannah participated in our Wild Wishes® program last April getting to meet an injured Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and giant river otters at Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX. That facility rolled out the red carpet for her.

Wild Wishes® grants exotic animal encounters for children with terminal illness or loss of parent or sibling.

After her wish, Reannah informed me that her friend Lauren also loved sea turtles and had a dream of releasing one that had been rehabilitated.

As I began working on that project a series of events unfolded that I can only describe as divinely inspired.

The Amos Research Keep (ARK) at Port Aransas offered an opportunity for the girls to tour their facility and release two green sea turtles back into the Gulf. So, on Aug. 10 we paid them a visit.

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ARK’s Alicia Walker who hosted the visit shows the girls an injured baby hawksbill turtle.
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This big turtle was covered with barnacles and getting back a healthy appetite.
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Lauren was happy feeding green sea turtles fresh romaine. Unlike other sea turtles, greens are vegetarians which is they love the seagrass-thick habitat of South Texas.

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After learning much about the ARK’s inspiring work and seeing many sea turtles, the highlight of the day had arrived. It was time for the turtle release.

As I watched the girls put on their latex gloves and move the turtles out toward the water, I saw worries melt away. I saw that hint of anxiety that I have learned to pick up working with children facing loss and serious illnesses disappear. I saw two young girls being young girls and living that rare, surreal dream come true moment.

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You think those girls are happy or what?

When Lauren and Reannah lowered the turtles into the surf and watched them quickly swim away, a tangible feeling of freedom filled the air. It’s the kind of freedom ARK provides many sea turtles and injured shore birds but there was something else.

This event inspired two young ladies facing challenges in life to see that great things can happen-even the very biggest dreams coming true.

I want to thank Alicia and everyone with ARK who went far out of their way to accommodate this wish. And I want to thank everyone who supports the Wild Wishes® program.

You are helping young people in more ways than you know.

Lauren and Reannah will never forget the day they stepped into the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and set free their favorite animals. And neither will I.

Those two young ladies will for the rest of their lives wonder where those turtles ended up and how their lives turned out. Those are the kind of thoughts that not only bring smiles but inspiration.

There are no guarantees but the turtles got a fighting chance and they got it because people cared.

Listen to the podcast inspired by this story below.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page. To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com.)

Car-Sized Giant Catfish Below Dams?

“Did you know there are giant catfish below Toledo Bend dam?”

That was the question posed to me at a speaking engagement.

“And they are so big divers are afraid to go down there and look at the dam. They say they are the size of Volkswagens!”

This story has been told over and over and is considered absolute fact by many. I have heard it about Toledo Bend but also other lakes throughout the American South.

Here are a few points I would like to make about this legend that lives on due to photos circulating social media.

#I have been investigating these stories since 2005 and have never spoken with anyone who has actually seen these giant catfish. It is always their brother-in-laws cousin’s former roommate twice removed or something.

#The largest catfish in North America are the blue and flathead both of which live at Toledo Bend and other reservoirs in the South. They can attain weights of over 130 pounds and I have no doubt there are specimens quite a bit larger. In my opinion this legend began with a diver seeing an extra big catfish in murky water and then the story grew from there. A Volkswagen-sized catfish would weigh closer to a ton. Such fish don’t exist here in the United States.

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The author diving with “Splash” in 2005.

I actually got to dive with the (at the time) world record catfish-nicknamed “Splash”-caught by angler Cody Mullenix on Lake Texoma. She weighed 121. 5 pounds and lived for awhile at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, TX. I had the incredible opportunity to dive with it to get perspective on what it would be like to encounter a catfish of record proportions underwater.

My conclusion was such a fish seen in murky conditions could easily be construed as “giant”. Divers can exaggerate as much as fishermen.

#If you have a Facebook account or e-mail  address, you have probably seen the photos of anglers in the water with huge  yellow-skinned catfish with a subject line like, “Angler’s Noodle World Record  Flathead” or something like that. Well for starters, “noodling” is the practice of feeling around with your hands and grabbing catfish by the mouth and  wrestling them to shore.

The photos passed around the Internet of anglers with super-sized flatheads are not really flatheads at all. They are Wels catfish from Europe. They look almost exactly like flatheads except for the fins, which grow like a tadpole. And then there is the size. Wels grow up to 10 feet in length and catches of fish over six feet are common. The world record flathead was just over five feet in length.

My wife Lisa and I both caught Wels over seven feet in the Segra River in Spain in 2005 and nearly everyone who sees the photos thinks they are flatheads until we tell them differently.

Listen to hear Chester’s full Wels catfish adventure and more.

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The author with a huge Wels catfish caught and released in Spain’s Segra River in 2005.

Interestingly the guide on our trip told us that divers in that river work on and inspect the dam in shark cages. The Wels (which can grow to over 10 feet in length) are aggressive enough to attack them. I was a bit skeptical of the attacks but then we saw the massive scar across his back of where a Wels bit him attempting to land it.

The next time you see photos of giant catfish supposedly “noodled” look closely at the fins. It is probably a Wels.

And the next time you hear of giant catfish below the dams, realize there is no way they are the size of an economy car.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Sea Horse Catch Brings Perspective on Gulf

Crystal Beach, TX—When nine-year-old Reese Dearing noticed something floating in the water at the Sandy Shores edition at Crystal Beach, TX. he thought it was a small clump of sargassum (seaweed).

He simply followed childhood curiosity and picked it up.

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What he found however blew his mind and this wildlife journalist’s as well.

Instead of seaweed, it was a tiny seahorse, an adult dwarf seahorse to be exact, a creature he (and I) have never seen alive in the wild.

He brought the tiny creature up to show his parents who quickly shot these photos and video clips and put the intricate little creature back into the sandy green waters of the Gulf to live a full life.

I learned of the discovery gassing up for a shark fishing trip as his mother Dana proudly showed me the images. Reese beamed with pride at his unique discovery.

This event reminded me of times spent beach combing with my parents searching out shells and sand dollars.

There was something beautiful about those times and there is something beautiful about Reese’s discovery.

For his entire life he will now view the Gulf of Mexico as a place of possibilities. Not only does he now know it is full of common Texas beach finds like hardhead catfish, jellyfish and crabs. But now he nows he most iconic small ocean creature-the seahorse-also dwells there.

I hope it instills in him a deep appreciation for the grand work God did in the Gulf. Seeing the whole family light up when relating the story further strengthened my resolve to write about what I call the “forgotten sea”.

The Gulf of Mexico and all of its wonders get little attention from the corporate wildlife media but encounters like this can do what dozens of television programs cannot.

I appreciate Dana and her husband Brent for allowing me to share these images with you and I especially appreciate Reese being curious enough to explore what he found at the beach.

That’s how a lifelong love and appreciation of the ocean and its inhabitants is born.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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BS On The Bull Shark!

I call BS on the bull shark!

Yes, exactly what you think that means.

Well, it’s not the shark I have a problem with. It is how the corporate wildlife media has covered it in recent years that irks me.

Numerous most dangerous shark lists and television programs have named the bull shark as the top aquatic terror.

Yes, bull sharks are high on the International Shark File (ISAF) attack list with 73 nonfatal and 27 fatal attacks. Yes, they have extremely high levels of testosterone. And yes, they can be found commonly on popular beaches and even far into river systems as they do just fine in fresh water.

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Bull Shark (Photo Courtesy NOAA)

It is the combination of those factors that put the bull shark high on the dangerous list but that is not what the public hears.

They hear “most dangerous shark” and assume that if a tiger shark, a great white and a bull shark swims by them, the bull shark would be the most likely to attack.

Well, for starters that is not even true in terms of just raw attack numbers.

The tiger shark’s nonfatal attacks are at 80 and they have 31 fatal attacks (total 111). The great white has 234 nonfatal attacks and 80 fatal attacks with a total 314. Just looking at these numbers alone you can see the bull shark is not the most dangerous shark.

Then you consider the logic of putting the bull shark at the top (its abundance in nearshore coastal waters, wide distribution, freshwater ability) actually paints a different picture when turned around.

Bull sharks are far more abundant than great whites and tiger sharks. Far more!

There is no comparison in their abundance especially in populated areas with great whites in particular having a limited range in warmer waters with more swimmers.

Looking at these numbers does anyone think that a shark (great white) that has 314 “verified” attacks and that has its largest abundance in relatively isolated areas in comparison to bulls would not do far more attacking if the population roles were reversed? Ditto for tigers.

I have no doubt there would be double the attacks for both species if they were as abundant as bulls on the Gulf, Atlantic and Caribbean Coasts.

I put “verified” in quotes because of something ISAF has said themselves.

 This list must be used with caution because attacks involving easily identified species, such as white, tiger, sandtiger, hammerhead and nurse sharks, nearly always identify the attacking species, while cases involving difficult to identify species, such as requiem sharks of the genus Carcharhinus, seldom correctly identify the attacker.

The requiem sharks include the bull shark.

I have written recently that blacktip sharks could likely be the culprit for some bull sharks and current data shows them only behind great white, bull and tiger in total attacks.

ISAF has a category for requiem and lamniforems-attacks linked to those branches but not to exact species and those are both higher than the blacktip. But when it comes to identified sharks biting people blacktips rank fourth.

Period.

This is not to implicate the blacktip as a creature to be feared. It is however to question some of the shark attacks identified as bull. People have a very hard time identifying sharks.

I am constantly getting emails, social media tags and text messages asking me to identify sharks and most of the time they are a bull shark someone thinks is a blacktip or a blacktip someone thinks is a bull shark. I know this is only anecdotal evidence but in my opinion it speaks volumes.

The photo you see below is the one I use the top of this site. It is a large blacktip shark I caught and released near Venice, La. in 2012. Numerous people have commented on it being a bull shark.

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Spinner sharks are nearly identical to blacktips and bull sharks and big blacktips can appear similar especially in murky water. Could spinners even be responsible for some alleged bull shark attacks?

I reiterate the public hears or sees “most dangerous shark” and assume that if a tiger shark, a great white and a bull shark swam by the bull shark would be the most likely to attack.

That is just not true. At best it is up to debate.

I am not trying to say the bull shark is a sweetheart. I was circled by one twice while wade fishing the Chandeleur Islands in 1997 and had to make my way to shore. I have also tagged and released a number of these amazing creatures up to six feet long. I have bull shark experience.

I also have great white, blacktip and spinner experience and while I have never dealt with tiger sharks all I really need is statistics to make this case anyway.

The reason for this article is not to make the great white or tiger shark look bad. I don’t want any shark to look bad!

It is to make us reexamine the bull shark.

For an intense podcast on this topic click the link below.

They are a very commonly caught shark in the sport fishery and while the fishing community does wonderful conservation work and there is a growing ethic toward catch and release of all sharks, not everyone has gotten the memo.

An uninformed angler who has just seen a program on the “most dangerous shark”and happens to catch an eight footer on a busy beach or in a bay commonly used by wade fishermen and snorkelers might think he or she is doing the public a favor by killing the shark.

Hopefully many anglers will see this article and then can make an informed decision on what to do.

In reality, killing more bull sharks does the ecosystem a disservice by taking out one of its apex predators.

There are no “bad” sharks. There are just sharks.

Sometimes they hurt people and we have to find creative ways to make shark attacks even less common. I love sharks but people come first. I get that.

It’s interesting that many believe the New Jersey attacks that inspired “Jaws” were actually committed by bull sharks. We will never know for sure but now roles have been reversed and the bull shark has been declared public enemy #1.

And it simply does not deserve that title.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page. To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com.)

Texas: 8 Foot Bull Shark Tag & Release (Video)-Sabine-Bolivar Peninsula Area

Shark Week?

How about Shark Life?

That’s what it feels like during the summer when Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials run longlines in the nearshore Gulf to tag and monitor sharks.

Today TPWD’s Derek York messaged me from offshore with these clips and photos showing an eight foot long, 383-pound male bull shark caught, tagged and release 30 miles west of the Sabine Jetties. That’s somewhere along the Bolivar Peninsula.

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The huge bull shark is sitting calmly (at least by bull shark standards) on a specially designed platform on the TPWD vessel. (Photo courtesy Derek York/TPWD)
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That’s a big bull shark folks! (Photo courtesy Derek York/TPWD)

Sharks are an extremely important part of the Gulf ecosystem and many species have suffered major declines due to overfishing from commercial longliners as well as some pressure from the recreational fishery.

Work like TPWD is doing this summer with their tagging will help gain a better understanding of sharks in Texas waters and give them a better idea on how to manage these predators. Shark regulations have changed several times in recent years as new research has come to light.

In the past some have questioned the wisdom of releasing big sharks like this but the fact is they are always at the beach during peak tourist season and there are very few attacks-even from the notorious bull shark.

I am in fact preparing a defense of the bull shark article coming later this week. These photos and the video attached inspired me to speak up for a species that gets little love.

I salute York and all of the TPWD crew out working hard to monitor our shark fishery and I think it’s kind of cool this big boy was caught right in the middle of Shark Week.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page. To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com.)

The Bull Shark That Turned Back And The Shark That Bit Me!

Virtually everyone with an interest in sharks knows the reputation of the bull shark.

Some sources list it as the most dangerous shark on the planet but this wildlife journalist believes that has a lot more to do with abundance around swimmers and fishermen and not all to do with attitude.

While filming a television program in 2002 in the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Biloxi, Miss. I caught a five footer. This was part of a taping for television host Keith Warren’s fishing program.

I thought it would be best if we first photographed the shark from the shore (for a magazine story I as working on), so I hopped overboard waded to the bank with the fish still battling and brought it in.

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The author reeling in the bull shark described in this story in the beautiful Chandeleur Islands in the Gulf of Mexico in 2002.

We filmed the whole thing and then talked a bit about bull sharks and shark conservation.

“Sharks like the bull shark are potentially dangerous to man, but they play a valuable role in nature,” I said.

“Sharks are the apex predator in the Gulf of Mexico, and without them, the entire food chain would be disrupted. I occasionally take sharks to eat, but bulls have super thick hide and I think I will release this one to fight another day.”

At this point, Keith and I walked the big shark back out into the water and he demonstrated the proper technique for reviving a fish by pushing water through its gills. The fish seemed worn out but quickly gained its strength. Keith pushed it out toward the deep, and on camera, we said something about a job well done and started to walk back to shore.

Then something caught my eye: The shark we had released had swam out about 20 yards and then turned around toward us. We were in water over our knees a good 30 yards from the bank. There was no way we were going to outrun the shark, so I prepared to kick it the best I could.

As it got about 10 feet from us, it turned sideways for a second as if it shows its authority, and then turned the other direction. We both breathed a sigh of relief and were glad the camera was still running, because we did not think anyone would believe us. We said something about a close call and wrapped up the shoot.

If you think that was a bit ironic, then check out what happened while tagging sharks near Sabine Pass, TX.

I was out with my friends Bill Killian and Clint Starling. We set up near a rig 10 miles south of the jetties and started catching sharks immediately. A few were blacktips and spinners but most were Atlantic sharpnose, sharks, a species often called “sand shark” that grows to a maximum of around four feet in length.

A huge crew boat that services the oil rigs has the entire Gulf to go around but runs full blast about 50 yards out and throws a massive wave. Our boat near capsized and everything in it went flying including the three-foot Atlantic sharpnose I was in the process of tagging.

When we landed back into position the shark fell on my leg and took hold of my calf. A shark does this thing where it grabs with a bite and then takes a hunk. Luckily before it took, a hunk I knocked it back and looked down to see lots of blood.

Bill and Clint were freaking out but I assured them it would be alright. I asked Bill if he had any alcohol or peroxide and he did not.

I looked down and saw a can of Dr. Pepper so I poured that on the wound, figuring it couldn’t hurt, pulled the bandana off my head and contained the bleeding. Bill was wanting to run it but the fish were still biting. We stayed another couple of hours and caught a whole bunch of sharks.

The shark left me a perfect shark jaw scar and a reminder that sometimes even the creatures you are trying to help are wild and free to prey on us if they so choose.

I never got stitches and to this day (this was 1999) have an obvious scar but that encounter only fueled my interests in sharks that continues to this day.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Independent Voice Of the Animal Underground