Marty Stouffer of “Wild America” (Podcast)

My radio program “Moore Outdoors” allows me to be able to interview all kinds of experts on wildlife.

By far one of the greatest interview subject is Marty Stouffer of “Wild America” fame.

The now syndicated show (last 25 years) originally aired on PBS and set records for viewership. Here’s some info on Stouffer from Wikipedia.

 Along with his brother Mark, Stouffer also produced the TV series of John Denver specials for ABC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Another half-dozen one-hour Specials for the National Geographic Society were also produced during that same time period. Stouffer’s special “The Predators” was narrated by Robert Redford and his special “The Man Who Loved Bears” was narrated by Will Geer and Henry Fonda.

By the mid-1970s, Stouffer had compiled several full-length specials that aired on television as prime time network documentaries. At that time, he approached the programming managers at the PBS about a half-hour-long wildlife series. PBS signed for the rights to broadcast Stouffer’s series Wild America in 1981. The series almost immediately became one of the most popular aired by PBS, renowned for its unflinching portrayal of nature, as well as its extensive use of unique film techniques such as extreme slow motion, close-ups and time-lapses through the seasons of the year.

Stouffer’s stories, incorporating dramatic “facts of life,” and told simply in his home-spun style, won the hearts of a loyal audience. It was one of PBS’s most highly rated regular series, never leaving the Top Ten, and in more than one year, it was the Number One highest rated regular series to air on the network.

It remains the most-broadcast Series which has ever aired on Public Television. At the time, it was common for producers to limit the number of broadcasts to 4 airings over a period of 3 years. Stouffer saw no good reason for that limitation and he was the first producer to offer unlimited broadcasts of the series by the network. Many of the 260 PBS stations chose to broadcast the programs multiple times each day throughout the weeks. In some weeks, according to Nielsen ratings, it was viewed by more than 450 million viewers.

In total, the Wild America episodes have been viewed untold billions of times by hundreds of millions of viewers. Wild America has become the strongest, most popular and most recognized brand in existence on the subject of North American wildlife and nature. 

Listen here to our discussion bears, wildlife programing and all things “Wild America”.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Biggest Threat in the Woods Pt. 4 (Be Aware)

It was a perfect setup for the mission.

That mission was to try out our new night vision goggles and to record night wildlife sounds in the stunningly beautiful mountains near Willow Creek, Ca.

When I tell you this was in the middle of nowhere it might be hard for you to imagine just how far unless you’ve been to that part of the world.

My father and I were running late and pulled up a few minutes after the sun set. We planned on setting up camp and staying through the night.

As Dad started taking out the equipment I walked over to a good viewing spot to look down into the valley with the night vision goggles. There was a full moon and if anything came into the clearings below we should get a glimpse, I thought.

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The author’s greatest concern in the woods is not predatory wildlife. It is predatory people.

Then I saw it.

A beam of light shot up toward our position.

“Dad did you see that?,” I asked as I pulled off the goggles.

“What?”

“A light beam just shined toward us,” I replied.

“I didn’t see it.”

Neither did I now that the goggles were off.

I put them back on and a few seconds later I could see the light beam moving up toward us.

I took them off and couldn’t see the light.

Immediately I knew that someone was below traveling with night vision goggles and using an infrared light only visible with night vision goggles.

I had been warned this area was a favorite of drug traffickers so it didn’t take long to put two and two together.

Just as I shouted for Dad to throw the gear back in the SUV, headlights of a vehicle turned out about 3/4 mile ahead of us.

We were on one side of a logging road that cut across a mountain. This was on the other side of the mountain road.

Someone had been signaled.

We shoved in the gear and sped out of there but by the time we hit the road so did the truck from the other side. And they were headed straight for us.

At one point I was going 80 down the mountain and they were just a few feet away-literally  an arms length from hitting us. I knew that was their goal.

We had disturbed some sort of illicit activity.

After what seemed like forever we got to the base of the mountain on one of the main roads going toward Willow Creek and as soon as we turned back toward that little city they turned back up the mountain.

Had I not been aware that something was wrong and known about the activity in those areas we might have been killed or at least gotten into a very tense situation.

Well, being chased down a mountain is pretty tense isn’t it?

Over the years I have learned a few things about staying safe from people with bad intentions in the woods. Please share this with others. It could save their life.

#1. Bad Vibes: If you feel bad about going into an area don’t go. I am a follower of Christ and believe sometimes this is the Holy Spirit telling me to stay away. You may not believe that but just call it a “gut feeling” and go with it.

#2. Never Alone: As much as I love to be in the distant forest alone with my camera don’t do it. Always bring someone with you and preferably someone who is experienced in the woods. You are far more likely to get hurt by evil people if you are alone.

#3. Pack Heat: If it’s legal where you are then use your Second Amendment right and carry a firearm. Make sure you are trained in its use and be prepared to do what is necessary. Better you defend yourself against a maniac than become a statistic. Also carry a large knife with you. In close quarters it could save your life.

#4. Study the Area: The Internet is a great tool for studying areas. If you find out an area is high drug trafficker area for example avoid it like the plague. Stay away! I have several areas I no longer frequent because of this issue.

#5. Stay Calm: If you do encounter people in the woods who seem uneasy or a bit shifty, stay calm.  Getting angry or showing fear is a good way to trigger someone who has violent tendencies.

#6. Travel Plan: Leave your spouse or close friends a travel plan and let them know points you plan on exploring. Give them a time frame and let them know if you have not returned by a certain time or day to call help.

#7. Strategic Parking: Always park your vehicle facing out of the area you are checking out. You don’t want to have to back up and turn around in a tight spot during a retreat. Also park in a spot in a clear area if possible that you can see from a distance. If someone is waiting on you or has moved into the spot it will give you a chance to assess the situation and prepare.

8. Don’t Try to be a Hero: If you see someone poaching in the woods at night don’t be a hero and try to stop them. They are armed and very likely will use their weapons on you if you try and stop them. Call and report activity local game wardens and get out as quickly as possible.

Seeking wildlife in the forest is one of the most exciting things a person can do but it has its share of dangers. Keep these tips in mind and you should be available to avoid any serious trouble.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

The Biggest Threat in the Woods Pt. 3 (Jason’s Shack)

I could almost hear “Ki Ki Ki Ma Ma Ma” echoing in the forest.

Excitement at the opportunity to be in the woods alone, early in the morning in a remote tract had now turned to…well…fright.

Just ahead of me on a lonely creek bottom was a structure cobbled together with boards, pipes and tarps. It looked eerily familiar to the home of slasher Jason Voorhees on Friday the 13th Pt. 2.

I was not just in the woods but the super deep woods about as far from people as you can get in the eastern third of Texas.

Had I stumbled upon the living quarters of some killer hidden out here? There are instances of people in this region living off the land and never coming out in the region so maybe it was just a hermit.

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The shack of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Pt. 2.

The more likely answer is this was someone’s meth lab-something I have always hoped I would never find.

I did not stick around to investigate.

I was considering turning in what I found but a few days later it became a moot point.

Hurricane Harvey’s epic rains hit Southeast Texas and the nearest homes to the location had 6-8 feet of water in them. This spot would’ve been deeper than that so if Jason did live in there, he had to make a new home.

I haven’t returned to ask him how it turned out.

Chad Meadows encountered something similar when he was a young teen.

“One day me and my cousin got bored so,we grabbed the machete and our bb guns and went off  exploring,” he said.

“This was on a levee in Deweyville, TX. We went down by the river and came across some trees that were clearly cut down with an axe and formed into a 10×10 half walled fort. We found the jackpot or so we thought.”

“During our firefight with the enemy, we saw another fort a couple hundred feet away, but covered in a dingy white canvas tarp. We needed a fallback position so we checked out this new, smaller fort. We thought we had stumbled on a hunter’s camp. The second place had a bunch of barrels and pots and copper tubing. We didn’t know what it was but it was hidden so we decided to get out of there,” Meadows said.

So, off the duo went.

When they got a few feet away a “wildman” with what he described as a ZZ Top beard came running and yelling and waving a shotgun.

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If you see a guy dressed anywhere remotely like Jason here from Friday the 13th Pt. 2-run! Whether he’s in the woods or on a porch rocking like the author saw many years ago its probably not a good situation.

“We took off. I remember him firing the gun and I could hear the pellets peppering the trees around us. We weren’t hit but we were scared. We didn’t tell our parents because my uncle would have gone after the man. A few days later, their dog came up missing, only to be found dead just in the woods near where we set off on our adventure,” Meadow said.

The moral of the story? If you find rickety structures in the woods get out. Quickly.

Chance are its someone hiding out or hiding something in the remoteness of the forest.

However my imagination and the amount of times I viewed the second Friday the 13th as a kid won’t rule out a slasher with a white sack over his head.

Plus there is the time I was driving down a remote road not too far from this location and saw a guy in overalls rocking on a porch with a sack over his head. When I came back through a couple of hours later he was still there.

I hope I never encounter him in the woods.

I know Jason is a fictional character but this guys outfit was too close of a match to the iconic movie slasher for my comfort and this was in July, not on Halloween.

Creepy, huh?

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Biggest Threat in the Woods Pt. 2 (Southern Comfort)

The 1981 cult classic Southern Comfort details a group of National Guardsmen led by Powers Boothe who come across Cajuns in the vast Atchafala Basin swamp that don’t take too kindly to outsiders.

When Southeast Texas outdoors lover Todd Haney was 15 years old he encountered something similar along the lonesome Sabine River corridor.

“My encounter was something that could have come right out of that movie,” Haney said.

“I had put a trotline out in the backwaters on the Louisiana side of the Sabine. I was around 15 years old.  After a few weeks the river started to drop out so I went to take the line up and move out to the river. The line was about a mile from the river through a narrow channel.”

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Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine in Southern Comfort.

“When I got about 3/4 of the way in, I noticed a camp on a ridge consisting of a tent and some typical camping supplies, but no one in sight. I didn’t think much of it other than it’s a remote area only accessible by boat. When I came out of the channel into a larger backwater cypress swamp where the line was, I saw a boat pulled up to the bank about a hundred yards to the right. Still not very concerned because I was just going to be in there a few minutes, just long enough to take up the line I preceded to take up the line.”

That’s when things got scary.

“I got about half of the hooks off the line when I heard the sound of a person walking in the leaves on the bank in front of me. And with a heavy Cajun accent, speaks.

“What are you doing back here?”

Haney was alone with his pit bull terrier Babe who went everywhere with him and a Marlin .22.

“I’m taking this line up that I put here about two weeks ago,” Haney replied.

The man with the Cajun accent had a different idea.

That’s my line. You better the the (fill in the blank) out of here or I am going to blow that (fill in the blank again) boat out from under you.”

He could see the man about 50 yards away and he was  holding what looked like a shotgun in his hands.

“I said ‘OK’ but reached down and grabbed my knife and cut the line in two door spite,” Haney said.

“As I eased out of the cypress swamp I saw another man now standing near the boat that I saw earlier. Thinking back, those were direct threats to my life in the exchange of words. It’s been 34 years ago now, and I can’t remember exactly what all was said but I knew they weren’t joking.”

Turns out a pair of brothers from nearby had shot someone a few years earlier and in hindsight Haney thinks he encountered them.

“I had just watched Southern Comfort a year earlier. I never thought I would live it.”

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

The biggest threat in the woods (Pt. 1)

People often ask me what I think is the biggest threat in the woods.

And they are shocked when I don’t answer bear, mountain lion, rattlesnake or wild boar.

My answer is always the same: humans.

There is no greater danger on the planet than the human being and for several reasons I will discuss, they are by far the greatest threat in the woods.

I am not one of these anti-human wildlife lovers.

I love wildlife but I love people too, in fact even more than wildlife.

Me and my wife Lisa work with children who are abused, terminally ill and suffering loss. We love those children dearly but a great part of why we have so many children to work with is because of the dark side of humanity.

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The wood are the author’s favorite place but he is well aware of their dangers. (Public Domain Photos)

The same evil that would guide someone to harm a child will influence someone to kill, rape or maim in the desolate setting of the forest.

Isolation has always been a playing ground for the wicked.

Evil people like to do their deeds under the cover of darkness, in the shadows and sometimes in the woods.

This is why I never enter the woods unarmed. Never.

You see as a journalist I have been privy to numerous stories of danger, death and chaos in the woods through talking with game wardens, hunters, hikers, fishermen and rural ranchers and farmers.

Strange and dark things sometimes happen out there and this series is designed to raise awareness so that you will be more prepared on your next wilderness excursion.

I used to set game cameras in an isolated high spot in a tract of marsh that was just past the city limits but that people rarely visited.

One day I am making my way back toward the vehicle and I hear gunfire.

Then it comes again and again and again.

As I sneak onto a high spot to get a glimpse I see about a dozen young men gathered near my truck and a couple of them are shooting pistols into the air. They are all drinking and there are several motorcycles and a couple of cars.

I started to wait them out but I figured the drunker they got the more dangerous the situation might become.

I also recognized this was very likely a gang situation because several of them had on the same vest and I better handle myself right or I might not make it out of here. Darkness was closing in.

I waited until they sort of backed away from my truck and walked straight in. I waved as I came up and they just looked at me.

Several spoke words in Spanish I didn’t understand but the tone wasn’t exactly friendly. One of them approached me and spoke in English and asked what I was doing.

I told him I was getting my truck and going home. He stood and looked at me for a second. Neither one of us blinked.

I then opened the door of my truck, laid the .45 I had in my jacket on the seat and backed out of there.

As I left the gunfire started again.

I thanked God it was shooting in the air and not at me.

A couple of weeks later the police shut off access to this area due to a bunch of crimes occurring including someone fishing nearby getting shot.

That’s just one crazy encounter I have had in the wild.

We are about to take a trip into dark territory. Please share these blogs on your social media and with friends.

It’s important we are aware, alert and focused when we enter the woods. There are dangers out there and most of them walk on two legs.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

Weird wildlife of America with Ken Gerhard (Podcast)

We take a deep dive into the unknown with author/explorer/television host/cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard on a recent edition of “Moore Outdoors”.

In it we talk everything from chupacabra to Bigfoot to mysterious winged animals and the fact that to research the unexplained you need a really good grasp of the explainable.

Ken is a phenomenal guest. You don’t want to miss this edition.

Key deer poachers nabbed, hurricane death toll tallied

The biggest ecological concern of Hurricane Irma was the highly endangered key deer which only lives on a handful of islands in the Florida keys.

With only 949 estimated key deer remaining (I have been on many ranches with more whitetail than than in Texas) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials estimate the storm killed 21 deer and in 2016 they were hit by a screwworm infestation that took 135.

Now two South Florida residents, who captured and restrained three Florida Key deer on Big Pine Key according to US Fish and Wildlife Service officials, were sentenced Oct. 31, 2017, in federal court in Key West for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Erik Damas Acosta, 18, of Miami Gardens, and Tumani A. Younge, 23, of Tamarac, previously pled guilty for their involvement in the July 2, 2017 incident in Monroe County, Florida. United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Acosta to one year in jail, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. Younge was sentenced to time already served, placed on 180 days of home confinement subject to electronic monitoring, given a term of supervised release of two years, and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. The Court found that neither defendant could pay a criminal fine.

Two small deer discovered hog tied in a car.
Two Key deer discovered in the defendant’s car. Photo by USFWS.

According to court records, including a Joint Factual Statement signed by the defendants, they used food to lure the deer and captured them. The defendants tied up the deer and placed them in their vehicle. They further admitted their actions injured an adult male Key deer, including a fractured leg. The animal later had to be euthanized by authorities.

 

I have written on several occasions in recent months about the huge problem of young people poaching endangered wildlife. This is another terrible example.

The issue must be addressed and vulnerable species like the key deer must continue to be protected.

We’ll keep you updated with all key deer related issues.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Loren Coleman and Chester Moore talk Patterson Gimlin film (Podcast)

On Friday Oct. 20, Chester Moore had renown cryptozoology author  Loren Coleman on as a special guest on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.

The program was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the controversial Patterson/Gimlin film that allegedly depicts as a Bigfoot creature crossing a stretch of Bluff Creek in northern California.

If you have an interest in this topic you do not want to miss this episode.

Patterson/Gimlin film 50 Years Later

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the most controversial wildlife footage ever captured.

On Oct. 20, 1967 Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin captured on film what they alleged was a Bigfoot (sasquatch) creature on a desolate stretch of Bluff Creek in northern California.

This is the footage that plays in virtually every sasquatch-based television special and even in commercials.

Frame 352 showing the film’s subject walking with its arms swinging is the template for hundreds of products in the cottage industry that has grown up around the sasquatch phenomenon and even the arm swing itself is used in many obvious fake videos over the years.

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Frame 352 of the Patterson/Gimlin film. (Fair Use Doctrine)

This footage has been analyzed more than any other than the Zapruder film showing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Numerous individuals have claimed the film was a fake and claimed to have been the man in the suit or that they actually created it.

One man even claims it was made from red horse hair.

Roger Patterson who was holding the camera that day died of cancer in 1972 and maintained what they filmed was real.

Bob Gimlin who is still living and until recent years has mainly avoided the topic also maintains he and his partner captured the image of a living sasquatch, not a man in a suit.

There have been many alleged sasquatch videos captured in the last 50 years but why does this one not only endure but remain the epicenter of media attention on the topic?

As a wildlife journalist I have wrestled with the question many times over the last 25 years.

I have an interest in the topic and have done my share of field research and investigating eyewitnesses. In my opinion this whole phenomenon is important because it is either the greatest source of mass fraud and hallucination the wildlife world has ever seen or its a truly epic discovery waiting to happen.

And I personally get tired of the film itself outshining other aspects of the phenomenon. There are some legitimately interesting things happening on the scientific end of this search.

But the fact remains if it is a fake, why haven’t many better ones been produced since then?

How could two cowboys in an era where Planet of the Apes was the shining example of costume makeup effects produce something that no one has even gotten close to getting?

Not a single alleged sasquatch video is as clear, close up and contains anywhere near as much detail as the Patterson/Gimlin film.

Not even close.

A question that must be asked is if it was so easy to fake in 1967 why haven’t there been many more much better fakes come out as special makeup effects technology has increased dramatically?

Even the BBC with a budget much bigger than Patterson and Gimlin’s abilities failed to produce anything that looked even remotely as realistic as what was captured on Bluff Creek 50 years ago.

Either it is a fake or the most important wildlife footage ever captured. There are no in-betweens.

That is why today this is a worthy subject to write about and the entire phenomenon is one that although problematic in many ways deserves further investigation.

Wildlife filming history was made 50 years ago.

Whether the film is legitimate or not may never be settled but without any doubt the Patterson/Gimlin film has its place in history.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Enter the Animal Underground

I once walked into the mouth of an old railroad tunnel.

Covered in vines and decaying it looked a bit ominous, even from a distance.

Many years previous trains would cut through as they winded through the limestone encrusted hills of the Edwards Plateau in Central Texas.

Now the tunnel is home to more than a million of Mexican free tail baits.

Passing by during the day or even walking nearby one would never know of their presence unless they maybe caught a sniff of the guano (bat dung).

But at night, these bats exit the tunnel and travel into the darkness in pursuit of insects and they return before dawn.

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In the 1800s, a network of safe houses and secret routes called the “Underground Railroad” saw thousands of African American slaves find their way to freedom out of states where slavery was legal.

Thinking about the tunnel reminded me there is an underground network of sorts for animals, paths in which they can travel without the system taking notice.

The animals themselves of course are not aware of it although by sheer instinct they use it to their advantage.

It is a mindset in the culture of wildlife viewing, academia, media coverage and the hunting and fishing community that things with wildlife are supposed to go “by the book” and anything challenging the official narrative is ignored outright assailed.

In 2002, I spent a day in the field in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in Louisiana with researchers David Luneau and Martian Lammertink in search of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a species at the time considered extinct. Zeiss Sports Optics sponsored a truly rare look at a species often reported but believed long gone.

We never saw any ivory bills but I saw two men intent on at least searching out what could be an incredibly important find.

In 2004, Luneau obtained a video in Arkansas that the US Fish and Wildlife Service itself considers to be an ivory bill-a previously though extinct bird.

It goes along with other recordings and research suggesting there are a few ivory bills out there.  However, the official narrative is the species is still lost.

Many don’t want to touch the topic with a 10 foot pole.

Ivorybills?!

Did they ever exist anyway?

That’s what many act like.

And its this very lack of “official” interest that allows such species to hide in the shadows beyond the attention of those who can verify and perhaps save certain ones.

Most scientists tow the line on mysterious wildlife because their careers are centered on grants and anything outside the norm might rock the financial boat too much.

The hunting and fishing community dodges controversial wildlife topics for fear of government intervention especially in relation to the Endangered Species Act.

Amateur naturalists are quick to skip over the mysterious for fear of public ridicule and loss of access to property.

And the media doesn’t really care unless they can spin it into the next viral story, often shaming those who are dare to question things or belittling the off the wall topics altogether.

I am too curious to ignore the stories that require stepping into the shadows. I crave the opportunity to pursue mysteries of the wildlife kind-controversial or not.

Growing up in the 80s, the intro to syndicated horror anthology series Tales from the Darkside used to terrify me.

That is terrify me enough to watch.

Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit… a Darkside. (Series Intro)

I won’t call the animal underground a “dark side” in terms of evil but it certainly not as brightly lit as what most see.

Maybe it’s time to light a candle.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting-edge wildlife writings and investigations.