They were the strangest footprints I had ever seen.
They sort of resembled a very large nine-banded armadillo which are very common on this piece of property on on Texas-Louisiana border but this was no armadillo.
The heel of these tracks showed and it was a very long heel.
As I stared at the photo on an online field guide to Australian wildlife, there was no question this was a kangaroo track.
Yes, a kangaroo track.
In Southeast Texas.
A friend of mine who owns 86 acres of mixed woods and marsh just a mile away from my home called and said that the man who mows his pasture swears he and his assistant saw a large kangaroo jumping across the road in front of them.
My friend explained that he believed the man saw something and that he found some weird-looking tracks in the mud near the alleged sighting.
I went out the next day and found them and verified they were from a kangaroo.
Obviously someone’s exotic pet got loose. There are obviously no native kangaroo species to Texas or in the United States for that matter but exotics do escape.
In 1999 a landowner in Newton County, TX told me about some strange high pitched whistling that almost sounded like a scream sounding off on the back side of their property. One evening she even saw something very large and white just past her horses about 1/2 mile from her front porch.
This was early in the era of game cameras but I had one and unlike the inexpensive models that today feature HD video and high resolution digital photos, this one shot 35 mm print film. It was costly, time consuming and you had to be very careful to set up right or you might get cattle or a bunch of raccoons you were not targeting.
I set the camera up and returned two days later. On the camera was a beautiful white bull elk in velvet. It had escaped from a nearby exotic ranch.
It had been more than 100 years since elk roamed naturally in East Texas and seeing any elk much less a white one was a shock.
More recently the landlord of our Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center in Pinehurst, TX called me and said, “Chester, you need to get down to Martin St. One of your monkey is loose.”
“There’s a problem with that,” I replied. “I don’t have a monkey.”
Five minutes later animal control called me and said the same thing. Turns out there was an alleged monkey sighting just a few blocks from our facility
I drove down to meet them and ended up interviewing a man who went out to check on his dog and found it fighting with a capuchin monkey. He didn’t call it a capuchin but perfectly described one.
Me and a friend went out on in the adjoining woods that afternoon and played capuchin calls and got one to yell back.
The monkey was spotted several more times and was later found to be one trained to assist a paraplegic man.
If we would be honest the field guides to American wildlife would feature many more species. Exotics abound whether they are the thousands of axis deer increasing in number in the Texas Hill County or feral cats roaming the woods of Ohio.
We can make all the arguments in the world about the damage they do and in some cases is is true but there is no doubt they keep things interesting for those of us who pay special attention to everything that inhabits the woods in our communities.
Chester Moore, Jr.