Tropical Storms and Wildlife

It was the most shocking scene I have ever seen in the wild.

A shoreline on the outer edge of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge was lined with dead flounder. Hundreds of thousands of them.

From a distance it looked like someone had thrown white trash bags along the pristine shorelines of Sabine Lake but it was the bellies of flounder me and my friend (fishing guide) Capt. Skip James were seeing.

That was Tropical Storm Frances in 1998 and it killed millions of flounder and other fish on the Upper Coast of Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

So, how does a storm kill fish?

Saline water standing in the marsh for days at a time can stagnate the water, depleting it of oxygen.

chester-flounder
The author has spent a large portion of his career crusading for better flounder conservation. Seeing their vulnerability to fish kills in 1998 inspired him to take his message to the Texas legislature and ramp up educational efforts. Oh, he likes fishing for them too!

After witnessing the flounder and shooting a few photos, James and I saw a school of shrimp about 1/4 mile from that shore in Sabine Lake that was at least 1/2 mile long by 100 yards wide. They were on the surface gasping for air and no doubt died soon after our encounter.

Today as Tropical Storm Cindy hit the Southwestern Louisiana and extreme western Texas coast I drove out of to examine things along the Highway 82 corridor.

The water was still over the entire beach but it was obvious the waves pushed over the road last night. Along this stretch the water did not get into the marsh system but reports from eastern Louisiana and Mississippi show a storm surge that did penetrate area along the Mississippi River Delta.

The things to look for in the aftermath of any tropical system are as follows:

*Turtle strandings: Sea turtles are often injured, disillusioned and stranded after tropical storms. You can help by observing beaches, marshes and other waterways near the Gulf more closely and reporting any stranded turtles to wildlife officials.

*Marine Mammal Strandings: Although less frequent than turtle strandings, dolphins and manatees in particular can also get stranded. Again, make sure and contact the correct officials.

*Fish Kills: Fish kills happen throughout summer due to oxygen depletion in the water but storm kills happen in a much bigger scale. Some argue that these are natural and to an extent they are correct.

However, we have altered the ecosystem tremendously, building deep, straight canals that bring saline water deeper into formerly intermediate and even fresh marsh and the pollution that is spread from roadways (think gasoline, diesel and engine oil) along with other chemicals make things worse.

We will return to the Louisiana coastline in the morning as waters recede to monitor a long stretch of beach for sea turtles.

That stretch for some reason always has dead turtles or turtle pieces. I have always suspected illegal activity to be the cause but there is no doubt a fair number of green and Kemp’s Ridley turtles in the area.

Hopefully none got stranded but if they did, we will be glad to get them connected with a rehab center.

Use the contact information below if you come across any stranded turtles or marine mammals during what looks to be a busy tropical year.

Chester Moore, Jr.

TEXAS

  • Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network Hotline  
    Galveston, TX
    800-9MAMMAL (800-962-6625)
  • Texas Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network Contact
    361-949-8173 ext. 226

LOUISIANA

  • Louisiana Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline  
    504-235-3005
  • Louisiana Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network Contact
    225-765-2377

MISSSISSIPPI

  • Mississippi Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline  
    888-806-1674 or 228-369-4796
  • Mississippi Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network Contact
    228-369-4796

ALABAMA

  • Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline
    1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5343)
  • Alabama Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network Hotline  
    1-866-SEA-TURTLE
    (1-866-732-8878)

FLORIDA

  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
    888-404-FWCC (3922)
  • Wildlife Alert Hotline
  • Florida Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network Contact
    888-404-FWCC (3922)

Do feral hogs really attack humans? These do…(Pt. 1)

The feral hog is the subject of much media hype.

With numerous “reality” shows based on pursuing and eradicating them they are a go-to species for wildlife coverage.

I’ll never forget watching a program that said a Texas woman was “trapped in her home” for weeks due to hogs outside.

Really? Are they that dangerous?

The answer is no but the reality is some hogs do attack and in fact some kill humans.

Dr. Jack Mayer of the Savannah River National Laboratory been studying wild hogs since the 1970s and his research sheds light on “killer hogs”.

The study documented 412 wild hog attacks worldwide impacting 665 people. During this time there were four fatal hog attacks in the United States.

Of the 21 states reporting hog attacks Texas led the pack with 24 percent with Florida at 12 percent and South Carolin 10. Interestingly when examining worldwide shark fatalities hogs actually beat them out in deaths some years-including 2013.

In his study, hogs that attack are described as solitary (82 percent), large (87 percent) and male (81 percent) and most attacks occurred when there was no hunting involved.

This describes a lone, mature boar, likely territorial that is much more powerful and faster than one mightimagine.

There are numerous accounts of hunters (usually hunting hogs with dogs) getting hooked by a boar.  These are situations where hogs are cornered and lash out in defense.

The profile created by Dr. Mayer shows an entirely different kind of hog. These hogs attack totally unprovoked.

In 1998 Robert Burns of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service wrote of two verified attacks in my home state of Texas, including a 1996 fatality.

“In one instance, a boar attacked a woman on a Fort Worth jogging trail. Two years ago, a Cherokee County deer hunter died from a feral hog attack.”

The Benton County Daily Record chronicled a wild boar that, “attacked and flipped a utility vehicle on a job site in Waco… and severely injured a Gentry man.”

The story details that, “Greg Lemke, who designs chicken houses for Latco Inc. of Lincoln, was a passenger in a utility vehicle when the wild boar struck the rear of the vehicle, causing it to flip with Lemke inside.”

“The accident left Lemke paralyzed from the breast bone down.”

The Pineville Town Talk tells the story of a Pineville, La. man who had a pig enter the house he was visiting.

“Boston Kyles, 20, of 497 Pelican Drive told deputies he was visiting his sister’s house at the time of the incident. He said he had gone there to clean fish and was sitting in the house’s front room when the pig entered through the front door. Kyles told deputies he stomped the floor to try to shoo the pig out of the room, but the pig charged him, Maj. Herman Walters said.”

“Walters had heard of pigs attacking people in the woods but said this was the first time he had heard of a pig going into a house and attacking someone.”

In my book “Hog Wild”I reference an Edgefield, South Carolina man who experienced one of the scariest hog attacks I could find occurring in the United States.

The Edgefield Advertiser reported, “A man was hospitalized recently after being attacked by a wild hog at his home on Gaston Road. The hog, which eyewitnesses estimated to weigh upwards of 700 pounds, materialized in Fab Burt’s backyard while he was working in his garden.”

“It came out of nowhere and attacked me. It had me pinned on the ground and was mauling me.”

Fortunately, Burt’s seven-month-old German shepherd, named Bobo, was on hand to help him fend off the hog.

As previously mentioned, hogs are not out to kill people. Well at least most of them aren’t.

Apparently there are a few out there however who don’t mind coming after humans which is why we should always give them plenty of space.

That keeps us out of the path of their tusks and maybe even off the day’s menu.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Smallest mature whitetail buck ever? Micro deer exist! (Photos & more)

“It was the size of a labrador retriever”.

My late uncle Jackie Moore was a man of few words but when he told a story it always seemed to have an interesting twist.

“It crossed the road in front of us on in San Saba and it had a full eight point rack but it was half the size of a normal whitetail.”

He related that account several times and after his passing I mentioned it to my father (his brother) and was shocked at what I heard.

“I saw one of those little bucks down in San Saba too. We hunted the same lease and I saw one there. It was half the size of the other bucks with a full rack.”

Considering the Texas Hill Country has some of the nation’s smallest deer, that would put the weight of this tiny buck at around 40 pounds.

After pondering this I started looking for photographic evidence.

Photos of someone holding a super tiny fawn that fits in one’s hands circulate on the net and often  claim they are whitetail. They are not. Those are muntjac deer which hail from Asia and only get to about 35 pounds at adulthood.

Here’s a shot of me with a muntjac fawn that was a couple of weeks old when the photo was taken.

After blogging on this issue last fall a reader sent a photo that is without a doubt the best proof of “micro whitetails” I have ever seen and this is the first time it has been published.

Reader “Alonzo” sent in this photo from a game camera.

Notice the small buck is in the foreground so it should appear larger than the one in the background. That means this deer is indeed a tiny one and would fit the size description of the ones my Dad and Uncle encountered in Central Texas more than 40 years ago.

In conducting an Internet search on the topic I found several references.

We use to have one where I went to college. Can’t remember what everyone named it but it was a dwarf deer. People would see it all the time and it was about half the size of a normal adult deer as well. These deer were very tame too as they were never hunted in an urban area so you could get fairly close to them. Use to trap deer there and then tackle them so we could put tags in them and do some research. Tried to get the mini but never did get him to go in one of the traps. (From T_3 Kyle on Taxidermy.net)

I was watching some hunting show. I can’t remember which one it was, but they showed a midget whitetail buck walking down a trail. It was neat looking, short stubby legs and it had a nice little rack too. (From JMBFishing2008 on Indianasportsman.com)

The Key Deer is the smallest subspecies of whitetail and it is found only in the Florida Keys chain of islands. The next smallest is the Carmen Mountains Whitetail found in a remote mountainous region of West Texas and northern Mexico.

The Key Deer is the smallest whitetail deer subspecies.
The Key Deer is the smallest whitetail deer subspecies. (Photo courtesy Wiki Commons)

Is there a recessive gene akin to dwarfism in whitetails? Have you seen one of these deer? If you then shoot us over a report or preferably a photo or video link to chester@kingdomzoo.com.

Whitetails are the most common large animal in North America and the idea of micro versions running about is truly fascinating.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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Pink albino dolphin jumps in front of boat (video)

The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin is the most frequently seen marine mammal in the Gulf of Mexico.

Seeing a pink one however is extremely rare.

That is why we were excited to see this clip provided by Matt Metzler. It shows a pink albino dolphin jumping in front of a boat off the Louisiana coastline. The action begins at about the 17-second mark.

In 2013 we captured footage of a pink albino dolphin in the ship channel near Cameron, La. This particular dolphin with the obvious nickname “Pinky” has been thrilling fishermen who encounter it for at least a decade after Capt. Erik Rue began photographing the creature on his charter trips.

Here’s the clip we captured that day while out with our friend Scott Bandy in his bay boat.

An article in The Guardian back in 2009 reveals some interesting things scientists have observed about this creature.

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, a senior biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: “I have never seen a dolphin coloured in this way in all my career.”

“While this animal looks pink, it is an albino which you can notice in the pink eyes. Albinism is a genetic trait and it unclear as to the type of albinism this animal inherited.”

Some believe there are several “Pinkies” in the vicinity but little research has been done on the subject.

I have interviewed two people who claim to have seen pink dolphins from the ferry in Galveston, TX a three hour boat ride (in calm waters) from Cameron, La. The animal could certainly make that trek but there also could be more of them out there.

We will investigate more and let these video clips serve as a reminder of the beauty and mystery contained in the Gulf of Mexico. If you see such a creature by all means shoot photos and video but don’t chase or harass the animal.

This summer The Wildlife Journalist (R) is partnering with our Kingdom Zoo children’s ministry to raise awareness to the wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico. We are calling the program “Wild Gulf”.

 

We’ll be making treks from the Florida Panhandle to Port Isabel to document by photo and video the unique species that inhabit Gulf waters.

“The Gulf of Mexico and its species do not get enough attention in the national and world spotlight,” said Kingdom Zoo’s Lauren Williams, an eighth grade wildlife conservationist.

“We are going to do our best to change that and at the same time let kids in our ‘Wild Wishes’ program take part in these adventures.”

“Wild Wishes” grants exotic animal encounters for children who have a terminal illness or have lost a parent or sibling.

Be on the lookout for much more on from the “Wild Gulf” and for those mysterious pink dolphins along the coastline.

And if you happen to come across a stranded or sick marine mammal call  1-800-9-MAMMAL. The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network will give you instructions and if the situation is serious they will take action to help the animal.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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