Hidden reason for red wolf extinction

Canis rufus, the red wolf, is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet.

With fewer than 50 released into the wild from captive breeding facilities that house around 200 nationwide, they have remained on the brink since their officially declared extinction from the wild in 1980.

While the possibility of remnant, hidden populations exist, their numbers are a tiny in comparison to their former range from the eastern seaboard into Central Texas.

The reason for their extinct designation is they hybridized with coyotes to create a genetic mutt of sorts, the “coywolf”, which still has many representatives in Texas and Louisiana.

A seldom mentioned aspect of the red wolf’s story, however, is targeted eradication.

What caused coyotes to push eastward from their stronghold in the west so quickly was that the vast majority of red wolves had been killed and in large portion through a variety of state-sponsored programs.

This created a vacuum and nature abhors a vacuum.

wolf history
Page 149 of the document shows a government predator control agent with a “black wolf”. Black was a common color for Canis rufus in many parts of its range.

I recently came across a copy of the 1946-47 Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biennial Report that goes into detail about wolves in the state.

Under the headline “Predator Control” the following information is given.

“The Legislature of 1946 increased hunting license fees to $2.00. Twenty five percent of these funds (the increase) were dedicated to predator control.”

“There has been a great increase in the predators of the State. Undoubtedly a great deal of the increase was due to war conditions which took many men away from farms, lack of ammunition and difficulties due to travel restrictions in certain sections of the State. The increase in our foxes brought on an epidemic of rabies and a tremendous increase in wolves and bobcats brought on a terrific loss to our ground-nesting birds, to our mammals, particularly rabbits and our young deer.”

The text goes on to say they hired an official predator control supervisor and had two trappers working under him.

In all fairness it says their desire was to bring a “proper balance” between predators and prey but there was no doubt large-scale predator control aimed directly at red wolves in the state.

The “black wolf” you see in the photo is a red wolf. Red was the primary colors in the Texas region but the red wolf was once called Canis niger (Niger is “black” in Latin) due to its primarily black color in many parts of the South.

As far this writer knows there have never been any melanistic red wolves in the captive breeding program consisting of 14 animals taken chiefly from eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana, showing at least in the strain of wolves initially captured the black strain was not present.

It is most likely gone forever.

Similar projects were initiated in most if not all states in the red wolf’s range on top of unrestricted harvest by anyone with a gun, leg hold trap or poison.

We have come a long way in wildlife management in the country in many ways  but it is always good to look back so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Mark Twain once said “History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes”.

It is up to us to figure make sure when it comes to wildlife good science trumps politics and conservation reigns supreme even in the hotly contested world of predator management.

Management is one thing, eradication is entirely something else.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Black bear attacks-a reality check

In two days, two people have been killed by separate black bear attacks in Alaska.

Erin Johnson, 27, was killed while doing contract work with Ellen Trainor, 38,  who was also attacked but survived with relatively minor injuries.

This comes a day after 16-year-old Patrick Cooper was killed while running a race in the wilds of his home state.

Bear attacks are rare.

Black bear attacks are even rarer.

Only six attacks attributed to black bears had been documented previously in Alaska in more than 100 years.

black bear bushes
Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Currently there are around 100,000 black bears inhabiting Alaska alongside 700,000 people. That means there is one bear for every seven people which is a pretty high ratio even factoring in the amount of habitat in the state.

This story has wildlife apologists throughout the blogosphere and broadcast media making statements like “most fatal black bear attacks are examples of the animals defending their territory” and “the majority of attacks are by mothers defending their cubs”.

Not true. Not even close.

A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management documents 63 people killed in 59 incidents by non-captive black bears between 1900-2009.

Here is the standout quote from the study.

We judged that the bear involved acted as a predator in 88% (49 of 56) of fatal incidents. Adult or subadult male bears were involved in 92% of fatal predatory incidents, reflecting biological and behavioral differences between male and female bears. That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears.

That a majority of black bear attacks are predatory is something recognized by the bulk of fish and game departments throughout the United States. Even my home state of Texas which has a small (but growing) black bear population distributes information stating that if anyone is attacked by a black bear they should fight back.

Advice to play dead is often given regarding bear attacks but that is for grizzlies which often attack to protect territory or perhaps because they didn’t like the way the person looked that day. (Hey, they’re grizzlies. They can do what they want!)

But it is known that black bear attacks albeit rare are often predatory as this study shows.

Another interesting note came in regard to proportion of bear to human population.

Fatal black bear attacks occurred in Canada and Alaska and in the lower 48 states. There were 3.5 times as many fatal attacks in Canada and Alaska but only 1.75 times as many black bears, and much less human contact for black bears in Canada and Alaska. There was a weak positive correlation between the estimated size of a bear population within a given jurisdiction and the number of fatal black bear attacks. Some jurisdictions had no fatal black bear attacks but had large estimated black bear populations.

In a state where bears are not hunted and have little reason to fear people it could be argued that is a factor. But Alaska has plenty of bear hunting and in fact there are around 3,000 black bears killed by permitted hunters there annually.

The vast majority of black bears are not out to get people. If they were a highly dangerous animal states like California that have 30,000 bears and 30,000,000 people would have attacks frequently.

That’s not the case.

Chances are these two attacks simply happened. These very unfortunate people were in the wrong place at the wrong time and met the wrong bears.

But the response to whitewash black bear predation must stop. Education is always the beginning of conservation and the public in bear country needs to be educated on the fact black bears do sometimes kill and eat people.

And more importantly there is a profile so to speak of the most potentially dangerous animals which are males especially older ones. That way if a bear comes strolling through someone’s back yard a few times they can make an informed decision. They may just want to tighten up trash pickup and avoid grilling outside for a bit or if its a bruin they may decide to call their fish and game department about relocation.

People also need to know that bears are a vital part of the ecosystem and can and do live with very little incident through North America. Fear does no one good. Truth however goes a long way in helping bears and people.

Bear management is complex but if cool heads and common sense prevail there is no reason education and forward-thinking conservation plans can’t decrease the already small number of attacks.

Because you see while it’s easy to belittle the number of fatalities, it offers no comfort to the families of those killed by the bears.

The best way to honor them and be good stewards of black bears is to move forward with the truth at the forefront and science-based management solutions that have both bears and humans in mind.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

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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