Red and Yellow Means Friendly Fellow?

“Hey man, red and yellow means friendly fellow.”

Those words would have been laughable if they were not coming from a young teenage boy who was dangling a 2.5 foot long Texas coral snake over his hand.

Wrapped around a stick it was within striking distance and this kid thought he had caught a scarlet king snake.

When I told him it was a coral snake and he needed to allow me to take it from him, he give me the deadly mistaken version of the children’s poem to distinguish venomous coral snakes from their mimickers.

That’s when I replied, “No kid it means KILL a fellow.”

At that point I walked over, pulled the stick out of his hand and told him he was flirting with disaster.

He really did think this was a scarlet king snake which lives nowhere near Orange, TX where this occurred. We do have the Louisiana milk snake but this was the genuine article-a real and large coral snake.

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A Louisiana milk snake I photographed in 2013. 

His plan was to sneak the snake past his mom and keep it in his sock drawer. Some 20 years later, I use this story every time I bring out one of our milk snakes to let kids know that if you have to rely on poetry to identify snakes you could get in trouble.

I have no doubt if I had not seen the kid walking down the street he would have gotten bitten and possibly died. Coral snake bites are very serious.

A recent story about an Alabama man named Jeffrey Phillips shows the sad result of mishandling wild snakes.

Phillips’ children were the first to spot the snake. Initially thinking the serpent was a harmless king snake, Phillips decided to catch it and give the snake as a gift to his older brother, who has owned snakes in the past

At the time of this writing he was in the hospital paralyzed and fighting for his life, a truly tragic situation.

The owner of Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, Fl., Van Horn is passionate about snakes and besides exhibiting more than 50 species, keeps hundreds for the sole purpose of extracting venom-including coral snakes.
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Here’s me filming with a very large coral snake in Texas in 2014 for an educational piece I was doing about encountering snakes in urban areas.  I took extreme precautions and NEVER free-handled this snake. Bad idea.

“You see this. These are fangs,”  VanHorn said as he carefully rolled open the mouth of an eastern coral snake while I filmed there a few years ago.

The tiny fangs were in the front of the snake’s mouth and destroy the commonly held myth that coral snakes are rear-fanged and must chew on a person to inject venom.

“They are elapids just like cobras and they have the same skull structure. I don’t know where these rumors came from but they are persistent,” VanHorn said.

He went on to say that most coral snake bites result from people picking them up and it is often young men.

“Women typically don’t go around picking up venomous snakes. And a coral snake has a very dangerous venom that is difficult to treat so people shouldn’t fool with them,” he said.

Coral snakes like all other snake species are not out to get anyone but they are fully capable of hurting someone if they are toyed with. The best thing to do with them is leave them alone and feel blessed you saw one of the strikingly beautiful reptiles in the world.

The moral of the story?

Don’t tread on the coral snake.

Chester Moore, Jr.

America’s Great Cat Finds A Home

Cougar.

Mountain lion.

Panther.

Those along with puma, catamount and ghost cat are all regional names for what science calls Puma concolor.

This is America’s great cat of the Sierra Nevadas, Florida swamps and Texas brush country and last week a very important one found a new home.

Craig DeRosa brought his cougar “Takoda'” on a 19-hour trek to Bear Creek Feline Center in Panama City, Fla.

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Takoda checks out his new home at Bear Creek Feline Center.

Takoda has served as an ambassador for the species, having appeared on national television and also as a loved companion to his owner.

It was however time for this cat to make a home among others of its kind and serve out the rest of its days inspiring thousands of annual visitors to the facility.

“We’re excited to have this beautiful cat here at Bear Creek Feline Center,” said founder Jim Broaddus.

“Cougars are such an exceptional beauty and representative of wildness and Takoda is quite a striking cat. He fits right in.”

This facility has taken in many cats, some well cared for like Takoda and others not so much. While they have been a refuge for cats in need of a transition from different private captive settings, the key here is education.

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Bear Creek Feline Center is home to the super rare Florida Panther.

“When people see a cat like this in a safe and intimate setting it moves their heart. People can see their grace and beauty and then we can help teach them how important they are to the ecosystem,” Broaddus said.

Along with servals, Siberian lynx, bobcats and jaguarundis, there are cougars from several subspecies including the highly endangered Florida Panther.

“There is a lot of diversity among cougars and they inhabit everywhere from Canada to Argentina and a lot of people don’t know that. We are glad to educate people and when we have a chance to take in these animals it helps to make it real to the public. There is something special about seeing these cats in person,” Broaddus said.

My life at age 14  was changed when I saw a cougar making its way over a rice levee in Orange County, TX.

At a distance of only 10 yards, we locked eyes for a moment and many years later that is a feeling I cannot shake.

And I do not want to.

In its eyes I saw wildness and have spent my entire professional career trying to communicate to the general public how important wildness and wild animals are-in large part due to that encounter.

As Takoda walked out of his transport enclosure into this spacious new home, I saw a familiar gleam in its eye.

It reminded me of the cat I saw so many years ago and made me excited for its prospects representing its kind-the great cat of America.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Wild Wish Awakens Conservation Calling

Sea turtles have always been her favorite animal.

Their life in the ocean, beauty and even their awkwardness put them at the top of the animal kingdom for high school senior Reannah.

So when Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® founder Chester Moore overheard a conversation at Texas Children’s Hospital about this young lady wanting to meet a sea turtle, he went into action.

One of the organization’s outreaches is called Wild Wishes and it grants exotic animal encounters to children with critical illness or loss of parent or sibling. In the past, Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX had granted penguin encounters to children in the program.

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Reannah is all smiles after meeting a giant river otter.

He knew they had a Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle named “Chloe” so he contacted the facility to see what was possible.

On April 29, Reannah got to meet this special turtle in a behind the scenes setting, almost getting to hand it food via a special device. Chloe was a tad too shy for that but swam up and gave Reannah a close look that put a Texas-sized smile on her face.

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Chloe the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle.

She also got to do an encounter with giant river otters which included feeding the endangered mustelids rainbow trout and posing for a kiss photo. On top of that she got to go to go behind the scenes at the Caribbean aquarium and feed the fish.

The smiles got even bigger as Reannah realized she was not only feeding tarpon, Atlantic spadefish and jack crevalle but also sharks.

“This is awesome!,” she said.

“I can’t thank Moody Gardens enough for rolling out the red carpet for a very sweet and caring young girl. Everyone from the PR department to the animal care crew were gracious and gave not only their time but love. I’ll never forget that,” Moore said.

And he will never forget Reannah’s desire to meet sea turtles.

“The Lord had really been working on me about getting deeper into wildlife conservation with our program. I have been involved with endangered wildlife my entire professional life at many levels but not until we met this young lady did I put the dots together how Wild Wishes would connect to conservation.”

Each young person coming through the program will have an opportunity to choose from a list of endangered species they would like to help. Moore and his team have vetted numerous organizations who work with them and they will make a small donation in the child’s name to that cause.

“A few months ago I was speaking with legendary marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey and he said that if everyone would just do a little, then a lot would be accomplished. With that said, I find it amazing that Reannah wanted to help the ocean and we will be making a small donation in her name to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation,” Moore said.

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Moore will be making a personal donation in Reannah’s name to giant river otter conservation in support of a group called Save the Giants he and his crew learned about at Moody Gardens.

Who better to help wildlife facing immense challenges than children facing challenges themselves?

“I can’t tell you how impactful learning of Reannah’s desire to meet a sea turtle was and then meeting her and seeing how much she really does care about animals and the ocean. Moving forward many endangered animals will be helped because this young lady wanted to get close to sea turtles. She inspired us,” Moore said.

Not only will children in the program on top of their wish encounter get a donation to an endangered species cause in their name but they will also have an opportunity to be part of a special mentoring program.

“The young people who come through Wild Wishes will have a chance to become our conservation ambassadors,” Moore said.

That means they will have the chance to get hands-on training with animal ambassadors from Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center®, learn wildlife photography, go through an endangered species information course and appear at events with animals to help raise awareness to endangered species conservation.

“As far as we know this has never been done. We’re very excited and inspired. We love the Lord, children and wildlife and this is a way to bring it altogether,” said Lisa Moore who will be working heavily on the photography part of the mentoring program.

Reannah’s encounter was the 60th wish the program has granted and while doing a Bible  study recently, Moore noticed something unique about the number 60.

Moore said Hebrew numbers have meanings beyond their numerical value and the meaning for 60 in that ancient language is “to support”.

“We will not only continue supporting children facing challenges through Wild Wishes but also help those children support endangered wildlife. I think it’s a match made in Heaven.”

To donate to make Wild Wishes come true or learn how to enroll a child in the program click here.