All posts by wildlifejournalist

Chester Moore is known as The Wildlife Journalist® for his cutting-edge articles, videos, lectures, television appearances and radio broadcasts involving wildlife around the world. He has won more than 100 awards for writing, photography, radio and his conservation efforts. He was named a "Hero of Conservation" by Field & Stream magazine and won the Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy award for his work with children and wildlife in the conservation field in 2017.

Has “Mr. Ed” Has Killed More People Than “Jaws”?

With “Shark Week” coming in just a few days I thought it was timely to send out a post to give you some information you have to dig really deep to find.

I commend Discovery for their amazing shark coverage but you can only do so much on television in a week. The following information ranges from the esoteric to the criminally underreported.

Horse Vs. Shark

Sounds like a Syfy Original doesn’t it?

In reality I am talking statistics and according to the Centers for Disease Control sharks kill about one person in the United States annually. Horses kill around 20.

That won’t grab too many headlines because too many media figures and wealthy, influential people have horses but it is a fact.

Sharks are easy to sensationalize but in reality Mr. Ed’s kind has killed far more people than “Jaws”and its family in the United States.

Sashimi Specialist

Raw salmon with a splash of soy sauce and a bit of wasabi is one of my favorite food items. Raw salmon is also a favorite of a virtually unknown close cousin of the great white shark-the aptly named salmon shark.

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Salmon shark fitted with a tag. Photo courtesy National Marine Fisheries Service.

This shark dwells the waters of the northern Pacific and is a fairly common catch on Alaskan fishing vessels.

From the article Hot Blooded Predator in Alaska Fish & Wildlife News.

Ferocious fighters and fast swimmers, the salmon shark is a close cousin to the great white shark. The salmon shark, Lamna ditropis, belongs family Lamnidae with four other species: the great white shark, the shortfin and longfin mako sharks, and the salmon shark’s Atlantic counterpart, the porbeagle (or mackerel) shark.

According to The Conservation Institute these sharks are not only warm-blooded but super fast.

Salmon sharks (Lamna ditropis) are large, powerful, warm-bodied (endothermic), and streamlined predators adapted for high-speed swimming. Reports from the U.S. Navy have clocked salmon sharks exceeding 50 knots.

This would make the salmon shark one of the fastest fish in the ocean. They are reported to reach 11.9 feet (3.6 m) in total length (Eschmeyer et al. 1983, Compagno 1984). Most of the salmon sharks encountered in Alaskan waters (the northeastern Pacific) are surprisingly uniform: over 93% are females ranging from 6 1/2 to 8 feet (2 – 2.5 m) in length and roughly 300 pounds (136 kg). Salmon sharks in the 700 pound range have been reported by sport fishermen in Alaska.

These sharks are fascinating creatures that rarely come across swimmers or divers and strike fear only into the hearts of sockeye and chinook.

Underrated Biter

The common blacktip shark is never listed in Internet and television lists of the most dangerous sharks.

Yet as we reported in recent weeks if you look at the raw numbers from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), you will see they should be.

While blacktips were only positively identified in one unprovoked fatality they were responsible for 29 total attacks.

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The author with a huge blacktip shark caught and released off the coast of Venice, La.

That puts only the great white, tiger and bull-the three species everyone recognizes as potentially dangerous above them. We wrote about this last year here but have some new insight.

ISAF has a category for requiem and lamniforems-attacks linked to those branches but not to exact species and those are both higher than the blacktip. But when it comes to identified sharks biting people blacktips rank fourth.

Period.

This is not to implicate the blacktip as a creature to be feared. It is however to question some of the shark attacks identified as bull and to  lesser extent spinner sharks (which have 16 attacks attribute to them.)

Spinner sharks are nearly identical to blacktips and bull sharks and big blacktips can appear similar especially in murky water.

It’s an interesting thing to consider as millions of beachcombers, wade fishermen and divers hit coastal waters.

That’s it for now. Expect much more to come on sharks over the coming two weeks.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Epic Fail of Corporate Wildlife Media

Corporate wildlife media has failed again.

And again .

And again.

You might be asking “Hey Chester, what is the corporate wildlife media?

It is media outlets owned by publicly traded corporations.

It is the large wildlife nonprofits who by virtue of their budgets and staffing have created a bottleneck in wildlife related information.

It is the large wildlife websites and programs interested in sensationalism instead of stories to initiate clickthroughs.

(Public Domain Photo)

So, how have they failed?

Let’s start with the Asiatic elephant problem.

Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African elephants throughout the continent. That’s a huge drop from at least two million in the 1940s but it is large in comparison to the Asian elephant with a best estimate standing at around 35,000 animals scattered throughout Asia. Think about that.

There are less 1/10 Asian elephants in comparison to African.

Why is little said about Asian elephants?

For starters, big conservation is big bureaucracy and the public’s fascination with the African elephant helps generate funding. Lots of it. The largest threat to Asia’s elephant has been habitat loss with poaching also a factor but showing African elephant carcasses stripped of tusks raises funds.

Showing palm oil plantations and villages taking up space for Asian elephants not so much.

Listen to my intense monologue on the failure of the corporate wildlife media here.

In the April 24th entry I quoted a story that came out of Myanmar showing there is a growing market for Asiatic elephant skins and now bulls, cows and babies are being slaughtered.

Just before making this very post I did a google search for “elephant poaching”.

I finally found a story FIVE pages back on the Myanmar situation with every other story dating back several years in the NEWS section about African elephant poaching.

An even bigger failure is the sad story of the vaquita porpoise I reported on here last year in several entries.

There are only 30 vaquitas left.

30!

If Japanese whaling vessels start pounding on humpbacks the fundraising nonprofits will send out their letters and the social media will be abuzz.

But the vaquita is likely about to be extinct and you see almost nothing on it.

Why?

Harpooned whales and blood-stained seas raise funds and generate web traffic. They don’t think small propoises no one has heard about tangled in nets will do the same.

Slaughtered whales are more sensational than netted porpoises. (Public Domain Photo)

I think it would.

I think you and the wildlife loving public are smarter than that but in my opinion the gatekeepers in much of the corporate wildlife media think you’re not.

They think you need sensationalism when I think you need real stories.

That is what I try to do here.

I probably fail as well since this is a one man operation and things slip under the radar but I do put my heart and soul out there and say things I promise gain me no political favor on any side of the conservation aisle.

If you love wildlife and believe in conserving it do your best to stay tuned to independent researchers, small conservation groups and bloggers like myself in addition to the big outlets.

Not everything they do is bad but they miss way too much. And sometimes its on purpose.

It’s time all species in danger of extinction get attention, not just the chosen ones.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)

Death Of The Last American Jaguar

Only three jaguars were verified to live within the United States according to the latest scientific research. One of those three male jaguar named Yo’oko was just verified killed by a poacher.

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According to an article at LiveScience.com the rosette patterns on a jaguar’s pelt are unique to each individual, a trait that allowed officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to identify Yo’oko’s pelt in a photo sent to them from the Tucson-based Northern Jaguar Project.

(Listen to my emergency radio transmission on the last American jaguar at the link below. This is a must listen!)

It’s unclear when Yo’oko died or who killed him, but the Arizona Daily Star reported today (June 28) that he may have been killed by a mountain lion hunter. A local rancher, Carlos Robles Elias, told the Arizona Daily Star that he heard from a friend that the jaguar was trapped and killed six months ago somewhere in Sonora, Mexico, near the U.S. border.

And while this jaguar and two others have been known to move into and out of the United States, no one knows where the other two are and how much time they actually spend on the US side of the border.

Virtually all of the jaguars verified in the United States in the last decade are believed to move in and out of Mexico.

This could literally mean the last jaguar in America is dead.

This particular incident means a lot more than the media is stating which is why I issued an emergency broadcast of The Wildlife Journalist® radio.

You can click the link above to the listen the podcast and learn exactly how symoblic and tragic this patricular incident is in the realm of the big cat of the Americas. Action needs to be taken and I believe great things can come out of this tragedy if people wake up.

Chester Moore, Jr. 

(To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)

Coyote (Coywolf?) Pups Show Playful Side (Video)

Wild canids are special to me. On the North American front I am particularly fond of red wolves, coyotes and their hybrids the “coywolf”.

The red wolf is declared extinct in the wild other than a handful of captive-bred animals that have been released into various remote areas. The reason for extinction designation was hybridization with coyotes-accacerbated by wholesale slaughter under the guise of predator control.

The term “coywolf” is most often used for gray wolf/coyote hybrids but it is equally fitting for the offspring of coyotes and red wolves.

My friend Mark Hines has for the last three years been getting the most amazing videos of a family of animals I believe has some red wolf in their lineage down the road. These are from Orange County, TX in an area literally less than five miles away from where the last “pure” red wolves were captured for the federal breeding program in 1980.

Mark has given us an incredible look into the lives of these animals that are no doubt mostly coyote but look like they have some red wolf in the gene pool as well. These clips show puppies born this spring.

Naturalists like Mark are an important part of keeping the awareness of wildlife at a high  level and allowing us to get an incredible glimpse at some things rarely seen by human eyes.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)

Mystery of the Gulf’s Pink and White Dolphins

The most beautiful creature I have ever seen in the wild is a pink dolphin. In fact it is the very pink dolphin you see in the photo below that I took on Louisiana’s Lake Calcasieu (Big Lake) in 2010.

pinky the dolphin
Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.

This dolphin is nicknamed “Pinky” and I have been blessed to see it on three separate occasions and it had it swim fairly close to our boat while drifting in the channel near Cameron, La. in 2013. You can see that video clip below.

In my opinion anomalies like this are important because they raise awareness to issues in nature and in this case the presence and importance of marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Heidi Whitehead with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, this partitcular dolphin has been observed for more than a decade.

We initially began receiving reports of the “pink” bottlenose in Calcasieu in 2007 and we worked with NOAA to educate people and reduce vessel traffic around the animal for the protection of the animal because there were so many wanting to get out to see it.  There was also a pink dolphin observed in the Houston ship channel near Bolivar several years ago but it has not been confirmed whether or not this was a different animal than the Calcasieu one as we have seen evidence from our photo-ID work that dolphins travel between Galveston and Louisiana.

Whitehead provided us with a fact sheet from NOAA on pink and white albino dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and it contains some truly interesting information.

While there have been many documented sightings of albino, “white” or “pink” bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico; it is believed these sightings are of the same three individuals. The first was reported during the summer of 1994 in Little Lake near New Orleans, Louisiana. The all-white dolphin was spotted in a group of 4-5 individuals for 20 to 30 minutes and never seen again. In September 2003, another all white dolphin calf was first observed in a group of more than 40 dolphins south of Galveston, Texas. It was re-sighted several times in the same vicinity through August 2004 (Fertl et al., 1999; Fertl et al., 2004). 

This is what NOAA has to say about “Pinky” from the Lake Calcasieu area.

Although the dolphin is often referred to as a “pink” dolphin because of its pink coloration, it is considered an albino. The dolphin’s mother is not albino and has the gray coloring typical of coastal bottlenose dolphins. Dolphin calves are typically born dark gray in color. All sightings of this dolphin have been off Louisiana and most of the time it was seen swimming with a group. 

According to NOAA there have been “white” dolphin sightings along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Other “white” dolphins have been sighted in the Southeast U.S. between 2012-2014, these include off the coast of South Carolina, NE Florida and Georgia, and in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida 

If you see a pink or white dolphin call the Southeast US Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-877-433-8299. They are interested in getting information on these unique animals.

And so am I.

If you have photos or videos please send them along with photo credits and dates/timeline if possible.

I am working on a special project for kids regarding these colorful enigmatic marine mammals and would appreciate your help.

E-mail chester@kingdomzoo.com

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog for weekly updates enter your email address in the bar at the top right of the page.)

Another Sea Snake Report Comes From Gulf of Mexico

Sea snakes are some of the most unusual and mysterious reptiles on the planet and their known range is limited to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

I have however uncovered a series of interesting reports in the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas/Louisiana border.

In response to an earlier entry here at The Wildlife Journalist® another report came in-this time from Florida.

Last year in August (2017) we were on a family vacation. We went down to the beach and got I’m in the water and not two minutes later my 11-year-old started yelling snake. I still couldn’t see it. So he pointed at it and followed it out the water. It went down the beach 20 or 30 yards and back in the water. It was only a baby but definitely a banded sea krait. I have watched many nature shows with this snake on it. This was at Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island, Fla. We will be there again this August and I will be keeping a look out for another one.

This location is on the Gulf Coast of Florida and is the first report we are aware of in the region.

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Banded sea krait. Photo courtesy NOAA

In the first article on the subject we note there are eel species in the Gulf that could be mistaken for a sea snake, however the behavior mentioned in the report above does not match up with eel behavior.

Is it really possible that banded sea kraits entered the Gulf of Mexico through ship ballasts?

An article at thoughtco.com explains ballast systems purpose and how they work.

A ballast water system allows a ship to pump water in and out of very large tanks to compensate for a change in cargo load, shallow draft conditions, or weather.

  • The capacity of ballast water tanks might be millions of gallons on a large vessel. This allows vessels to carry a light or heavy load while maintaining ideal buoyancy and handling conditions in all situations.

More than 7,000 species move around in ship ballots daily according to officials with the World Wildlife Fund in an article in The Telegraph and while ships are supposed to change their ballast water in the open ocean to lessen the chance of invaders making it inland, this would have little impact on sea snakes. They could easily catch a ride on a mat of Sargassum and be just fine.

The Chinese Mitten crab has taken up residence in the Thames and other English river systems after being brought in by ballasts. It’s within the realm of possibility for sea snakes to hitch a ride into the Gulf.

An interesting side-note is the most likely sea snake hitchhiker would be the yellow-bellied sea snake as it is found along the Pacific Coast of Panama and is the most widely distributed species. All of the reports I have gathered are of banded sea kraits which live much further away from the United States.

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Yellowbelly sea snake. Photo courtesy NOAA

We will talk more about this in another post and dig more into some other possible cases of mistaken identity besides the aforementioned eels.

If you have seen any sea snake in the Gulf of Mexico or had a sighting of something snake-like you cannot explain email chester@kingdomzoo.com.

This story is getting more interesting by the week and we will continue coverage here at The Wildlife Journalist®.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

Box Turtle Kills and Eats Rattlesnake (Video And Photos)

When Diane James walked into her backyard in Post, TX she did not expect to see a rattlesnake. Nor did she expect to see an ornate box turtle killing and eating the rattlesnake.

Photo Courtesy Diane James

But that is exactly what she saw and was able to capture on video and with still images.

It might be hard to imagine a box turtle-a cute species often kept as pets killing and eating a rattlesnakes but these turtles are omnivores. That means they eat plant and vegetable material.

When I was just of high school, a science teacher in Wichita, KS who kept a box turtle in his classroom put a small live mouse in its enclosure and the turtle attacked and ate it.

I was stunned.

A mouse is one thing but a rattlesnake is another and this particular box turtle does it with reckless abandon. I hope you enjoy this unique look into the trials and tribulations of nature. To watch a coral snake eating a copperhead click here.

If you want a look into wildlife you will find nowhere else subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the bar on the top right side of the page.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Photo Courtesy Diane James

While I have you here…

Do you have an animal-loving child between the ages of eight and 18?

What would you say if I told you they can be part of a powerful wildlife conservation group that helps endangered wildlife around the world?

And what if  told you it was free?

World Wildlife Journalists™ is an outreach for school-aged children that allows them to take part in helping threatened wildlife and learning media skills to do it. It’s all positive with no drama and no politics. Your child will never be part of ugly, heated debates over wildlife political issues like you see on cable television.

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They will however be part of a forward thinking outreach on behalf of the most incredible animals on the planet.

By simply signing up your child can become part of an important movement of youth involvement in conservation, take part in monthly online events and earn special prizes.

Here are the benefits:

*Special Membership Card

*World Wildlife Journalists™ Decal

*Monthly drawings & competitions featuring wildlife-related prizes

*Special Facebook page for parents and supervised children to participate in seminars, instructive clinics and conservation challenges.

*Monthly conservation challenges inspiring your child to use different media skills (writing, photography, video and art) to help raise awareness to wildlife issues.

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Click here and fill out the form at the bottom of the page so your child can become one of the World Wildlife Journalists™ and make a positive impact on endangered wildlife.

Is Common Blacktip Shark 4th Most Likely To Attack?

Blacktip Shark

The common blacktip shark is never listed in Internet and television lists of the most dangerous sharks.

Yet if you look at the raw numbers from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), you will see they should be.

While blacktips were only positively identified in one unprovoked fatality they were responsible for 29 total attacks.

That puts only the great white, tiger and bull-the three species everyone recognizes as potentially dangerous above them. We wrote about this last year here but have some new insight.

The blacktip shark can easily be confused with other species. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

ISAF has a category for requiem and lamniforems-attacks linked to thosebranches but not to exact species and those are both higher than the blacktip. But when it comes to identified sharks biting people blacktips rank fourth.

Period.

This is not to implicate the blacktip as a creature to be feared. It is however to question some of the shark attacks identified as bull and to  lesser extent spinner sharks (which have 16 attacks attribute to them.)

Spinner sharks are nearly identical to blacktips and bull sharks and big blacktips can appear similar especially in murky water.

The identification issue is noted by ISAF.

 This list must be used with caution because attacks involving easily identified species, such as white, tiger, sandtiger, hammerhead and nurse sharks, nearly always identify the attacking species, while cases involving difficult to identify species, such as requiem sharks of the genus Carcharhinus, seldom correctly identify the attacker.

Blacktips are the most common large shark to be found in the Gulf of Mexico. They are highly abundant along many beaches and probably come into contact with people more than any other large shark.

The author in 1999 with a blacktip shark he was about to tag with Mote Marine biologist John Tyminski.

While the bull shark is common and sort of jacked up on testosterone, blacktips are even more abundant and frequently prey on schools of mullet, menhaden, pompano and other fish on the beachfront.

In my opinion some of the “bull shark” attacks on fishermen in particular are probably blacktips. Wade fishermen routinely carry belts with fish stringers and I have personally witnessed numerous blacktips hitting stringers. I have seen bulls circle anglers and have heard of one attacking a stringer but blacktips are far more often the culprit here.

Bulls have a bad reputation so they might be getting a little more blame on some of the attacks that do not involve fatalities and outright brutal attacks.

An interesting note from ISAF is that blacktips have been known to attack surfers in Florida.

Is it possible they are experiencing the same kind of phenomenon great whites do in seal-rich waters of the Pacific but instead of pinnipeds they relate it to the silhouette of sea turtles?

Blacktip sharks are amazing creatures that have the respect of anglers due to their incredible acrobatics when hooked. Most anglers catch-and-release them these days respecting their role in the ecosystem.

Perhaps with this knowledge they might respect them a little more-and be a little more cautious when toting around a stringer of speckled trout or pompano in the surf.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

Montana Officials Investigation Mysterious Canid-Shunka Warakin?

A strange wolf-like animal some say could be the mysterious Shunka Warakin was killed by a Montana rancher May 16.

It was so strange in fact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials are sending off samples for DNA testing.

As people are sending them question after question about the creature, here is what they had to say.

Photo Montana Fish, Wildlife And Parks

Here’s what is not in question: The animal came within several hundred yards of the rancher’s livestock. He shot it and reported it as required by law. The animal was a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family, which includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves.

Those facts are not unusual in Montana’s farm and ranch county.

The animal originally was reported as a wolf, but several Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ wolf specialists looked at photos of the animal and collectively doubted it was a purebred wolf: the canine teeth were too short, the front paws too small and the claws on the front paw were too long.

Nevertheless, social media was quick to pronounce the animal as everything from a wolf to a wolf hybrid to something mythical.

Photo Montana Fish, Wildlife And Parks

Rather than guess, FWP reports said they sent the carcass to the Department’s lab in Bozeman where tissue samples will be collected, then shipped to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Laboratory in Ashland, Org.

In a laboratory, scientists extract DNA from cells, looking for markers specific to individual species. Those markers are then compared to samples of known species on hand.

While the process may take a week, just getting to that stage may take weeks or months, depending on the laboratory’s backlog of cases.

All of which means it may be awhile before the anyone really knows what the animal near Denton really was.

The most intriguing thing about this incident is that it happened in Montana where a well-known mysterious canid some call the aforementioned Shunka Warakin is preserved in a museum in Ennis, Montana.

Alleged “Shunka Warakin” in a museum in Montana.

You can read more about in an article by Loren Coleman presented here.

Could the animal killed May 16 and the mounted museum specimen be the same type of animal?

Strange road kills and game camera photos are commonplace but fish and game departments going as far as to DNA test and send out a news release is not.

We will keep you posted on this interesting animal as we learn more.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Have sea snakes entered the Gulf of Mexico?

It emerged from a weedline that covered the edges of the 18 Mile Light (Sabine Bank Lighthouse) out of Sabine Pass, TX on the Texas-Louisiana border.

“It had white/bluish and black bands and came from under the weeds and then swam to the surface. It was a sea snake and I have no doubts about what I saw,” said one angler I interviewed in person who wishes to remain anonymous.

The angler said the “snake” had a paddle-like tail and he and his fishing partner observed it for several minutes.

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Banded Sea Krait (Photo courtesy NOAA Photo)

The problem is there are not supposed to be any sea snakes in Gulf waters. They dwell the Pacific although in the past there has been some banter about whether or not they would make it through the Panama Canal.

I got that report a couple of years back and then sort of filed in the “X” category for review later on down the road.

Then I spoke with someone who told me about catching a big diamondback rattlesnake near High Island, TX.. He said this as he brought me a king snake for my collection and we spent an hour talking about serpents. And just as he was done relating the story of the rattler, he dropped a bombshell.

“The craziest thing I ever saw was a  banded sea krait at one of the rigs off of the Bolivar Peninsula,” he said.

He reported seeing the snake swimming around a rig that he had paddled his kayak to on a calm day.

A couple of things happened when I got this report. First, he called it a “banded sea krait” which is a specific type of sea snake. There are numerous species.

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This is what two separate eyewitnesses reported seeing in close proximity in the Gulf of Mexico.

Then I realized this was only about 25 miles from where the other sighting came from which described a banded sea krait. These two individuals did not know each other and the reports were unsolicited. In other words there was no collusion.

Once again there are supposed to be no sea snakes in Texas.

A possible candidate for the sightings is the snake eel which is present in the Gulf of Mexico and has similar markings to a banded sea krait. They are established in the Gulf and would be a species found around an oil rig or a structure like the 18 Mile Light although I have never spoken with anyone who has ever reported seeing one and that includes divers-including myself.

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Snake Eel (Photo courtesy NOAA)

There are several reports of beaded sea snake that allegedly washed up in Florida after a red tide event. There are also a few stories of sea snakes reportedly being found in different areas of the Caribbean.

Bloggers blame ship ballasts for carrying snakes from the Pacific and then unintentionally releasing them into the Gulf. It is unlikely but the fact is you just never know.

A recent video shows a snake that appears to be a sea snake in the Gulf of Maine-far from their range.

If you think you might have seen a sea snake in the Gulf of Mexico email me at chester@kingdomzoo.com. I would appreciate any accounts, photos or video.

Sea snakes are fascinating creatures and their presence in the Gulf although unlikely is not impossible.

Chester Moore, Jr.