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.

I want to see…

It’s a little thing.

But seeing one would be a very big deal to me.

I want to see a long-tailed weasel.

I might have seen one in 1998 when crossing over Adams Bayou near my home in Orange County. It was at night and this little creature crossed the road. At first it looked like a mink but the color wasn’t quite right and it didn’t quite look as bulky as the mink I was used to seeing in the area.

Still, I can’t call that a sighting.

I want to see one and know that I saw it.

I have a spot where I see mink about every third trip. Some of them are quite large and aren’t very spooked by human presence.

But these weasels are another issue.

I am in the process of seeking out reports in the Orange, Newton and Jefferson County areas of Southeast Texas. If you have a sighting or game camera photo please emailed chester@kingdomzoo.com.

I want to stake out an an area and try to lure one out with a predator call for photos and also set up a game camera for photos. I have one potential spot mapped out near where I had my “possible” sighting nearly twenty years ago.

It is perfect habitat and there has been some possible depredation on poultry.

It easy to get caught up with the bigger and more widely known animals but I like the little shy guys too.

Makes sense for someone who operates  “micro zoo”, doesn’t it?

Looking forward to seeking out some weasels. At the very least it should be challenging.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Things that go bump in the night…

The night was quiet.

Other than a couple of barred owls trading barbs in the distance, I had literally heard nothing but the chirping of crickets in seven hours of sitting a climbing tree stand, 30 feet up a pine.

Just as I was fighting the urge to close my eyes, a guttural “woof” sounded in the thicket in front of my position.

Focusing the Generation 3 Night Vision Goggles, a large black form appeared out of the green filter of the device.

“Woof”.

The beast sounded off again but this time much louder and now it was out of the brush and standing on the trail.

It was a monster hog.

Take a close look at this game camera photo submit by Timothy Soli and you will see a truly monster hog about the size of the one the author encountered on his expedition.

The huge boar cautiously walked down the trail and gave me a good look at its form. It had the classic razorback ridge on its back, was as broad as a young steer and was  in my estimation  a legitimate 500 plus pounder.

The wind was light and swirling and as soon as I felt the breeze at my back, the hog stood at attention.

It cleared its nostrils to get a whiff and then bolted into the brush.

It did not get this big by being making many mistakes.

I had walked that same trail literally dozens of times and only saw faint tracks and a couple of large mud rubs on trees that indicated a large hog was in the area.

This natural game trail lead to a large grove of oak trees and was the only way in and out as both sides were 10-year-old clear cuts that had grown so thick a hog such as this one could stand a few feet inside and no one could see it.

But things happen after dark.

Creatures of the night come out to prowl.

I truly believe a wildlife lover cannot fully understand the woods unless they spend team there after dark. What may seem like an area devoid of animal life can turn into an energetic juncture of wild happenings as soon as the sun sets.

Or it can prove to be the lair of something large and dangerous.

There was little sign of deer and other hogs along this trail and it is likely due to this animal showing dominance. This was its domain. It claimed this territory and it took spending some very uncomfortable time up a tree to get a glimpse of it.

Throughout 2017 we will be venturing into the woods at night often to bring you a deeper understanding of the mysterious lives of nocturnal wildlife. The goal is to create a deep appreciation for animals and their habitat and the only way to accomplish that is go where they live and when they are on the prowl.

And we will bring back reports, video and photos.

This will be a year of discovery, inspiration and wild encounters.

Get ready. Anything could happen.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

Banteng

It must be the Texan in me.

I love cattle especially wild ones. There is something powerful and majestic about the bulls in particular.

Numerous species exist around the world but my favorite is the banteng of Southeast Asia.

Public Domain Photo
Public Domain Photo

I first learned of these while in college doing some studies on Australia’s wildlife. Banteng were introduced there in the 1830s and there are about 10,000 of them dwelling Garig Gunak Barlu National Park.

That is actually the largest population of wild banteng found anywhere. In their native Southeast Asia their numbers have dwindled.

There is a domesticated strain of banteng idenfited as “Bali cattle” and there has been some introducing them into the gene pool to help bring some diversity.

A study entitled Rapid development of cleaning behavior by Torresian crows on non-native banteng in Northern Australia (That’s a mouthful, huh?) shows some positives of their introduction

In this paper we report the observation of a rapidly developed vertebrate symbiosis involving ectoparasite cleaning by a native corvid of northern Australia, the Torresian crow, on a recently introduced bovid ungulate, the banteng. On three separate dates we observed a total of four crow individuals eliciting facilitation behaviours by a total of ten female banteng to assist in the removal of ectoparasites.

Most exotic introductions are considered a negative although in reality people would be shocked with which animals in their country are actually native. This one is at least proving interesting scientifically and benefiting a native species.

One of the animals we plan on acquiring for the next phase of the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center is a banteng . If anyone has any contacts here in the states please contact us.

And don’t worry. As much as I like beef, banteng will not be what’s for dinner.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Bobcats have tails!

Bobcats have tails!

That might not seem worthy of the exclamation point there but it needs to be said emphatically.

Over the last year I have examined at least a dozen bobcat photos people thought were cougars because the tail was longer than they expected.

The video below shows a bobcat captured on a game camera by friends of mine in Orange County, TX.

This particular bobcat has a tail longer than just about any I have seen but there are many of them out there with tails close to this. Some have little powder puff looking tails but most stretch out 3-4 inches. This one is probably 8-9 inches in length.

That is long for a bobcat but nearly as long as a cougar which has a tail nearly as long as the body.

I have no scientific way of estimation but I daresay 75 percent of alleged cougar sightings in the eastern half of the United States are bobcats.

I know for a fact there are cougars there too but bobcats are far more numerous and I know from personal experience how many people think they have a cougar photo but find out it is a bobcat instead.

This is no fault of their own. Wildlife identification studies are not a priority at schools and in fact game wardens even get very little wildlife identification education during their formal training.

I appreciate any and all game camera photos and if you have some you would like to have evaluated email chester@kingdomzoo.com.

Bobcats are one of my favorite animals and I have had the pleasure to work with them in captivity, photograph them on many occasions and have probably seen 200 plus in the wild.

In fact on a peace of property near the set of John Wayne’s “The Alamo” near Bracketville, TX I saw five bobcats in one day.

Seeing them is fairly common for me but I always rejoice knowing I caught a glimpse of one of America’s most successful predators.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Playing Jim Fowler

Growing up I always thought television talk shows were boring.

Johnny Carson made me laugh  when I talked my parents into letting me stay up late enough to watch but his guests did not impress me as a youngster.

That is unless that guest was Jim Fowler.

Fowler, the co-host of my favorite television program growing up “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show” and brought wildlife to the masses for decades via his relationship with Carson.

As I walked onto a stage in front of 3,000 kids at the Global VBS at Cornerstone Church last summer, I felt like I was getting to play Jim Fowler.

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The program is called “Cheeto Talk” and it is a late night television talk style show but hosted by a puppet operated by my friend Pastor Brett Own of San Antonio, TX.

During the course of an hour we brought out all kinds of animals for Cheeto to interact with and we had an absolutely great time.

From “Reverend Sweets” one of the guests almost having a legitimate panic attack over our rosehair tarantula to the kids collective “awww” when they saw our short tail opossum it was tons of fun.

The highlight for me was having the Kingdom Zoo kids bring out the animals and interacting with the crowd.

During the last segment Rachel brought out “Rowdy” our coatimundi who was only 10 weeks old at the time. He behaved well in front of the huge crowd and commanded their attention.

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At the end Pastor Owen asked me to close in prayer and at this point “Rowdy” climbed on top of my head.

Not that there is much competition in this category but I have a feeling I hold the record for the only prayer with a coatimundi on one’s head while leading  a prayer.

And I got to play Jim Fowler for an hour. I hope the performance would make him proud.

Click here to watch Cheeto Talk with special guest Chester Moore.

Chester Moore, Jr.

“Teeth” in the Gulf

“Teeth”!

“That is next movie they need to make. We’ve got one about a killer shark but they need to make one about a killer gar,” said my Dad.

“Wouldn’t that be cool?” he asked as we sat on the side of the road between Bridge City and Port Arthur, TX fishing for alligator garfish.

At eight-years-of age I thought that would be epic to say the least and if any of the producers of such high art as “Sharktopus” are reading this blog, it very well could become the next SyFy Original.

Just sign those royalty checks to “Chester Moore” please.

Dad always liked to make me laugh and that certainly did but there certainly are not a bunch of garfish attacks to report.

There is however something quite interesting.

15240140_10153905413465780_2058860035_nWhile “Jaws” is on the minds of beachgoers in Texas (our variety-bulls, lemons, blacktips) “Teeth” is soaking up some of the same salty waters.

Angler Marcus Heflin caught a sizable alligator garfish while fishing the surf at Sea Rim State Park at Sabine Pass along the Texas-Louisiana border.

This was the first gar I have heard of on the beach anywhere along the Gulf Coast although I have long suspected they are there.

As a child I had a collection of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazines and one of them had a profile of Sea Rim State Park-where Heflin caught the gar pictured above.

It had fishing hotspots and there were several marked for garfish in the surf.

Garfish are considered a freshwater species but do well along the Gulf Coast. I grew up fishing for them in Sabine Lake and surrounding waters, a bay that at its southern end is only seven miles from the surf.

Mobile Bay in Alabama is a hotbed of alligator garfish activity and they are present in numerous salt marshes along the Louisiana coast.

Still, you can find almost no references to garfish in the surf.

The question is just how common they are in Gulf waters and how far out do they go?

These are very mysterious fish with little known about their life cycles or habits in comparison to America fish for comparable size.

So, if you’r ever at the beach and see something that looks kind of like a mutated alligator swim beside you don’t worry.

You just have had an encounter with “Teeth”.

There is no danger to be concerned with except in my eight-year-old imagination where a ravaging gar seemed like an intriguing proposition.

And to be perfectly honest it still does.

Chester Moore, Jr.

All hail the King (Cobra)!

“Snakes can’t count.”

I uttered that under my breath as an 11 foot long king cobra scanned the room.

Owned by Andy Maddox of Pets-A-Plenty: The Ultimate Reptile Shop, the impressive serpent paid attention to everything happening in the room.

We were shooting a clip for my Kingdom Zoo television broadcast on GETV Kids and although I said they can’t count I was beginning to believe this cobra could.

Every time someone in the room moved, it marked them.

I have handled snakes thousands of times. At the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center we have 25 species and never have I had a snake pay so much attention to its surroundings.

Not even close.

Then it happened.

Me and the cobra (safely held on snake hooks by Eric Haug and Maddox) looked me in the eye. Square in the eye in fact and I could see there was something going on there.

This was an intelligent being, certainly by reptile standards and it had an awareness unlike any other snake I had encountered.

My first look at a king cobra came at the Houston Zoo when I was six years old. In what I have come to know is a super rare experience, a 14 footer there hooded up at me and my mom as I pressed close to the glass.

Mom literally ran out of the room and drug me away kicking and screaming. I wanted to stay and watch!

Since that visit I have acquired some interesting information on king cobras and other varieties of the iconic snake we will be writing about here at The Wildlife Journalist.

It has been quite a learning experience for me and an exciting one as it hearkens back to my childhood of playing with rubber cobras in the backyard and seeing these magnificent animals at the Houston Zoo and Sea Arama in Galveston, TX.

Stay tuned and check out the video outtake from the encounter described above.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Follow the nose…

There was something about those 1980s Fruit Loops commercials.

The debonair sounding “Toucan Sam” was and is a memorable icon of pop culture and was what initially got me interested in toucans.

After seeing them on my cereal box in the mornings I started looking them up in the personal wildlife book library I had accumulated and found them fascinating.

Fast forward to 1999 and I found myself in the rainforest of Venezuela and five feet away from this white-throated toucan on the shores of the massive Lake Guri.

I was mesmerized as I snapped this photo.

The unique design and beautiful contrast of light and dark was in my opinion the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.

Sure, cardinals and red-headed woodpeckers had more standard beauty but there was something special about the toucan-all toucans.

When we founded Kingdom Zoo in 2012 me and my wife Lisa knew we wanted at toucan.

We searched high and low to no avail so we did what we should have done to begin with. We prayed.

We also gave away plush toucans to needy children in the community as a way of showing Christ’s love but also believing that he who gives us given unto.

We recently had the opportunity to purchase a gorgeous male green aracari toucan. We named him “Papaya”.

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This friendly and very active bird had his official debut last weekend at the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center and seeing people’s reactions was special.

Most have never seen a toucan up close, only on the cereal box or perhaps in a distance enclosure at a zoo. Our micro zoo provides close interactions with animals and “Papaya” has become our number one bird ambassador.

He is a true treasure and I could not be happier.

Dreams do come true. Sometimes they come after profound revelation. Sometimes they are passed down from family members.

And sometimes they can even be founded gazing at a cereal box excited about the sugary snack inside.

And don’t give me any flack about GMOs and refined sugars. You know you were eating them too.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Aoudad are here to stay

The aoudad (barbary sheep) is now a part of the Southwestern landscape that will never leave it-at least not until something cataclysmic like a worldwide flood or giant astroid strikes the planet.

I’m serious.

Imported from north Africa for hunting more than 60 years ago in Texas there are now large feral populations in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

The aoudad is rufous tawny in color according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

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Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.

“The insides of the legs are whitish. There is no beard, but there is a ventral mane of long, soft hairs on the throat, chest, and upper part of the forelegs. The horns of the male sweep outward, backward, and then inward; they are rather heavy and wrinkled, and measure up to 34 inches in length. Females also have prominent horns although they are not as large as those of the male.”

According to Wikipedia aoudad are fond of mountainous areas where they both graze and a browse.

They are able to obtain get all their moisture from food, but if liquid water is available, they drink it and wallow in it. They are crepuscular which means they are active in the early morning and late afternoon and resting in the heat of the day. They are very agile and can achieve a standing jump of over seven feet and will flee at the first sign of danger.

“They are well adapted to their habitats which consist of steep rocky mountains and canyons. When threatened, they always run up and bounce back and forth over the tops of the mountains to elude predators below. They stay in rough, steep country because they are more suited to the terrain than any of their predators. Aoudad are extremely nomadic and travel constantly via mountain ranges.”

One rancher had a 640 acre tract in Real County that was high fenced and had aoudad on it when he bough it. If you were to take all of the surface acres with canyons, hills and caves it is probably more like three times that size, at least it feels that way when I have been there.

Aoudad have rarely been killed there although herds as large as 30 have been seen.

The author snapped this rare photo of a baby aoudad on a tract of land in Texas in 2012.
The author snapped this rare photo of a baby aoudad on a tract of land in Texas in 2012.

He came across an aoudad ewe at a game sale and had the idea to fit her with a bell around her neck. When she got with the herd, he could hear the area they were in on the ranch. It is often extremely quiet out there.

The herd completely rejected her.

Another ranch had an aoudad in an acre pen that had grass grown up several feet high. They went to find the animal to try and lead it into a chute to put in a cage for the sale. It took them an hour to find the aoudad in an acre pen. They animal kept quietly crawling around on its knees.

These animals are survivors but are extremely elusive. Even in areas where they are common aoudad are far more shy than any of the native North American sheep.

Wildlife managers believe they outcompete native sheep for food and water but there are opposing viewpoints out there. We will discuss some of those in coming posts but either way the aoudad is here to stay.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Blue Deer

For years I have heard about strange whitetail deer that have a blue tint to their coats.

My father even reported seeing some of these deer on a hunting lease near San Saba, TX in the mid 1970s.

This of course was well before the era of cell phone cameras and game cameras so no photos were taken.

A reader sent in this photo of mysterious blue whitetails taken on his  game camera in an undisclosed location in the Pinewoods of East Texas.

Some parts look blue, others purple but this is not a an Adobe Photoshop rendering.

Have you seen any deer with unusual colors? If so e-mail wolf@wolfandlambmedia.com

We would love to see them.