Category Archives: Animal Americana

Toxic Pork

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller  has announced a rule change in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) that classifies a warfarin-based hog lure as a state-limited-use pesticide.

The pesticide, “Kaput Feral Hog Lure,” is the first toxicant to be listed specifically for use in controlling the feral hog population and represents a new weapon in the long-standing war on the destructive feral hog population according an agency press release.

“This solution is long overdue. Wild hogs have caused extensive damage to Texas lands and loss of income for many, many years,” Commissioner Miller said.

“With the introduction of this first hog lure, the ‘Hog Apocalypse’ may finally be on the horizon.”

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State officials are saying traditional hunting and trapping is not getting the job done with Texas hog population. Hunters are crying foul.

“It won’t just be hogs eating the poison. It will be deer and squirrels and rabbits and raccoons. Everything you see come up to game camera at feeders will be impacted,” said Brian Johnson, a local duck dog trainer and hog hunter.

“You can’t just introduce mass poison to the environment and expect only one species to be impacted.”

Frank Moore a Texas-based hunter who works to help landowners eradicate hogs also had strong opinions on the issue.

“If I were to go out and put a bunch of random poison on my lease to kill deer I would get in big trouble. How do they know this is not going to impact other animals as much as it does hog?,” he asked.

Moore at the same time is skeptical that it will work long-term.

Hogs are smart. There is a chance they will figure out something is wrong with the bait if it is supposed to take a number of times eating it to kill it like most rat poisons. There are just a whole lot of factors in this issue that should be looked at,” Moore said.

From this writer’s vantage point, this is a bad idea on many levels but one is glaring, yet no one seems to be addressed. it.

This will greatly impact javelina (collared peccary) in South and West Texas where the swine-like native animals are present.

Javelina will eat virtually anything a hog will eat and will no question be victims of the poison. Javelina are a game animal in Texas with a bag limit of two per season.

Unfortunately some ranches allow wholesale killing of javelina but they are recognized by state law as a game animal as they should be. They are not exotic introductions like hogs and are as much a part of Texas as whitetail deer or Rio Grande turkey.

Who will be counting the impact on javelina?

The same goes for everything else in the ecosystem.

We will have more on this issue which is likely to get heated as an animal that has definitely caused problems (feral hogs) is now weighed against other wildlife in value.

Chester Moore, Jr.

You never know…

They were the strangest footprints I had ever seen.

They sort of resembled a very large nine-banded armadillo which are very common on this piece of property on on Texas-Louisiana border but this was no armadillo.

The heel of these tracks showed and it was a very long heel.

As I stared at the photo on an online field guide to Australian wildlife, there was no question this was a kangaroo track.

A what?

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There are thousands of free-ranging antelope along the Lower Texas Coast. Nilgai are a native of India. (Public Domain Photo)

Yes, a kangaroo track.

In Southeast Texas.

A friend of mine who owns 86 acres of mixed woods and marsh just a mile away from my home called and said that the man who mows his pasture swears he and his assistant saw a large kangaroo jumping across the road in front of them.

My friend explained that he believed the man saw something and that he found some weird-looking tracks in the mud near the alleged sighting.

I went out the next day and found them and verified they were from a kangaroo.

Obviously someone’s exotic pet got loose. There are obviously no native kangaroo species to Texas or in the United States for that matter but exotics do escape.

In 1999 a landowner in Newton County, TX told me about some strange high pitched whistling that almost sounded like a scream sounding off on the back side of their property. One evening she even saw something very large and white just past her horses about 1/2 mile from her front porch.

This was early in the era of game cameras but I had one and unlike the inexpensive models that today feature HD video and high resolution digital photos, this one shot 35 mm print film. It was costly, time consuming and you had to be very careful to set up right or you might get cattle or a bunch of raccoons you were not targeting.

I set the camera up and returned two days later. On the camera was a beautiful white bull elk in velvet. It had escaped from a nearby exotic ranch.

It had been more than 100 years since elk roamed naturally in East Texas and seeing any elk much less a white one was a shock.

More recently the landlord of our Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center in Pinehurst, TX called me and said, “Chester, you need to get down to Martin St. One of your monkey is loose.”

“There’s a problem with that,” I replied. “I don’t have a monkey.”

Five minutes later animal control called me and said the same thing. Turns out there was an alleged monkey sighting just a few blocks from our facility

I drove down to meet them and ended up interviewing a man who went out to check on his dog and found it fighting with a capuchin monkey. He didn’t call it a capuchin but perfectly described one.

Me and a friend went out on in the adjoining woods that afternoon and played capuchin calls and got one to yell back.

The monkey was spotted several more times and was later found to be one trained to assist a paraplegic man.

If we would be honest the field guides to American wildlife would feature many more species. Exotics abound whether they are the thousands of axis deer increasing in number in the Texas Hill County or feral cats roaming the woods of Ohio.

We can make all the arguments in the world about the damage they do and in some cases is is true but there is no doubt they keep things interesting for those of us who pay special attention to everything that inhabits the woods in our communities.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Alligator eating donuts (Video)

Outdoor photographer Gerald Burleigh is known widely in his home state of Texas for his whitetail deer photography as well as his images of the life cycles of waterfowl.

While setting a game camera to lure in feral hogs on a stretch of property near the Neches River in Southeast Texas, he came across something interesting.

An alligator found his bait pile and came in and ate corn and gorged itself on some old donuts.

Alligators are carnivores that will eat virtually anything that swims in front of them but mainly eat fish and turtles.

This one apparently has a sweet tooth.

Something else interesting about this video is the camera is not set directly by the water. This alligator had to walk a pretty good way to find the food.

Alligators will actually cover long distances during the mating period and some of the very largest alligators are found in ponds far from the main waterways where they have set up after arriving there to find no mates during breeding season.

These areas house some of the very largest alligators because they are detached from their main habitat. The biggest alligators are targeted during the alligator hunting season so many of the largest specimens are those that have forsaken coastal marshes, main river channels and other spots close to civilization.

Alligators can grow to impressive sizes but it takes the correct genetics, available food and cover and the ability to live their maximum life cycle which can be upwards of 80 years.

Hunting pressure targeting the very largest alligators takes away the largest adults so truly large alligators (over 11 feet) are become increasingly rare.

Alligator populations themselves are high but those of maximum size are not as common as they used to be.

This one looks as if it might not make it too much longer. Any alligator that is willing to gobble up donuts would no doubt had a hard time resisting a chunk of rancid chicken dangling over the water.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Monster Hogs lurking in southern cities? Pt. 2

The smell of southern fried seafood hit my nostrils as the car doors opened.

As I walked over to open the door for my then girlfriend (now wife) Lisa, the pleasant aroma hit every hunger button I had. Visions of shrimp and sausage gumbo danced in my head.

Then as Lisa stepped out of the car I heard something move in the tall cane behind us.

As we fixed our eyes toward the racket a huge mud-covered animal emerged.

At first in the dim light at the back end of the parking lot I thought it was a young steer as cattle are common in any pasture, wood lot or in the case chunk of marsh next to the restaurant.

Take a close look at these huge hogs captured on an infrared game camera by Timothy Soli and you will see domestic influence. This is common in some areas and in some southern areas giant domestic breeds are allowed to free range on fenced ranches. But fences don’t always keep them in.

But it was no steer.

This was a hog, one that weighed well beyond 500 pounds.

It grunted heavily when it saw us (we were only 10 steps away) and then went on about its business of rooting up the ground.

The area the animal came from is a piece of marsh probably in the 300 acre range next to a large refinery facility. This is bordered by a large chip channel and a whole bunch of industrial buildings and homes.

Obviously that huge hog, perhaps a domestic set free to graze years ago as used to be common in southeastern Texas. It does not take hogs to go back to their wild origins and integrate into any purely feral hog populations.

This was not the only time I came across evidence of monster hogs in the area.

Early in my writing career a man told me had located a really big black boar in a wood lot behind the Vidor, TX Wal Mart and wanted to know if I wanted to tag along with he and his dogs to catch it.

I declined.

Two weeks later a letter arrives in the mail with a photo of the hog they killed, all 400 pounds of it. I later drove by the area to inspect and saw the 20 acre wood lot the beast had lived in amongst a city of 10,000.

Both of the aforementioned hogs were boars and large, solitary ones that can find enough woods to hang out during the day and vacant field, cattle pastures (common in southern cities) right of ways along highlines and drainage canals can thrive

Throw in the aforementioned practice of allowing domestic hog breeds like Yorkshires and Durocs feed on open range with cattle and you have an even bigger chance of huge hogs showing up. Hogs show little regard for fencing and also need no help from man to survive beyond captivity.

As hogs push deeper into urban territory, certain individuals will find these sanctuary areas that will allow them to grow to epic proportions.

Animal control offices throughout the South (and as far north as New Jersey) are contending with hogs now on a daily basis but monsters like these are unlikely to participate in any trapping program they initiate.

Without the gun as an option in these urban sanctuaries, those hogs with the genetic code to grow huge will, dethroning the coyote as the apex of city-dwelling wildlife.

Young pigs will provide coyotes food but the ones I am writing might just decide to make coyote their food.

They are able and in some cases totally willing.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Monster hogs lurking in southern cities? Pt. 1

Are feral hogs the new coyote?

In other words, have they become the latest large wild creature living quite cozily within the city limits of the largest cities in the nation?

The answer is “yes”.

Right now there are sizable feral hog populations Dallas-Forth Worth and Houston in my home state of Texas and also around Baton Rouge, La. and a number of sizable metro areas in Florida.

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Photo submitted by Timothy Soli.

I believe what we are about to see is cities harboring some absolutely monster-sized hogs.

In the past I have written and lectured on what I call “Monster Hogs”  which are any weighing more than 500 pounds. Such animals are few and far between but some of our cities offer all of the right ingredients to make it happen.

There is adequate habitat, food and cover  and large boars in particular which tend to be solitary are great at remaining hidden. They may in fact possess more “intelligence” than any wild animal in North America.

Add to this a lack of hunting pressure.

Photo submitted by Tyler Clines.
Photo submitted by Tyler Clines.

Hogs are popular with hunters and in fact, have superseded whitetail deer as the most harvested animal in Texas with a whopping 750,000 new killed annually according to Texas AgriLife.  Louisiana and Florida also support a huge hog hunting culture.

The fact that firing guns in city limits is a no-no will give hogs with monster genes the opportunity to live to maximum potential.

This is where it will get interesting.

Sightings will be elusive but these creatures will be seen perhaps in schoolyards near children or eating Fifi” the poodle as granny takes it for a stroll in the park.

We are fielding increasing reports from shocked citizens seeing normal-sized hogs in greenbelts and suburbs but how will the public react to seeing a boar just shy of average grizzly proportions(600 pounds) strolling down main street?

More to come…

Chester Moore, Jr.