Category Archives: Animal Americana

Monster Hogs Will Become Apex City Predators

Genetics. Age. Food/Cover.  Those are the ingredients necessary to create maximum size feral hogs or any other wildlife for that matter.

Without the genetic code animals don’t have the capacity for super size. Without food and cover it is impossible to feed their potential. And without reaching the optimal age, it is all a moot point.

These three factors are the reason why gigantic feral hogs will become the apex predator in many American cities.

Feral hogs have entered the city limits of many cities in the American South and are becoming major problems for animal control, homeowners, golf course managers and park superintendents.

There are no doubt hogs in cities like Houston, Orlando and others major cities right now with the potential to outgrow the average grizzly bear.

Greenbelts as well as abandoned lots, dumps and other open areas provide adequate nutrition.

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Domestic hogs left free to graze integrate with feral hogs and can produce monstrous offspring.

And then there is the age factor.

Once hogs enter cities there is virtually no way to control them.

Trapping has very limited effectiveness. Shooting them under virtually every circumstance is off limits for obvious reasons. No one will have the stomach to allow hunters with trained curs and pit bulls to capture/kill them and poisoning (where legal) is not going to be possible due to dangers to pets and people.

So, when that hog with the genes to be a giant enters a city, it has everything else it needs to do just that.

These hogs will do massive damage to everything they put their snout to and will pose a danger to people and their pets. Hogs are most fond of plant material but they can and often do prey on live animals.

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Photo submitted by Tyler Clines. Will cities allow effective means of capturing hogs like using trained dogs? The answer is most likely “no”.

That means “Fifi” the poodle could be on the menu when her doting mother takes her for a walk in the park.

Such hogs already exist and have for years but as hogs numbers continue to skyrocket even the urban areas in the feral hog’s range that have had no swine migration will see them move in.

Early in my writing career I got some revealing intel on such animals. The first was almost a face to snout encounter.

When taking my girlfriend (now wife) Lisa out on a date at a seafood restaurant we heard something step out of the cane just behind us in the parking lot.

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.

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.

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Hogs weighing 400 pounds are not uncommon and those weighing more than the average grizzly do exist. These type of animals will likely being showing up in cities.

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

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

Around the same time, 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.

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

It will be important to educate the public on these animals with a very special emphasis on not feeding them. Feral hogs are bad enough but feral hogs without any hunting pressure who know humans feed them will eventually turn to animals that approach people.

And at some point someone will get hurt, maybe killed.

I have written extensively on hog attacks and they are more common than many might suspect.

Having been chased up a tree on two occasions by wild hogs both in Texas and Tennessee, I can attest being on the side of their wrath is a frightening thing.

We should always use caution when hogs are around and realize some of them tend to be more Hannibal Lecter than Porky the Pig.

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Marty Stouffer of “Wild America” (Podcast)

My radio program “Moore Outdoors” allows me to be able to interview all kinds of experts on wildlife.

By far one of the greatest interview subject is Marty Stouffer of “Wild America” fame.

The now syndicated show (last 25 years) originally aired on PBS and set records for viewership. Here’s some info on Stouffer from Wikipedia.

 Along with his brother Mark, Stouffer also produced the TV series of John Denver specials for ABC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Another half-dozen one-hour Specials for the National Geographic Society were also produced during that same time period. Stouffer’s special “The Predators” was narrated by Robert Redford and his special “The Man Who Loved Bears” was narrated by Will Geer and Henry Fonda.

By the mid-1970s, Stouffer had compiled several full-length specials that aired on television as prime time network documentaries. At that time, he approached the programming managers at the PBS about a half-hour-long wildlife series. PBS signed for the rights to broadcast Stouffer’s series Wild America in 1981. The series almost immediately became one of the most popular aired by PBS, renowned for its unflinching portrayal of nature, as well as its extensive use of unique film techniques such as extreme slow motion, close-ups and time-lapses through the seasons of the year.

Stouffer’s stories, incorporating dramatic “facts of life,” and told simply in his home-spun style, won the hearts of a loyal audience. It was one of PBS’s most highly rated regular series, never leaving the Top Ten, and in more than one year, it was the Number One highest rated regular series to air on the network.

It remains the most-broadcast Series which has ever aired on Public Television. At the time, it was common for producers to limit the number of broadcasts to 4 airings over a period of 3 years. Stouffer saw no good reason for that limitation and he was the first producer to offer unlimited broadcasts of the series by the network. Many of the 260 PBS stations chose to broadcast the programs multiple times each day throughout the weeks. In some weeks, according to Nielsen ratings, it was viewed by more than 450 million viewers.

In total, the Wild America episodes have been viewed untold billions of times by hundreds of millions of viewers. Wild America has become the strongest, most popular and most recognized brand in existence on the subject of North American wildlife and nature. 

Listen here to our discussion bears, wildlife programing and all things “Wild America”.

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr.

Key deer poachers nabbed, hurricane death toll tallied

The biggest ecological concern of Hurricane Irma was the highly endangered key deer which only lives on a handful of islands in the Florida keys.

With only 949 estimated key deer remaining (I have been on many ranches with more whitetail than than in Texas) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials estimate the storm killed 21 deer and in 2016 they were hit by a screwworm infestation that took 135.

Now two South Florida residents, who captured and restrained three Florida Key deer on Big Pine Key according to US Fish and Wildlife Service officials, were sentenced Oct. 31, 2017, in federal court in Key West for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Erik Damas Acosta, 18, of Miami Gardens, and Tumani A. Younge, 23, of Tamarac, previously pled guilty for their involvement in the July 2, 2017 incident in Monroe County, Florida. United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Acosta to one year in jail, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. Younge was sentenced to time already served, placed on 180 days of home confinement subject to electronic monitoring, given a term of supervised release of two years, and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. The Court found that neither defendant could pay a criminal fine.

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Two Key deer discovered in the defendant’s car. Photo by USFWS.

According to court records, including a Joint Factual Statement signed by the defendants, they used food to lure the deer and captured them. The defendants tied up the deer and placed them in their vehicle. They further admitted their actions injured an adult male Key deer, including a fractured leg. The animal later had to be euthanized by authorities.

 

I have written on several occasions in recent months about the huge problem of young people poaching endangered wildlife. This is another terrible example.

The issue must be addressed and vulnerable species like the key deer must continue to be protected.

We’ll keep you updated with all key deer related issues.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The dream began long ago…

A couple of days ago I came across a project called “I am Somebody” from fourth grade.

It was an exercise in challenging us to state who we are and who we wanted to become in life.

I don’t remember this project and I have not seen it since I did it back in 1984 but what I found in it reminded me that a dream of working with wildlife that became a vision later in life started long ago.

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When asked to draw a picture or cut out and paste of picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up I chosen article from National Geographic showing a researcher with a leopard seal.

I would like to be a scientist because I would like to maybe find a way to stop water pollution or discover a new animal. I would like to be a wildlife biologist.

I ended up studying journalist in school and later zoology and have since I was in high school pursued wildlife journalism. It’s amazing a little boy with a big dream got to live it in a little different way.

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The assignment also had a section called “If I Were…”

If I were an animal I would like to be a grizzly bear so I could be the strongest animal in the forest.

Not much has changed on that front although I would probably tell you a jaguar for the answer now-the strongest cat in the forest.

The reason for this post is to inspire you to follow the vision you have for your life. My advice is to seek God, receive revelation on your life and pursue that with everything you have.

I am no one special but I have been able to do many special things in regards to wildlife. There is no reason you can’t do the same thing.

I plan on doing many more special things with wildlife in the next 25 years and beyond and want to inspire you to seek out your WILDEST dreams.

I will probably never become a grizzly but I just might get an up close and personal photo one of one of these magnificent creatures.

Yeah, that sounds fun…

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Into the Abyss…

Time stood still as I sank into the abyss.

For a moment, it seemed as if I were in a bizarre, fever-induced nightmare, descending deeper and deeper into murky blackness.

Life and death hung in the balance as I struggled to make it toward the light above but my captor was powerful. Effort seemed futile as it pulled with unbelievable strength until suddenly something gave and I broke free.

Rocketing to the surface toward the boat I was pulled from, I gave everything to get back in.

A huge beast with razor sharp teeth had just taken me on a trip into 40 degree, 50-foot deep water. Drowning, hypothermia and bleeding to death were all likely scenarios but an even stronger force led me to the light.

Back in 1997, I was running a trotline in a deep hole in the Sabine River. My cousin Frank Moore and I had trotlines about 200 yards apart and had been catching a few blue catfish.

This was in the middle of winter and we were targeting huge blue catfish. In previous days I had several large hooks straightened and had visions of 75-pound blues in my mind.

As I went to check my line, I noticed most it was not parallel to the shore but drifting out across the deep, instead of on the edge. The line had been cut (or so I thought).

Immediately not so kind words flowed through my mouth to whoever cut the line but then as I started to pull it in something happened.

The line moved!

Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.

I pulled in a little more and felt great weight at the end of the line and soon realized I had a seven-foot long alligator garfish on my line. In the Moore family, gar trump blue cats any day of the week so I was excited and even more so when I saw the huge gar barely moving.

Gar will often drown on trotlines (seriously) and this one looked a little worse for the wear so I though it would be easy pickings.

I pulled the line up to the beast, hooked my gaff under the only soft spot on the fish, which is directly below the jaw. I jammed it in there good to make sure it would hold and to see how lively the fish was. It literally did not budge. The fish was alive but did not seem lively.

I then took a deep breath, mustered up all the strength I had since this was a 200-pound class fish and heaved the gar into the boat. That is when the big fish woke up.

It pulled back with full force and all of a sudden I found myself headed down into 30 feet of water with the gar. In an instant I realized one of the other hooks on the trotline had caught in my shoe and I was now attached to 200 pounds of toothy fury.

I had just enough time to take a breath and went under.

All I could focus on was getting back to the surface and toward the light. I am not sure how deep I went but according to my cousin who was just down the shore from me, I did not stay under very long. A 200-pound gar and a 200-pound young man snapped the lead on the line but the hook amazingly remained in my shoe as a reminder I was very near death.

Bringing the line into the boat was a mistake on my part. Nearly a fatal one. They should always be checked on the side of the boat.

More philosophically, thinking back to that moment enveloped in a  cold darkness and looking up to the light would foreshadow what would happen in my life in years to come.

There was much more living to do. I just had to reach to the light-the Light of the World to be set free.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Key deer live through Hurricane Irma (video)

We have been promising to keep you updated as to the status of the federally endangered key deer in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The following is a video captured by veteran television journalist David Sutta via Facebook showing four key deer on Big Pine Key after Irma blasted through.

Big Pine Key is where the majority of the population lives. Thanks to Cody Conway from Wild Imaging for sending this to me.

Our contacts in key deer research have been unavailable and have not been able to access their research areas. We hope to have more on the status of the deer in the coming days and weeks.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Key deer major concern as Irma hammers Florida

The average elevation of Big Pine Key off the mainland coast of Florida is three feet.

Early reports of storm surge from Hurricane Irma hitting Big Pine Key is 10 feet.

Big Pine Key is home to the majority of the federally endangered key deer, the smallest subspecies of whitetail and it is headquarters of National Key Deer Refuge.

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Key Deer have had a rough go of it in the last couple of years.

“While there had been no screwworm outbreaks in the U.S. for the past 30 years, one began last July (2016) on Big Pine Key, which affected the Key deer population,” said Dr. Roel Lopez, institute director and co-principal investigator for the Key deer study, San Antonio, a project of Texas A&M University.

Last year screwworms infested the population, which is spread across more than 20 islands. It has led to 135 Key deer deaths, including 83 that were euthanized to reduce the risk of further infection.

“This was a significant blow to a species of which is uniquely located in that area and has an estimated population of just 875,” said Lopez, who noted the mortalities were chiefly among adult males.

We will be contacting officials with the key deer study as well as at National Key Deer Refuge to monitor what is happening with the species.

A 10 foot surge could have serious consequences to all wildlife of the keys but the key deer is the most vulnerable. And they have already been hit by a severe (proportionally speaking) screwworm outbreak.

Mid-day Monday we found a report at the Miami Herald about the species.

Dan Clark superintendent of the National Key Deer Refuge, said his first priority as the massive storm approached was to evacuate National Wildlife Refuge personnel assigned to the area.

“After we receive information from Monroe County that it is safe to return and we can inhabit the Lower Keys, a post-storm assessment of our facilities and residences will be conducted to determine if we can operate,” Clark said.

As we get updates we will keep you updated.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Harvey: Huge wild boar visits neighborhood (video)-this will be a common site in some areas

Don’t let the name The Woodlands fool you.

Yes, it is beautifully developed with plenty of trees and greenbelts but The Woodlands is part of the Houston area and it is usually bustling with human activity.

After Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rains hit the area last weekend, wildlife from the local forests started to invade the neighborhoods.

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(Photo courtesy CJoslinROCK)

Jon Joslin captured this footage of a massive wild boar that came trotting through the yard as if it owned the place.

This is exactly what we warned would happen in an earlier entry explaining that the Houston area has a massive feral hog and coyote population that floodwaters would reveal.

Texas’ feral hog population estimates are in the three million range with some believing that is very conservative. Feral hogs have officially become the most harvested game animal in Texas with more than 750,000 taken by hunters and trappers. That is more than 150,000 above the state’s annual whitetail harvest and Texas has by far the largest deer harvest in the nation.

Feral hogs despite their reputation are not out to get people-well at least most of them aren’t.

Scientists have recently uncovered a profile of killer hogs-yes those that kill people and we reported on it here.

You might now want to read that one before going to bed-or a camping trip. Yeah, its kind of creepy.

Most hogs however want to be left alone but animals stressed by being displaced in a flood situation just might be more prone to lashing out than one you see while taking a stroll on your favorite hiking trail.

If you see a hog during these flooding conditions chances are it it not someone’s pet. Keep in mind not all feral hogs are black. Many are brown, some are white, others spotted and even blonde.

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Feral hogs are not all black. In fact they can have a range of colors. (US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

Even sows (females) can be aggressive. Sows with young are particularly testy.

By all means do not feed any hogs you see in the area. Habituating them to your property is a bad idea at every level. Even in the best case scenario your yard will look like someone plowed it for agriculture.

As the human tragedy of Hurricane Harvey continues to unfold, displaced wildlife will be encountered by thousands.

The best play is to stay a safe distance, especially in the case of hogs.

That way you and the hog can stay out of trouble.

Chester Moore, Jr. 

 

Rat hordes biggest wildlife threat in Harvey aftermath

“Rats!”

“Thousands of them! Millions of them!”

The famous quote from Dwight Frye’s portrayal of Renfield in 1931’s Dracula shows a crazed man obsessed with large number of rodents.

There is no question that thousands and perhaps millions of rats have been displaced in Houston and outlying areas in the historic flooding of Hurricane Harvey.

And they are the most likely of displaced animals to cause problems.

Rats are excellent swimmers and climbers and while some will no doubt have perished most will survive.

The Houston area has had an increase rat problem this summer as show by this video from ABC 13.

According to the Center of Disease Control rats and their kind are major disease carriers.

Worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases. These diseases can be spread to humans directly, through handling of rodents, through contact with rodent feces, urine, or saliva, or through rodent bites. Diseases carried by rodents can also be spread to humans indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent.

Immediately some locations on high ground will find themselves covered with large numbers of rats. And while rats do not typically “attack” people, stressed ones are more likely to bite. The main threat would be children picking them up and pets encountering them.

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During my coverage of Hurricane Ike in 2008, I learned of a family that stayed in the path of the massive of Hurricane only a few miles from the beach and had to retreat into the attic and eventually the roof. As waters rose, rats inundated the small strip of high ground along with snakes from the nearby marsh.

Rats that can stay together will. They have a very strong social order.

But those separate by flooding conditions are still resilient.

Rodents that survive a disaster often move to new areas. It will take time for rodents to regroup, reorganize their social behavior, become familiar with their new environment, find safe haven, locate food and water, and memorize their movements according to CDC officials.

Colony building and reproduction will begin only when their new ecosystem has stabilized. This typically takes 6 to 10 months under favorable conditions. As the rodent population grows and resettles, people have a greater chance of being exposed to the diseases carried by rodents. Rodent urine and dander also contain allergens that can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive persons and more than 9,000 persons are treated in emergency departments annually for rat or mouse bites.

And something very few people consider is that a large number of rats found in America cities are a foreign invader-the Norway rat.

Dispersed around the world on ships these highly resilient animals can chew through virtually anything. These animals can outcompete native rodents for space and food and will survive virtually anything-including Hurricanes and floods.

CDC officials warn damaged or abandoned homes and other buildings may be infested with rodents.

In the aftermath of Harvey if you see signs of rodents, the building will need to be thoroughly cleaned.

Here are a few CDC tips for cleaning up after rats.

*Do not vacuum or sweep rodent urine, rodent droppings, or contaminated surfaces that have not been disinfected.

*Spray urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a 1:10 chlorine solution (1½ cups of household bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water) until thoroughly soaked.

*Let it soak for 5 minutes.

*Use a paper towel to remove urine and droppings.

*Discard the paper towel outdoors in a sealed garbage container.

Make sure and educate children about rats and let them know not to approach or pick up any live or dead. If a child (or adult) is bitten by a rat get medical treatment immediately.

Its doubtful anyone will see “thousands of rats” and certainly not “millions”.

But for those of us who don’t much like these pests it can only take one to drive us crazy or at least feel that way.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Harvey’s Houston flooding will put urban coyotes, hogs on the move

The catastrophic flooding hitting the Houston area now due to Hurricane Harvey’s rain bands stalling will push the significant coyote and feral hog population out into the open.

The drainage ditch systems as well as the green belts near White Oak, Buffalo and Brays Bayou system are where coyotes dwell and use to travel throughout the metropolitan area.

How far do coyotes penetrate into this vast urban zone?

I saw a fresh road kill last year 1/4 mile east of the I-59 exit off of Interstate 10. They will be roaming the streets now and seeking shelter.

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Coyotes are common through the Greater Houston area from the Katy prairie to the bayou systems down. (US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

Most of the time coyotes are not a problem for people but when frightened and hungry threats can go up. Coyotes are also a rabies vector and can carry distemper so caution is wise for pet owners.

If you are in an impacted area consider the following to avoid coyote contact:

*Keep garbage inside or at least keep the lid on your cans.

*Feed your dogs and cats inside.

*Do not attempt to feed coyotes or any stray dog you might come across. Some have problems distinguishing dogs and coyotes.

*If your dog has to go walk it on a leash and keep walks short and away from any wooded areas or cover.

In addition to coyotes, feral hogs are an increasing issue in the Houston area with significant numbers along the eastern Beltway 8 corridor, in the wooded areas near Pasadena, Texas City and virtually all of the northern tier communities.

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Feral hogs are great swimmer and will find their way to safe ground with no problem. In this case that might mean someone’s backyard. (US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

Feral hogs can be much more aggressive than coyotes especially when stressed and may be brazen enough to walk through parks, neighborhoods and yards as if they own the place.

If you see a hog during these flooding conditions chances are it it not someone’s pet. Keep in mind not all feral hogs are black. Many are brown, some are white, others spotted and even blonde.

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Feral hogs are not all black. In fact they can have a range of colors. (US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo)

And while they are not out to get anyone, they have no problem letting someone feel their wrath if cornered. Do not approach any hog.

Few Houston area residents realize the depth of wildlife in their communities. Now, due to these catastrophic floods they will get perhaps a very up close look.

Use these tips to ensure both humans and wildlife stay safe during this tragic event.

Chester Moore, Jr.