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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)
Those words would have been laughable if they were not coming from a young teenage boy who was dangling a 2.5 foot long Texas coral snake over his hand.
Wrapped around a stick it was within striking distance and this kid thought he had caught a scarlet king snake.
When I told him it was a coral snake and he needed to allow me to take it from him, he give me the deadly mistaken version of the children’s poem to distinguish venomous coral snakes from their mimickers.
That’s when I replied, “No kid it means KILL a fellow.”
At that point I walked over, pulled the stick out of his hand and told him he was flirting with disaster.
He really did think this was a scarlet king snake which lives nowhere near Orange, TX where this occurred. We do have the Louisiana milk snake but this was the genuine article-a real and large coral snake.
His plan was to sneak the snake past his mom and keep it in his sock drawer. Some 20 years later, I use this story every time I bring out one of our milk snakes to let kids know that if you have to rely on poetry to identify snakes you could get in trouble.
I have no doubt if I had not seen the kid walking down the street he would have gotten bitten and possibly died. Coral snake bites are very serious.
A recent story about an Alabama man named Jeffrey Phillips shows the sad result of mishandling wild snakes.
Phillips’ children were the first to spot the snake. Initially thinking the serpent was a harmless king snake, Phillips decided to catch it and give the snake as a gift to his older brother, who has owned snakes in the past
At the time of this writing he was in the hospital paralyzed and fighting for his life, a truly tragic situation.
The owner of Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, Fl., VanHorn is passionate about snakes and besides exhibiting more than 50 species, keeps hundreds for the sole purpose of extracting venom-including coral snakes.
“You see this. These are fangs,”VanHorn said as he carefully rolled open the mouth of an eastern coral snake while I filmed there a few years ago.
The tiny fangs were in the front of the snake’s mouth and destroy the commonly held myth that coral snakes are rear-fanged and must chew on a person to inject venom.
“They are elapids just like cobras and they have the same skull structure. I don’t know where these rumors came from but they are persistent,” VanHorn said.
He went on to say that most coral snake bites result from people picking them up and it is often young men.
“Women typically don’t go around picking up venomous snakes. And a coral snake has a very dangerous venom that is difficult to treat so people shouldn’t fool with them,” he said.
Coral snakes like all other snake species are not out to get anyone but they are fully capable of hurting someone if they are toyed with. The best thing to do with them is leave them alone and feel blessed you saw one of the strikingly beautiful reptiles in the world.
Takoda has served as an ambassador for the species, having appeared on national television and also as a loved companion to his owner.
It was however time for this cat to make a home among others of its kind and serve out the rest of its days inspiring thousands of annual visitors to the facility.
“We’re excited to have this beautiful cat here at Bear Creek Feline Center,” said founder Jim Broaddus.
“Cougars are such an exceptional beauty and representative of wildness and Takoda is quite a striking cat. He fits right in.”
This facility has taken in many cats, some well cared for like Takoda and others not so much. While they have been a refuge for cats in need of a transition from different private captive settings, the key here is education.
“When people see a cat like this in a safe and intimate setting it moves their heart. People can see their grace and beauty and then we can help teach them how important they are to the ecosystem,” Broaddus said.
Along with servals, Siberian lynx, bobcats and jaguarundis, there are cougars from several subspecies including the highly endangered Florida Panther.
“There is a lot of diversity among cougars and they inhabit everywhere from Canada to Argentina and a lot of people don’t know that. We are glad to educate people and when we have a chance to take in these animals it helps to make it real to the public. There is something special about seeing these cats in person,” Broaddus said.
My life at age 14 was changed when I saw a cougar making its way over a rice levee in Orange County, TX.
At a distance of only 10 yards, we locked eyes for a moment and many years later that is a feeling I cannot shake.
And I do not want to.
In its eyes I saw wildness and have spent my entire professional career trying to communicate to the general public how important wildness and wild animals are-in large part due to that encounter.
As Takoda walked out of his transport enclosure into this spacious new home, I saw a familiar gleam in its eye.
It reminded me of the cat I saw so many years ago and made me excited for its prospects representing its kind-the great cat of America.
Casey Anderson has done it all when it comes to wildlife exploration and filmmaking.
The host of Expedition Wild and Expedition Grizzly along with many other programs, he is a passionate naturalist with a heart for introducing the public to wildlife and wild land via media outlets
Last week I had the pleasure of having Anderson in the studio on my program “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI. You can listen to that program below as we talk about the similarities between the habits of bears and feral hogs.
I have hypothesized here at The Wildlife Journalist® that feral hogs will take root in such a way in urban green belts and suburban sprawl that we will see truly giant hogs in areas that shock people.
During our exchange in the program Anderson made an interesting observation that grizzlies in Montana and brown bears in Alaska and the bears on Kodiak Island are the same animal.
Could hogs found in urban areas with no hunting pressure, plenty of food in certain areas and the potential to reach their maximum age grow to epic proportions?
The grizzlies in Montana are around 600 pounds, the bears in mainland Alaska can be up to 1,000. There have been 1,500 pound bears on Kodiak.
Think about that and apply it to hogs. It’s an interesting idea and it was an honor spending time with Anderson in the studio and talking about our mutual passion for wildlife.
Born and raised in East Helena, Montana, Anderson is a fifth generation Montanan and has been involved in Film and Television production for over a decade. His acting resume includes the television series Wild Wacky World, a role in the feature film, Iron Ridge, and National Geographic’s Expedition Wild. Please check out his IMDB page for a current list: Casey Anderson IMDB Also check Casey’s website: www.caseyanderson.tv
Thought extinct in the mid 1980s, a surprise finding of a handful in 1987 spawned a capture and eventual captive breeding program that currently has 370 in the wild and more at facilities like the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center near Fort Collins, Co.
In 2014, I spoke with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist Calvin Richardson about ferret restoration possibilities in Texas and he gave some hopeful information.
During the recent meeting of the Texas Black-footed Ferret Working Group on August 12th, the working group members agreed that the drought and past years of drier than average conditions over the High Lonesome have created less than favorable conditions for prairie dog densities, which has direct implications for survival of black-footed ferrets. TPWD will therefore not seek to reintroduce ferrets in Texas in 2013, but instead focus on a potential reintroduction in 2014 on the High Lonesome next fall.
Problems with Man and Nature
That reintroduction never happened.
I spoke to Richardson Feb. 15 and he said private ranches in the Panhandle that had large prairie dog towns (necessary for ferrets) were no longer under consideration and that a public tract that has the right type of habitat and large prairie dog towns was recently hit by plague.
This is typical of the black-footed ferret’s story.
On one hand the poisoning of prairie dogs in the mid 20th century had a huge negative impact on these mustelids and in turn nature deals a cruel blow every time plague rips through a prairie dog town.
Richardson said TPWD’s Panhandle office has been busy dealing with potential endangered designations on several species including the western massasauga and the prairie chicken. Ferret reintroduction at least in that region seems to be off the table for the moment-or at least until conditions in the region change.
The black-footed ferret once ranged across a huge portion of the west-central United States and perhaps one day they will again.
Their populations will never by back to their former glories but there is hope these unique predators will inhabit far more territory than they do now.
I hope my home state of Texas is included.
It would make the High Plains and the rugged Trans Pecos seem a little wilder and more complete.
An ancient Hebrew text prophesies that one day the “…the wolf will live the the lamb, the leopard with the calf and a little child will lead them.”
But what about the coyote and the nine-banded armadillo?
In Southeast Texas, armadillos are regular prey items for coyotes, however in this series of videos filmed by naturalist Mark Hines it is obvious this coyote and an armadillo have a bit of a friendship going.
The first two videos are from the same day but the third is nearly a month later. There have been numerous cases of predators interacting with prey in playful fashion but this is the first time we have seen this with a coyote and armadillo.
This is a fairly young coyote that Hines has captured on video many times but it is with a pack that includes mature individuals that live in the same relatively small area. That implies that all of the coyotes are tolerating the armadillo that as of yet has not met its demise, at least not on camera.
Hines has captured some captivating videos over the last few years that show a side to not only coyotes but some animals we believe have strong red wolf genetics (coywolves if you will) doing some pretty incredible things.
We will be sharing some of these videos in the coming months and giving a look at these animals in an area where few studies have been conducted on the species.
Many believe the coyote is the most adaptable mammal in North America and as someone who has had many dealings with them, including the group in Hine’s videos I concur.
They are truly intelligent creatures that can survive in the shadow of many and apparently in the presence of armadillos as well.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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”.
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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.
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.