Category Archives: Animal Americana

The ultimate red wolf podcast! (audio)

Last week I had  Kim Wheeler, Executive Director of the Red Wolf Coalition, on my radio program “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.

It was without a question the most in-depth, detailed program we have ever done on red wolves in the nearly 19 year history of the program and you can listen to it right here via podcast.

We discuss history of the species, controversies surrounding its introduction, success of the captive breeding program and future of this misunderstood and highly endangered mammal.

If you like wolves tune in. It will open your eyes to the mysterious world of Canis rufus.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Interview with “Wild America” creator-Marty Stouffer

Remember “Wild America”?

According to Wikipedia, “Wild America” 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 ever aired on public television.

I had an opportunity to interview its creator and host and one of my earliest wildlife inspirations, Marty Stouffer, on my radio program “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.

We covered quite a bit of ground and the thing I found most fascinating about not only his series but the interview itself was the emphasis not just on big animals like bears and mountain lions but the smaller, more mysterious side of nature.

He mentioned a program on shrews and those are near and dear to my heart believe it or not. We also had a great chance to talk about the past, present and future of outdoors video. It was a true honor to have him on and we look forward to more discussions in the future.

Click the link above to listen to a show that according to Nielsen ratings, was viewed by more than 450 million viewers.

Chester Moore, Jr.

A cage dive with California’s great white sharks

Flashback (Sept. 2002)—A cold chill ran down my spine as I descended into the cold waters of the Pacific.

I may have told myself otherwise, but it had nothing to do with the 56-degree water temperature.

It was all about what lived in the water.

I was in the Farallon Islands, located off the coast of San Francisco, Ca. home of some of the largest great white sharks on the planet.

Specimens there range from 14 to 18 feet long with the occasional 20-footer making an appearance. Although in the safety of a well-crafted steel cage, I felt a sober sense of mortality while gazing into the surrounding sea.

Yes, I was frightened, but also more excited than ever.

After all, this was a dream birthed in childhood and it was now happening in real time.

Before the dive when we reached the islands after a very rough ride across the Pacific, I asked the captain if he needed any help chumming.

“Chumming?” he asked.

“Yes, putting fish oil or blood into the water to attract sharks. I do it all the time shark fishing in the Gulf of Mexico,” I replied.

“We can’t chum here. It’s illegal to chum here in the Farallons. We might start attracting sharks to people,” he said.

A bit dumbfounded, I asked, “Isn’t that the point?”

I then went into a min-lecture of how Jacques Cousteau always had a horse carcass or a huge tuna hanging overboard and that since we paid to see great whites, some chum or at least some bait would be helpful.

“Oh, we have bait. It’s in the long box at the back of the boat,” the captain said.

I quickly walked over and flung the long box open.

“There’s no bait here,” I quipped.

“There’s just a big yellow and red surfboard.”

“That’s the bait. We’re going to pull it behind the boat and the sharks will see it and think it’s a seal,” he said.

Interesting.

The first 30 minutes in the cage did nothing to change my skepticism. Other than the surfboard getting hung up on the cage while they were pulling it like a topwater plug, nothing happened so we moved and had a bite to eat while cruising over to another spot on the island.

Just as a lack sleep turned into drowsiness, the water behind the boat exploded with great fury.

A 15-foot great white grabbed the surfboard and jumped completely out of the water. It spit out the board, then circled and bumped it again. Then another shark from below rocketed out of the water and slammed the board.

I was awake now!

“That’s the coolest thing I have ever seen!,” I exclaimed.

Someone else appropriately said, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

The captain motioned for the cage to go in the water and I realized a childhood dream was coming true. The four other people who paid for the expedition opted to stay out of the cage

“Maybe they’re the smart ones,” I thought to myself while descending into cool water.

At one point while submerged, a small school of squid swam up to the cage and swam for a few minutes. Then suddenly they bolted out of the area.

I could have sworn I heard the “Jaws” theme playing as a huge dark shadow moved through the silt below the cage, obscured but obvious that it was something living and very large. When I returned the surface, the captain decided to troll with the surf board some more so the cage was lifted and board deployed.

Within a few seconds, an 18-foot 2,500-pound monster breached the surface and destroyed the surfboard. This shark had some hang time and for a moment we locked eyes.

In “Jaws”,  Capt. Quint talks about whites having dark eyes “like a dolls eyes.”

I agree.

The monster shark and I seemed to make eye contact, if only for a brief second. I could see no conscience or thought, just an instinctive drive to do what sharks do. I was in awe.

The great white shark is nature at its purest and best, no matter how ugly or cruel it might seem to us.

Living in a world where we buy our meat from a market and live in air-conditioned homes, we humans sometimes lose touch with what true survival is all about.

The great white shark embodies that better than any living creature I can think of. More profoundly, it gives us a sense of humility.

Even though mankind has conquered everything from polio to space travel, there are still things to which we are vulnerable; sometimes, we are not at the top of the food chain.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Hidden reason for red wolf extinction

Canis rufus, the red wolf, is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet.

With fewer than 50 released into the wild from captive breeding facilities that house around 200 nationwide, they have remained on the brink since their officially declared extinction from the wild in 1980.

While the possibility of remnant, hidden populations exist, their numbers are a tiny in comparison to their former range from the eastern seaboard into Central Texas.

The reason for their extinct designation is they hybridized with coyotes to create a genetic mutt of sorts, the “coywolf”, which still has many representatives in Texas and Louisiana.

A seldom mentioned aspect of the red wolf’s story, however, is targeted eradication.

What caused coyotes to push eastward from their stronghold in the west so quickly was that the vast majority of red wolves had been killed and in large portion through a variety of state-sponsored programs.

This created a vacuum and nature abhors a vacuum.

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Page 149 of the document shows a government predator control agent with a “black wolf”. Black was a common color for Canis rufus in many parts of its range.

I recently came across a copy of the 1946-47 Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biennial Report that goes into detail about wolves in the state.

Under the headline “Predator Control” the following information is given.

“The Legislature of 1946 increased hunting license fees to $2.00. Twenty five percent of these funds (the increase) were dedicated to predator control.”

“There has been a great increase in the predators of the State. Undoubtedly a great deal of the increase was due to war conditions which took many men away from farms, lack of ammunition and difficulties due to travel restrictions in certain sections of the State. The increase in our foxes brought on an epidemic of rabies and a tremendous increase in wolves and bobcats brought on a terrific loss to our ground-nesting birds, to our mammals, particularly rabbits and our young deer.”

The text goes on to say they hired an official predator control supervisor and had two trappers working under him.

In all fairness it says their desire was to bring a “proper balance” between predators and prey but there was no doubt large-scale predator control aimed directly at red wolves in the state.

The “black wolf” you see in the photo is a red wolf. Red was the primary colors in the Texas region but the red wolf was once called Canis niger (Niger is “black” in Latin) due to its primarily black color in many parts of the South.

As far this writer knows there have never been any melanistic red wolves in the captive breeding program consisting of 14 animals taken chiefly from eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana, showing at least in the strain of wolves initially captured the black strain was not present.

It is most likely gone forever.

Similar projects were initiated in most if not all states in the red wolf’s range on top of unrestricted harvest by anyone with a gun, leg hold trap or poison.

We have come a long way in wildlife management in the country in many ways  but it is always good to look back so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Mark Twain once said “History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes”.

It is up to us to figure make sure when it comes to wildlife good science trumps politics and conservation reigns supreme even in the hotly contested world of predator management.

Management is one thing, eradication is entirely something else.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Do feral hogs really attack humans? These do…(Pt. 1)

The feral hog is the subject of much media hype.

With numerous “reality” shows based on pursuing and eradicating them they are a go-to species for wildlife coverage.

I’ll never forget watching a program that said a Texas woman was “trapped in her home” for weeks due to hogs outside.

Really? Are they that dangerous?

The answer is no but the reality is some hogs do attack and in fact some kill humans.

Dr. Jack Mayer of the Savannah River National Laboratory been studying wild hogs since the 1970s and his research sheds light on “killer hogs”.

The study documented 412 wild hog attacks worldwide impacting 665 people. During this time there were four fatal hog attacks in the United States.

Of the 21 states reporting hog attacks Texas led the pack with 24 percent with Florida at 12 percent and South Carolin 10. Interestingly when examining worldwide shark fatalities hogs actually beat them out in deaths some years-including 2013.

In his study, hogs that attack are described as solitary (82 percent), large (87 percent) and male (81 percent) and most attacks occurred when there was no hunting involved.

This describes a lone, mature boar, likely territorial that is much more powerful and faster than one mightimagine.

There are numerous accounts of hunters (usually hunting hogs with dogs) getting hooked by a boar.  These are situations where hogs are cornered and lash out in defense.

The profile created by Dr. Mayer shows an entirely different kind of hog. These hogs attack totally unprovoked.

In 1998 Robert Burns of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service wrote of two verified attacks in my home state of Texas, including a 1996 fatality.

“In one instance, a boar attacked a woman on a Fort Worth jogging trail. Two years ago, a Cherokee County deer hunter died from a feral hog attack.”

The Benton County Daily Record chronicled a wild boar that, “attacked and flipped a utility vehicle on a job site in Waco… and severely injured a Gentry man.”

The story details that, “Greg Lemke, who designs chicken houses for Latco Inc. of Lincoln, was a passenger in a utility vehicle when the wild boar struck the rear of the vehicle, causing it to flip with Lemke inside.”

“The accident left Lemke paralyzed from the breast bone down.”

The Pineville Town Talk tells the story of a Pineville, La. man who had a pig enter the house he was visiting.

“Boston Kyles, 20, of 497 Pelican Drive told deputies he was visiting his sister’s house at the time of the incident. He said he had gone there to clean fish and was sitting in the house’s front room when the pig entered through the front door. Kyles told deputies he stomped the floor to try to shoo the pig out of the room, but the pig charged him, Maj. Herman Walters said.”

“Walters had heard of pigs attacking people in the woods but said this was the first time he had heard of a pig going into a house and attacking someone.”

In my book “Hog Wild”I reference an Edgefield, South Carolina man who experienced one of the scariest hog attacks I could find occurring in the United States.

The Edgefield Advertiser reported, “A man was hospitalized recently after being attacked by a wild hog at his home on Gaston Road. The hog, which eyewitnesses estimated to weigh upwards of 700 pounds, materialized in Fab Burt’s backyard while he was working in his garden.”

“It came out of nowhere and attacked me. It had me pinned on the ground and was mauling me.”

Fortunately, Burt’s seven-month-old German shepherd, named Bobo, was on hand to help him fend off the hog.

As previously mentioned, hogs are not out to kill people. Well at least most of them aren’t.

Apparently there are a few out there however who don’t mind coming after humans which is why we should always give them plenty of space.

That keeps us out of the path of their tusks and maybe even off the day’s menu.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Coral snake eats copperhead (video)

This is probably the coolest amateur shot snake video I have ever seen.

Coral snakes regularly eat earth snakes but this is a fairly large copperhead, at least in comparison to the coral snake in the clip and it shows anything can happen in nature.

Thanks to Donna Grundy for sharing this amazing footage. I’ve had this one in the archives for awhile but now that snakes are out and about I thought it was time to share.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Cougar kills javelina (photo)

Ron Wehmeyer, sent in this amazing shot  of a huge cougar standing over its recently killed javelina on his ranch out in the Texas’ arid Trans Pecos region.

Having photographed many cougars over the years I estimate this one to be in the 150 pound range which is very large.photo2-1

Do not believe any of the so-called “experts” who say all of Texas’ cats are small. We do have some really big ones as this photo proves beyond a shadow of a doubt.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog to keep up with these kinds of stories enter your email address in the form to the top right of this page.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Red and yellow can really hurt a fellow

“Red and yellow, kill a fellow.”

“Red and black venom lack.”

That is the poem I grew up with mom taught me to distinguish the highly venomous coral snake from our local mimic, the Louisiana milk snake.

With a nervous system attacking venom like that of their cobra cousins, the coral snake is without question one of if not the deadliest snake bites in America (mojave rattler is the other contender).

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The author checks out a large Texas coral snake caught in the Pinewoods of East Texas.

However, a recent study has discovered something that might get the striped serpent an edge.

This study shows the venom of the Texas coral snake in particular has ability to cause severe pain. The following is from an article at ucsf.edu…

The venom contains a toxic mixture of chemicals that includes two special proteins that join together, glom tightly onto tiny detectors on human nerve endings and don’t let go. These detectors normally sense acid burns, and after the snake bites, the victim’s brain receives unrelenting signals of an acid-like burn.

“Bites from this snake are associated with really intense, unremitting pain,” said David Julius, PhD, the Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology & Medicine at UCSF, who led the research. “This work helps to explains why and gives us new tools for examining how our brains perceive pain.”

But  don’t break out the machetes to start slaughtering coral snakes.

There is also research that suggest certain subspecies venom can help treat epilepsy as well as breast cancer. We’ll have more on that soon but for now here is the article about the research on the Texas coral snake.

And although these snakes don’t rattle or show a white mouth to warn you, consider the toxins they can inject a big “Don’t Tread On Me!” declaration.

To read more click here.

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Fawn deaths skyrocketing

Whitetail fawns are stunning.

With their burnt orange coat and white spots they not only blend with the forest floor but shine as one of nature’s true beauties.

This fawn was hidden on the edge of a briar tangle at a Ducks Unlimited waterfowl preserve in North Dakota. As its mother watched from a distance, I snapped a quick photo and then left so neither mom or baby would feel threatened.

fawn
The author came across this fawn walking a Ducks Unlimited preserve in North Dakota. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

This was in stark contrast to the lifeless fawn I found on the edge of a high line on the southern tip of Newton County, TX.

It had been dead awhile but there was no broken neck or eaten ribcage typical of coyote or bobcat predation. What killed it remains unclear.

A much greater mystery is the huge increase in fawn deaths nation-wide.

According to Kip Adams, wildlife biologist with the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), a significant decline in fawn survival has occurred in the last 15 years.

“Overall, fawn recruitment rates have declined from an average of 0.81 fawns/doe in the U.S. in 2000 to 0.58 fawns/doe in 2015. That’s significant,” he said.

As of 2015, the Northeast U.S. averaged 0.48 fawns/doe, the Southeast averaged 0.50 fawns/doe, and the Midwest averaged 0.82 fawns/doe.

“I believe the main cause is increased predation on fawns,” Adams said.

“Deer herds with high fawn recruitment rates are very resilient to severe weather, disease outbreaks, and over-harvest.  This provides a nice buffer in deer management programs.  Significantly reduced fawn recruitment rates remove this buffer and make deer herds more vulnerable to the above factors.”

There are more than 30 million whitetails in North America.

This is not an issue where a species is becoming endangered, threatened or even in any kind of major decline. Deer herds are chiefly managed for hunting and it can even be argued that increased predation is a natural response to burgeoning deer herds and should be welcomed.

But there is more.

Penn State biologists are wrapping up a three year study that involves fitting fawns with radio collars.

Research Duane Dieffenbach provided this information on one of Penn State’s study areas.

Five of the fawns captured were found dead with no visible cause (even after necropsy). Some lacked milk in the rumen, while others did not but the real reason why a seemingly healthy dead fawn found its way to the necropsy table is unknown.

This year when the field crew checked on one fawn whose collar was in mortality mode, they found it alive but unable to move. When they checked on the fawn the next day it had died. The necropsy found milk in its stomach but no obvious cause of death. PGC vet, Dr. Justin Brown, collected tissue samples for examination but we do not have a confirmed cause of death at this time.

Bottom line, lots of fawns (about a third of all mortalities) die from causes other than predation

What are these causes? They can run the gamut from pneumonia to screwworms but some are questioning whether the introduction of GMO agriculture has had an impact.

A North American Whitetail article digs deep into the potential impact of GMO crops on whitetails. You can read it here.

The takeout of the article for this writer was anecdotes from Judy Hoy of Montana who does wildlife rehabilitation.

“As a game warden, my husband retrieved many accident-killed big-game animals, primarily white-tailed deer, from roadsides and yards, and I examined the carcasses prior to disposal. I also cared for newborn wild ruminants. Thus, we examined hundreds of white-tailed deer prior to and after 1995.

“We observed that, beginning in spring of 1995 and continuing through 2014, many individuals of white-tailed deer fawns were born with one or more birth defects consistent with mineral deficiencies and thyroid hormone disruption. In 1996, I began documenting the bite, the size of the deer and the size of the male genitalia with measurements and photos. I also found the sex ratio on the white-tailed deer skewed highly in favor of males at around 60M/40F, especially between 1995 and 2002.”

There is much more to the story which I highly recommend reading but it certainly paints an interesting picture since the 1990s there have been millions of acres planted with GMO seeds and their use only continues to increase. The impact of GMOs on rats and mice in laboratories is truly frightening.

Once again whitetail declines are superficial when looked at through the prism of history and the fact that even the states with the lowest whitetail numbers are vastly above what they were 50 years ago.

But there is no question something is different out there.

Something is changing the dynamic of fawn recruitment and it is happening on a large scale.

For now let’s say the fawns in America’s woodlands could be like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Their disappearance could be a signal of something bigger on the  horizon.

We have created a continuing dialogue with universities, the QDMA and state agencies to look deeper and will report as we find out.

Fawns are starting to hit the ground in parts of the country right now. Making it past spring has always been a challenge due to the harsh nature of life in the woods but now it seems something or some things are making it downright difficult for Bambi to lose his spots.

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Chester Moore, Jr.