Category Archives: In My Opinion

Bass Green: True color of conservation

They seemed a little out of my league.

Pictures of famous professional anglers like Rick Clunn and Larry Nixon holding beautiful, huge largemouth bass haunted my imagination. I thought the anglers I read about in the magazines were cool but those bass they held were at another level.

Those fish blew my mind.

july bass 3

At this point living near the coast, my freshwater fishing was limited to a gully down the road from my house. Me and other kids in the neighborhood had amazing times there catching garfish, grinnel and bullheads.

That’s all we caught though.

I brought down Creme plastic worms and Beetle Spins I bought at the local tackle shop but the only bites came from grinnel. None of us ever caught a single bass.

One day while fishing that gully, the tide brought in purple water. And I mean solid purple.

No fish bit that day.

I found out a local factory had been dumping plastic dye into the water along with other pollutants and the oxygen levels in the system were very low. Most fish could not live there and the bayou itself was named the most polluted in Texas.

A few months later I ventured down a couple of miles from the house on my bike and came across a rice canal that pumped clean water from the Sabine River into local fields. When I crossed over the levee and saw the water I was stunned. This water was clear like the footage I saw when tv pros Jimmy Houston or Bill Dance fished Florida.

Swimming slowly along the shoreline was a largemouth bass. It was a 4-5 pounder.

April Bass Cover

It looked like Moby Dick to me.

As I pondered the amazing sight, something clicked.

This water wasn’t dingy. It certainly wasn’t purple.

It was clear.

There was lots of vegetation growing and it had bass.

“There must be something to clean water and bass.”

From that day on I made the connection between water quality and quality fisheries.

And it obviously wasn’t just me that had a similar epiphany somewhere down the line.

Just the catch-and-release ethic birthed by bass fishing alone has changed fisheries worldwide.

“There is no doubt that live release of bass during tournaments has elevated the mindful conservation of fishery resources by anglers. Before B.A.S.S. introduced the ‘Don’t Kill Your Catch'” concept in 1972, bass were filleted and donated to the local communities,” said Bassmaster Editor James Hall.

“Once the mindset of catch and release became a part of the bass fishing culture, the management of the sport fish became a priority for both angler satisfaction and tourism industry. Now, the same conservation ethic has been established with other species: walleye, redfish, etc. The angling public sees the benefit of returning fish to the water so they can be caught again.”

Hall said working in the bass fishing industry has had a profound impact on his personal views of conservation.

“Working closely with our conservation director, Gene Gilliland, as well as having relationships with fisheries biologists throughout the country, I have developed a keen interest in water quality issues. I heard about the grass carp release at Lake Austin, which destroyed a killer largemouth fishery, and it makes me sick to my stomach,” Hall said.

“The controversy between “Big Sugar” and the water quality issues they have created below Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades sets a dangerous precedent. And I see a lot of great things, as well, like B.A.S.S. Nation groups adding artificial structures to lakes to improve bass recruitment.”

Pete Gluszek of The Bass University said their organization is focusing on environmental issues because they impact everyone.

“It’s important that we utilize The Bass University platform to bring attention to issues related to the health and advancement of our fisheries,” Gluszek said.

“There are all sorts of things from storm water runoff, pollution, watershed protection and habitat development, to name just a few  that impact the resources that we depend on for great fishing.”

That includes hiring Craig Durand as their environmental director.

“I applaud Bass University’s vision and commitment to protect and improve the health of our lakes and rivers,” Durand said.

“We all live downstream, we all cherish our waters, and I look forward to supporting Bass University’s mission to improve our fisheries through education and community involvement.”

It’s a vision that virtually everyone in the bass fishing world has embraced whether they realize it or not and it has had a huge ripple effect.

I got reconnected with my personal “green” revelation a couple of years back.

I was asked to dive a private lake that had only been fished by family and inspect some of the deeper holes away from the shore.

When I approached a huge log, something moved out of the murk on the bottom into the clear water above.

It was a 10 pound class bass you can see in the clip above and when I locked eyes with it I was immediately transported back to that rice canal 30 years ago.

For some reason it looked like the exact same shade of green as the one that impacted me  so profoundly. After shooting a quick video the bass disappeared and I would be lying if I said I didn’t return and flip a jig around that log a few times-unsuccessfully.

That encounter reinforced the importance of letting such a fish grow to maturity and it also reminded me without clean water and healthy habitat no fishery whether in a private lake or in the Gulf of Mexico can be sustained.

largemouth bass chester stocking
The author had the honor and privilege of helping the Texas Parks & Wildlife Deparment locate key areas to stock Florida bass into the very bayou that had areas uninhabitable by bass 30 years. One particular stocking involved releasing retired broodstock.

Over the years I have worked with numerous fisheries conservation projects, most notably southern flounder, but it all goes back to my first “green” encounter in a rice canal in West Orange, TX.

And with the fishing industry focused more than ever on water quality and healthy fish bag and size limits the future is bright.

Maybe it would be more proper to say the future is bright green or better yet “bass green”, the true color of conservation.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Black bear attacks-a reality check

In two days, two people have been killed by separate black bear attacks in Alaska.

Erin Johnson, 27, was killed while doing contract work with Ellen Trainor, 38,  who was also attacked but survived with relatively minor injuries.

This comes a day after 16-year-old Patrick Cooper was killed while running a race in the wilds of his home state.

Bear attacks are rare.

Black bear attacks are even rarer.

Only six attacks attributed to black bears had been documented previously in Alaska in more than 100 years.

black bear bushes
Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Currently there are around 100,000 black bears inhabiting Alaska alongside 700,000 people. That means there is one bear for every seven people which is a pretty high ratio even factoring in the amount of habitat in the state.

This story has wildlife apologists throughout the blogosphere and broadcast media making statements like “most fatal black bear attacks are examples of the animals defending their territory” and “the majority of attacks are by mothers defending their cubs”.

Not true. Not even close.

A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management documents 63 people killed in 59 incidents by non-captive black bears between 1900-2009.

Here is the standout quote from the study.

We judged that the bear involved acted as a predator in 88% (49 of 56) of fatal incidents. Adult or subadult male bears were involved in 92% of fatal predatory incidents, reflecting biological and behavioral differences between male and female bears. That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears.

That a majority of black bear attacks are predatory is something recognized by the bulk of fish and game departments throughout the United States. Even my home state of Texas which has a small (but growing) black bear population distributes information stating that if anyone is attacked by a black bear they should fight back.

Advice to play dead is often given regarding bear attacks but that is for grizzlies which often attack to protect territory or perhaps because they didn’t like the way the person looked that day. (Hey, they’re grizzlies. They can do what they want!)

But it is known that black bear attacks albeit rare are often predatory as this study shows.

Another interesting note came in regard to proportion of bear to human population.

Fatal black bear attacks occurred in Canada and Alaska and in the lower 48 states. There were 3.5 times as many fatal attacks in Canada and Alaska but only 1.75 times as many black bears, and much less human contact for black bears in Canada and Alaska. There was a weak positive correlation between the estimated size of a bear population within a given jurisdiction and the number of fatal black bear attacks. Some jurisdictions had no fatal black bear attacks but had large estimated black bear populations.

In a state where bears are not hunted and have little reason to fear people it could be argued that is a factor. But Alaska has plenty of bear hunting and in fact there are around 3,000 black bears killed by permitted hunters there annually.

The vast majority of black bears are not out to get people. If they were a highly dangerous animal states like California that have 30,000 bears and 30,000,000 people would have attacks frequently.

That’s not the case.

Chances are these two attacks simply happened. These very unfortunate people were in the wrong place at the wrong time and met the wrong bears.

But the response to whitewash black bear predation must stop. Education is always the beginning of conservation and the public in bear country needs to be educated on the fact black bears do sometimes kill and eat people.

And more importantly there is a profile so to speak of the most potentially dangerous animals which are males especially older ones. That way if a bear comes strolling through someone’s back yard a few times they can make an informed decision. They may just want to tighten up trash pickup and avoid grilling outside for a bit or if its a bruin they may decide to call their fish and game department about relocation.

People also need to know that bears are a vital part of the ecosystem and can and do live with very little incident through North America. Fear does no one good. Truth however goes a long way in helping bears and people.

Bear management is complex but if cool heads and common sense prevail there is no reason education and forward-thinking conservation plans can’t decrease the already small number of attacks.

Because you see while it’s easy to belittle the number of fatalities, it offers no comfort to the families of those killed by the bears.

The best way to honor them and be good stewards of black bears is to move forward with the truth at the forefront and science-based management solutions that have both bears and humans in mind.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

The Texas Javelina Massacre

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s decision to list a warfarin-based hog lure as a state-limited-use pesticide has sent shockwaves through the wildlife community.

The pesticide, “Kaput Feral Hog Lure,” is the first toxicant to be listed specifically for use in controlling the feral hog population. Opinions are varied from landowner support to hunter and wildlife enthusiast outrage.

Commissioner Miller said the introduction of the first hog lure may usher in the “Hog Apocalypse”.

It could also set off the “Texas Javelina Massacre”.

Peccary_javelina_wild_boar_or_skunk_pig_tayassu_tajacu

The collared peccary, more commonly known as javelina is a denizen of the arid regions of Texas. At one time they roamed from the Rio Grande to the Red River but that range has been cut down to less than half that size.

There are now according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) roughly 100,000 of these animals inhabiting 62 million acres of rangeland.

One of the most feral hog dense regions is the javelina’s South Texas stronghold and while they are not pigs, they eat many things pigs eat. They readily devour corn put out for deer, soured grain set out to bait hogs and will without any doubt devour this toxic feral hog lure.

Unlike feral hogs, javelina are a native species that can easily coexist and compete little with free-ranging whitetail deer, the state’s most popular game animal.

They key word here is “free ranging”.

TPWD’s “Javelina in Texas” publication notes that “Recent downturns in javelina population trends in South Texas appear to follow drought cycles, habitat management treatments, and more recent emphasis on white-tailed deer man­agement, including high fencing and predator control.”

They go on to say that although habitat improvement for white-tailed deer, such as food plots, supplemental feeding, and water development improved habitat for javelina, in many cases it also exacerbated problems between deer enthusiasts and javelina.

“Incidental and illegal harvest of javelina due to their perceived nuisance of predation, agricultural damage and competition with deer has added to this decline.” (TPWD)

Big protein-fed, selectively bred whitetail bucks bring in big bucks to ranchers and javelina are not a priority. In fact, as the TPWD document notes illegal harvest is rampant.

I have personally spoken with ranchers who admit to killing every javelina they see and influencing hunters to do the same.

Their reason?

They eat some of the high protein supplemental food put out for their monster bucks.

If warfarin ends up killing those bucks their will be an outcry as big as the state itself. If it kills javelina, you can bet more will be put out. Many will look at taking out hogs and javelina as a two for one special.

Javelina should be given their due respect just like any other Texas native but they are not an easy icon to get behind. Hunters don’t care too much for them and they are not well known enough for the “green” movement to support.

At the time of this writing it looked like the warfarin-based toxin might have some legal hurdles to overcome before hitting the field.

As for the javelina, they will benefit from any ban or delay.

Because you see the “Texas Javelina Massacre” actually began years ago. It was about the time high fences started popping up south of San Antonio and the javelina became an enemy instead of a respected species.

And no one from any side of the conservation aisle seems to care.

Chester Moore, Jr. (The Wildlife Journalist)

Conservation for Elites

(In My Opinion)—Picture a home overlooking a gorgeous vineyard in the Napa Valley.

Inside the home is a taxidermy collection large enough to fill a small museum and a group of people talking about their latest hunt for sable in the Sereghetti or getting that elusive sheep permit in Tajikistan.

“I hope I get drawn this year,” says one of the attendants as they sip on the vintage of the day.

The guise of the meeting is to discuss wildlife conservation in Africa, how to spend money generated from sport hunting but in reality it’s a chance for the rich and privileged to feel good about the fact they know a bunch of other rich and privileged people who can afford to hunt around  the world.

Like hunting or not it does contribute hundreds of millions to conservation but often at the highest levels the real issues are missed because many of the elites simply don’t care.

Wild Dog (Cape Hunting Dog), Lycaon pictus, young pups ar den, endangered species, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Wild Dog (Cape Hunting Dog), Lycaon pictus, young pups ar den, endangered species, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Mention banning ivory importants or reducing lion harvest and they will circle the wagons with lawyers, lobbyists and every other means available.

Mention working to save a true endangered species like the African wild dog and nothing happens. There is no way to put them in a trophy room (legally) so you get…crickets.

Now imagine walking into a trendy coffee shop in Austin with an indie-rock singer set up with an acoustic guitar singing mournful tunes about how they can’t afford the latest iPhone and other horrors of modern society.

Gathered in a private room to the side is a group of “environmentalists” sipping on a mix of oddly flavored coffees and really expensive tea.

The conversation gets heated about the exploits of the local Republican city councilman who puts out too many carbon emissions in his Diesel and there is a collective sigh when notes from the G20 Summit made no mention of shrinking polar icecaps.

Mention “climate change”-which is something that no one has ever explained how anyone can really do anything about and you have the full power of virtually every “green group”, the American and European media and college students looking for a reason to event.

A collection is taken and the rich and privileged socialites of the community (who would normally not be caught dead in a place like this) sign checks that would astound the average person.

But mention how tea plantations are causing the Asian elephant to spiral toward extinction by depleting habitat and increasing elephant kills and you get…crickets. (That tea they are drinking is good after all!)

At the highest levels of conservation world on divergent sides of the aisle, a handful of elites with great power and doing what elites tend to do.

They are stockpiling the limelight and opportunity for themselves and forsaking the most pressing  issues. They’re too busy hobnobbing and naming awards after one another (after huge donations to the cause of the day) to get real conservation work done.

Whether it is the hook and bullet sector or the “green side” of things there is good work being done by well-intentioned people making a difference. And some of them are very rich.

But if you wonder why it seems like the really endangered species get little help and why some of the most critically threatened habitat barely earns a blog mention, much less tv specials look no further  than the elites.

They are busy conserving their little piece of the world for themselves and their crowd to bask in the spotlight instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting down and dirty making real change.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Desperate Measures Needed to Save Tigers

The clocking is ticking toward extinction for tigers.

All subspecies of Panthera tigris are critically low and with the threats like habitat loss and poaching for the traditional medicines on the upswing, radical action must be taken.

And it must be taken now.

All measures taken to help tigers in the wild have failed so it’s time to try some things that will certainly (and have in some cases) ruffle feathers and might seem far-reaching.

The fact is with less than 3,000 tigers throughout all of Asia the far reach is the only one left.

The following are some ideas that need serious examination and thought from those interested in seeing this great cat saved from nonexistence.

#Island Tiger Preserves-There are enough small to medium uninhabited islands scattered throughout distant areas of the Pacific to create tiger preserves that would not be cost effective for poachers to hit. Many of these islands have populations of wild pigs and could be stocked with abundant deer. Problem tigers (human and livestock killers) could be recaptured and place on these islands with the idea of setting it with just enough male/female ratio to create a breeding population. In some cases that might be two tigers but if two can breed and raise young in the wild, then we’re gaining ground.

tiger charge (2)

#Pick a Species-If several large conservation organizations could pick one subspecies of tiger and focus on a moon mission sized goal of purchasing X amount of acres of critical habitat and accompanying that with full time scientific staff and game wardens then we might be able to rally the troops enough to keep a solid gene pool going for a particular variety. Small efforts by large, well-funded organizations could go to one huge project with smaller groups taking up smaller needs and other varieties.

#Rewilding-It has already been tried with limited success but at some point rewilding captive tigers needs addressed. The Island Tiger Preserve project might be a way to accomplish this but if tiger viability will go beyond 2025, rewilding will have to be a part of the process.

#Zoo, Private & Sanctuary Cooperation-The captive gene pool of tigers must be analyzed from the biggest zoos to private owners. Cut all of the political mess out of the way and take personal opinion of sanctuary and personal ownership around the world and get real-the gene pool is getting narrower and captive populations could be part of the solution.

All things must be on the table if we are to save what I consider the most beautiful creature God created. We’ll be talking about the great cats frequently in 2015 and tiger conservation will be an important part of that.  Conservation means the wise use of resources and now the wisest thing we can do about tigers is throw preconceived notions out the window and make some things happen.

Sound desperate?

It is.

We’re a generation away from the old “lions, tigers and bears…” saying missing a key component.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Wildlife Journalist?

“I’m the wildlife journalist.”

The term just kind of rolled off my tongue as I walked up to the scene of an unusual depredation of captive feral hogs.

A cougar was the suspect but I ruled that out quickly. Maybe we’ll delve into this old story later on.

Everyone from law enforcement to nearby ranchers were there and after introducing myself and getting that “Who is this long-haired guy with the camera?” look, I said, “I’m the wildlife journalist”.

cropped-chester-and-pappy-1.jpg

Everyone kind of nodded and the investigation continued.

Freud was a weirdo so I hesitate to call it a “Freudian Slip” but maybe it was. I have done many things in the field of journalism and in reality “wildlife journalist” is the best description.

I have (and continue) to work in the fishing and hunting industry as an editor. I have published more than 5,000 articles on various wildlife subjects and somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 photos since I began my career in 1992 at the ripe old age of 19.

I have conducted more than 300 lectures on topics ranging from red wolves to sharks in venues as diverse as Nurnberg, Germany to Dallas, TX.

And I have produced two television programs and appeared on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Destination America, The Outdoors Channel and numerous regional networks.

All of that work has been based on getting a story. All of it has involved investigating, interviews, photography and a passion for wildlife and wildlife conservation that just won’t quit.

“Wildlife Journalist” just sort of fits.

baby-jag-1 baby-jag-chester

What this site will bring to the table is everything ranging from unique wildlife photos to investigations of animal mysteries and interviews with the top experts and legends in the field.

This will be the only place for my wildlife blogging. The articles posted here will be exclusives and it will always be fun.

It’s an honor and privilege to communicate with wildlife lovers around around the world and I look forward to taking that to new levels beginning now.

I’d love to hear from you and will periodically answer questions at this venue. In addition, we love to see your wildlife photos and videos.

In a little way all of us with a cell phone can be wildlife journalists of sorts these days by capturing those incredible moments in the field and on the water.

Stay inspired and God bless!

Adventures lie ahed…

Chester Moore, Jr.

Dog eating skunks and Transylvanian armadillos

Hollywood gets lots of things wrong.

And one of the most glaring examples are references to wildlife in films. There are countless examples like CGI whitetail deer with elk antlers and any number of animals shown in the wrong country.

The following is a short list from horror movies that show there were no wildlife experts among the crew.

“Could’ve been a skunk”—In the 1978 classic “Halloween”, killer Michael Myers is believed to have visited his old house and when his doctor and the sheriff find a half-eaten German shepherd, they blamed it on a skunk.

Skunks might be able to kill a dog by giving it rabies but there is no skunk big and bad enough to kill a full grown German shepherd and eat it.

It’s a great movie but it boggles the mind to think of that line getting the green light.

dracula-armadillos
A still from “Dracula” featuring not only Bela Lugosi as the Dark Prince but armadillos! In Eastern Europe!

Armadillos in Transylvania—In 1931’s groundbreaking movie “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi, we are introduced to the count’s creepy, gothic castle.

In the castle are rats, bats and…armadillos.

Yes, armadillos, the nine-banded variety  to be exact.

Apparently someone thought what would put that movie over the edge is a North American armored mammal. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Oh and there was an opossum too.

No Grizzly Here—The 1970s produced lots of killer animal movies in the wake of “Jaws”. One I liked as a kid was “Grizzly”, about-you guessed it a killer grizzly bear.

When they figure out a killer bear is in the park, they are amazed because someone allegedly caught all of the grizzlies and relocated them as if grizzlies can’t move long distances. And also as if they would know if they caught all of the grizzlies.

Night of the Lepus—A movie about giant, carnivorous rabbits. Nothing else to say.

Chester Moore, Jr.