Washington Fish and Wildlife police said a sheriff’s department officer found evidence of teens purposely hunting for and poaching eagles.
“Officer Bolton and the deputy searched the area for downed wildlife and soon discovered a relatively fresh doe deer on the hillside near where the suspects had parked. Four older deer carcasses in various stages of decomposition were found in the same location. The officers learned that one of the young men shot the doe the night before by using a high-powered spotlight,” police wrote in a Facebook post. “The animal was then placed near the other carcasses in an effort to bait in and shoot eagles.”
That report at wqad.com paints an ugly picture of a trend I have written on extensively here and at Texas Fish & Game magazine. Teens are increasingly involved in not only poaching but killing protected and endangered species.
The cash cow of the “green movement” and its singular focus on climate change has birthed a monster that is bilking billions from the public.
It is also directly taking funds that might otherwise do things that can be tangibly measured like purchase South America rainforest to save it from commercial ranching and link habitat corridors to establish safe travel ways for tigers in Asia.
Does anyone really think any of the money going toward “climate change” is making a difference or ever will?
Even if America were to acquiesce to even the strongest emissions standards do you really think China and other developing countries will?
When is the last time (other than two paragraphs ago) you heard anything about saving the rainforest?
It was the thing to save 25 years ago.
And it is even more endangered now as are its inhabitants but public interest waned and the corporate environmental saviors in various charities and governments around the world found something more lucrative: climate change.
Ironically the rainforest loss is linked to climate change but you can’t get poor countries in South America to pay billions for protecting forest. You can however syphon billions out of the western world for the grandiose idea of reducing carbon emissions.
Remember-it’s all about the money.
We are allowing animals like all subspecies of tigers, all varieties of rhinoceros, the vaquita porpoise and a host of other highly vulnerable animals to slip into extinction with little or no mainstream interest in funding their protection.
And if the so-called “green movement” people who constantly say they care about wildlife and the environment had been watching these situations more closely species like the vaquita would not be down to 30 specimens. Their problem is poaching and if someone had jumped on the issue 20 years ago things would be radically different.
But that was about the time focus shifted from the rainforest to “global warming” which has now morphed into “climate change”.
That way if they find out temperatures are actually decreasing in areas they can save face. “Climate change” gives them a lot of leeway.
I have nothing against trying to reduce carbon emissions. It needs to happen across the board.
I do have a problem with some of the rarest animals, plants and habitats disappearing when just a fraction of the funds fattening the pockets of the climate change hierarchy would make a radical difference in their survival.
Stop being naive.
We will not make a dent in actual carbon emissions but many of you will have a dent in your pocketbook because you believed the sales pitch of people with agendas other than true conservation.
I highly advise investing in small conservation projects that are directly saving habitat from destruction, aiding anti-poaching crusades and funding research that could save endangered species.
Aim small, miss small is a key tenet of shooting.
It’s also a good way to think about efforts to save the planet’s rarest animals and habitats.
I could almost hear “Ki Ki Ki Ma Ma Ma” echoing in the forest.
Excitement at the opportunity to be in the woods alone, early in the morning in a remote tract had now turned to…well…fright.
Just ahead of me on a lonely creek bottom was a structure cobbled together with boards, pipes and tarps. It looked eerily familiar to the home of slasher Jason Voorhees on Friday the 13th Pt. 2.
I was not just in the woods but the super deep woods about as far from people as you can get in the eastern third of Texas.
Had I stumbled upon the living quarters of some killer hidden out here? There are instances of people in this region living off the land and never coming out in the region so maybe it was just a hermit.
The more likely answer is this was someone’s meth lab-something I have always hoped I would never find.
I did not stick around to investigate.
I was considering turning in what I found but a few days later it became a moot point.
Hurricane Harvey’s epic rains hit Southeast Texas and the nearest homes to the location had 6-8 feet of water in them. This spot would’ve been deeper than that so if Jason did live in there, he had to make a new home.
I haven’t returned to ask him how it turned out.
Chad Meadows encountered something similar when he was a young teen.
“One day me and my cousin got bored so,we grabbed the machete and our bb guns and went off exploring,” he said.
“This was on a levee in Deweyville, TX. We went down by the river and came across some trees that were clearly cut down with an axe and formed into a 10×10 half walled fort. We found the jackpot or so we thought.”
“During our firefight with the enemy, we saw another fort a couple hundred feet away, but covered in a dingy white canvas tarp. We needed a fallback position so we checked out this new, smaller fort. We thought we had stumbled on a hunter’s camp. The second place had a bunch of barrels and pots and copper tubing. We didn’t know what it was but it was hidden so we decided to get out of there,” Meadows said.
So, off the duo went.
When they got a few feet away a “wildman” with what he described as a ZZ Top beard came running and yelling and waving a shotgun.
“We took off. I remember him firing the gun and I could hear the pellets peppering the trees around us. We weren’t hit but we were scared. We didn’t tell our parents because my uncle would have gone after the man. A few days later, their dog came up missing, only to be found dead just in the woods near where we set off on our adventure,” Meadow said.
The moral of the story? If you find rickety structures in the woods get out. Quickly.
Chance are its someone hiding out or hiding something in the remoteness of the forest.
However my imagination and the amount of times I viewed the second Friday the 13th as a kid won’t rule out a slasher with a white sack over his head.
Plus there is the time I was driving down a remote road not too far from this location and saw a guy in overalls rocking on a porch with a sack over his head. When I came back through a couple of hours later he was still there.
I hope I never encounter him in the woods.
I know Jason is a fictional character but this guys outfit was too close of a match to the iconic movie slasher for my comfort and this was in July, not on Halloween.
The 1981 cult classic Southern Comfort details a group of National Guardsmen led by Powers Boothe who come across Cajuns in the vast Atchafala Basin swamp that don’t take too kindly to outsiders.
When Southeast Texas outdoors lover Todd Haney was 15 years old he encountered something similar along the lonesome Sabine River corridor.
“My encounter was something that could have come right out of that movie,” Haney said.
“I had put a trotline out in the backwaters on the Louisiana side of the Sabine. I was around 15 years old. After a few weeks the river started to drop out so I went to take the line up and move out to the river. The line was about a mile from the river through a narrow channel.”
“When I got about 3/4 of the way in, I noticed a camp on a ridge consisting of a tent and some typical camping supplies, but no one in sight. I didn’t think much of it other than it’s a remote area only accessible by boat. When I came out of the channel into a larger backwater cypress swamp where the line was, I saw a boat pulled up to the bank about a hundred yards to the right. Still not very concerned because I was just going to be in there a few minutes, just long enough to take up the line I preceded to take up the line.”
That’s when things got scary.
“I got about half of the hooks off the line when I heard the sound of a person walking in the leaves on the bank in front of me. And with a heavy Cajun accent, speaks.
“What are you doing back here?”
Haney was alone with his pit bull terrier Babe who went everywhere with him and a Marlin .22.
“I’m taking this line up that I put here about two weeks ago,” Haney replied.
The man with the Cajun accent had a different idea.
That’s my line. You better the the (fill in the blank) out of here or I am going to blow that (fill in the blank again) boat out from under you.”
He could see the man about 50 yards away and he was holding what looked like a shotgun in his hands.
“I said ‘OK’ but reached down and grabbed my knife and cut the line in two door spite,” Haney said.
“As I eased out of the cypress swamp I saw another man now standing near the boat that I saw earlier. Thinking back, those were direct threats to my life in the exchange of words. It’s been 34 years ago now, and I can’t remember exactly what all was said but I knew they weren’t joking.”
Turns out a pair of brothers from nearby had shot someone a few years earlier and in hindsight Haney thinks he encountered them.
“I had just watched Southern Comfort a year earlier. I never thought I would live it.”
People often ask me what I think is the biggest threat in the woods.
And they are shocked when I don’t answer bear, mountain lion, rattlesnake or wild boar.
My answer is always the same: humans.
There is no greater danger on the planet than the human being and for several reasons I will discuss, they are by far the greatest threat in the woods.
I am not one of these anti-human wildlife lovers.
I love wildlife but I love people too, in fact even more than wildlife.
Me and my wife Lisa work with children who are abused, terminally ill and suffering loss. We love those children dearly but a great part of why we have so many children to work with is because of the dark side of humanity.
The same evil that would guide someone to harm a child will influence someone to kill, rape or maim in the desolate setting of the forest.
Isolation has always been a playing ground for the wicked.
Evil people like to do their deeds under the cover of darkness, in the shadows and sometimes in the woods.
This is why I never enter the woods unarmed. Never.
You see as a journalist I have been privy to numerous stories of danger, death and chaos in the woods through talking with game wardens, hunters, hikers, fishermen and rural ranchers and farmers.
Strange and dark things sometimes happen out there and this series is designed to raise awareness so that you will be more prepared on your next wilderness excursion.
I used to set game cameras in an isolated high spot in a tract of marsh that was just past the city limits but that people rarely visited.
One day I am making my way back toward the vehicle and I hear gunfire.
Then it comes again and again and again.
As I sneak onto a high spot to get a glimpse I see about a dozen young men gathered near my truck and a couple of them are shooting pistols into the air. They are all drinking and there are several motorcycles and a couple of cars.
I started to wait them out but I figured the drunker they got the more dangerous the situation might become.
I also recognized this was very likely a gang situation because several of them had on the same vest and I better handle myself right or I might not make it out of here. Darkness was closing in.
I waited until they sort of backed away from my truck and walked straight in. I waved as I came up and they just looked at me.
Several spoke words in Spanish I didn’t understand but the tone wasn’t exactly friendly. One of them approached me and spoke in English and asked what I was doing.
I told him I was getting my truck and going home. He stood and looked at me for a second. Neither one of us blinked.
I then opened the door of my truck, laid the .45 I had in my jacket on the seat and backed out of there.
As I left the gunfire started again.
I thanked God it was shooting in the air and not at me.
A couple of weeks later the police shut off access to this area due to a bunch of crimes occurring including someone fishing nearby getting shot.
That’s just one crazy encounter I have had in the wild.
We are about to take a trip into dark territory. Please share these blogs on your social media and with friends.
It’s important we are aware, alert and focused when we enter the woods. There are dangers out there and most of them walk on two legs.
That statement was among the first comments on the photo of a manatee stranded in Tampa Bay as Hurricane Irma sucked water out of that vast ecosystem.
It would be easy to pass that off as a typical Internet idiot stirring trouble but when you look at the profile and see it was an adult male who made the comment and followed up with other disturbing quotes you see something is very wrong here.
This was not a non-indigenous feral hog that displaces native wildlife or a game animal like a whitetail deer or wild turkey that are hunted and eaten by licensed hunters. It was a manatee-a gentle giant of the seagrass flats.
It was a manatee-a highly protected species.
The “kill the manatee” comments (and others like it circulating on the Web) are reminiscent of the dolphin shooting I covered in Texas in 2015.
Two teenage boys actually shot a dolphin, one that was disillusioned after wandering into freshwater nonetheless with a fishing arrow.
That killing probably made some of the people I dealt with in the Texas flounder regulation debate back in 2008 happy.
This is an actual regulatory suggestion I got from someone and my reply.
“They are always out there in the passes flipping those flounder out of the water and eating them. The dolphins are getting more populous and they eat more flounder than we ever kill, so we should enact some dolphin population control.”
“So, you’re saying we should shoot Flipper to save the flounder?,” I asked.
“Yes, pretty much.”
Somehow the idea of setting up dolphin sharpshooters in our bays and passes did not seem like it would fly with not only the public but wildlife managers.
“Come to the Texas coast where we blew away 500 dolphins last year!”
Not exactly good Chamber of Commerce material, is it?
Soon however, the tide turned away from dolphin eradication to redfish annihilation
“There are just too many redfish. They are eating all of the baby flounder. That is why flounder numbers are down.”
This is reminiscent of the late 1990s when commercial fishermen in Louisiana tried to get gill and strike nets legalized for redfish once again because the reds were “wiping out the crabs.”
A decline in blue crab numbers could not possibly have been related to the insane number of crab traps set in Bayou State waters but had to have been redfish, which as far as we know have been co-existing with crabs forever.
At the end of the day those who kill protected animals (or fantasize about doing so) do it because they want to.
They choose to do so.
But I wonder what contributing factors are at play.
Is it a rural version of the mall fights and other random violence we have seen in larger cities or some kind of other pent up anger?
Is it the hardened stance against anything labeled “green” or “environmental” or “endangered” that is pervasive in sectors of the hunting community?
I can’t tell you how many people have told me jokes about spotted owl and whooping crane gumbo I have been told over the years.
There is probably no way to tell but it needs to stop and a true respect for all wildlife needs to be front and center.
We need as a community of outdoors lovers to rebuild the platform by which we teach conservation to the young and instill pride in the fact that we have incredible wildlife resources here and that taking beyond what the law offers depletes them.
We need to use these shameful moments as teachable ones and talk about consequence.
I have swam with manatees in the Crystal River in Florida three times and they were some of the most amazing experiences of my life.
I also grew up deer, duck and hog hunting.
Yet somehow I have never wanted to kill a manatee or a bald eagle or a dolphin.
It is because I was brought up to respect the resource and only take what I could eat. The idea of someone chuckling at the plight of a manatee sickens me.
Part of it is because I love these great animals but even more so I am troubled over a public where comments like that end up turning to actions like the aforementioned dolphin shot by Texas teens.
We have to move forward with conservation and a deep respect for wildlife and shame those who want to destroy it.
Wise stewardship should be celebrated whether its enacted by Ducks Unlimited or the Save the Manatee group.
Wildlife needs our help and thankfully the stranded manatee got it.
The keyboard warrior who wanted to kill one was probably too busy surfing the Web in his mother’s basement, living the kind of pathetic life trolls live.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
#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.
We’re a generation away from the old “lions, tigers and bears…” saying missing a key component.
Chester Moore, Jr.
Cutting-edge wildlife writings and investigations.