Award-winning wildlife journalist and conservationist Chester Moore and his wife Lisa are giving away a month-long North American Wild Sheep curriculum to any educator whether home, private or public school.
“We are fully committed to wildlife and sheep conservation is right there at the top of the list for us. We want to do our part to see young people get an engaging education on wild sheep. They need to understand these great animals and know the role hunter-conservationists have played to ensure their future,” Chester said.
The curriculum will be available beginning Aug. 15.
“We love wild sheep in the Moore household, and we want to educate young people about these great animals. This is our gift to wild sheep and to kids who love wildlife,” said Lisa Moore, a certified teacher of 22 years.
The Moore’s said they have been inspired by conservation groups like the Wild Sheep Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society and others that have contributed so much to wild sheep. This curriculum is the first step in their forthcoming Conservation Campus that will bring cutting-edge wildlife conservation to home and private schools.
“We decided to do this while at 10,000 feet photographing bighorns in Colorado on our 20th anniversary. It was a dream come true moment for us, and we wanted to do something to inspire young people to get involved in sheep conservation. It’s a great privilege to contribute even a small bit to help secure the future of wild sheep,” Chester said.
The Stark Museum of Art is bringing the great outdoors inside with Conservation Art: Federal Duck Stamps & Prints.
The exhibition opens July 13 and continues through January 4, 2020. This exhibition celebrates the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, popularly known as the Duck Stamp.
A set of stamps and prints, from the beginning in 1934-1935 through 2000-2001, is on view. In addition to viewing the stamps and prints, visitors can go on a virtual Duck Hunt and enjoy other activities.
Started in 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp program links hunting with conservation. Sales of stamps support wildlife habitat. Choosing artists to design the stamps added visual drama. Artists’ prints increased the impact of the program.
With this exhibition, the Stark Museum of Art traces the history of the Federal Duck Stamp. The United States government created the stamp to address a problem. In the 1930s, the numbers of ducks and geese had fallen to dangerously low levels.
Loss of habitat and over-hunting contributed to the decline. Hunters and conservationists sought remedies. To raise funds for waterfowl habitat, the government required hunters to buy a Migratory Bird stamp. The U.S. uses the revenue to purchase and maintain wildlife refuges.
Every year the government selects an artist to create the image and issues a new stamp. They depict ducks, geese, and swans. The beauty of the stamps has inspired collecting. It has also prompted the artists to make prints from their stamp art.
The exhibition begins with the 1934-35 Stamp and its accompanying print by Jay N. “Ding” Darling. Darling was a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, a hunter, and a conservationist.
Franklin Roosevelt appointed him as Chief of the Biological Survey. Darling drew two mallards flying onto the water for the first stamp, and then made an etching based on his design.
The exhibition includes etchings, lithographs, and photolithographs by fifty-two artists, including Frank W. Benson, Maynard Reece, and the Hautman brothers.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to view a digital exhibit of the 2018-19 Federal Junior Duck Stamp in Texas winners. The Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design program began in 1993. Each state holds a contest.
A best of show for the state is selected. These works advance to the national contest. The digital exhibit features the top twelve Texas artists in Kindergarten through twelfth grades in the 2018-19 contest. It is presented in cooperation with the Federal Junior Duck Stamp in Texas program.
The exhibition includes a number of hands-on learning opportunities. The interactives include viewing recent years’ duck stamps up closely using magnifying tools, drawing and displaying a duck stamp, and playing the Nintendo Entertainment System pop culture classic Duck Hunt.
Adjacent to the main exhibition will be Waterfowl Art with the flourishing images of ducks and geese as seen in Steuben glass, Limoges plates, Boehm porcelain, and other forms.
An Opening Reception and Insights Lecture will be held 2-4 p.m. Sat. July 13. at the Stark Museum of Art.
Celeste Rickert, a 2018 Federal Duck Stamp Finalist from Katy, TX, will speak on her experience as an artist participating in the Federal Duck Stamp competition.
Light refreshments will be served following the talk. The Opening Reception and Insights Lecture are open to the public.
So, what happens when whitetail and mule deer meet up?
It’s a question I have long been intrigued with since I heard stories of mysterious whitetail/mule deer hybrids at a hunting camp in my home state of Texas.
While on a mission to photograph Merriam’s turkey in Colorado for my Turkey Revolution quest two weeks ago my wife Lisa and I stopped at a beautiful location to look for mule deer.
We found a big bachelor group with some large males feeding in a meadow.
And then from the distance came more deer.
I assumed they were muleys too but after glassing, I realized they were whitetail.
Eventually, they made their way to the mule deer. Most passed by but a couple merged with them and began to feed. This is what you see in the included photo.
It was interesting to see this interaction.
I plan on returning to this location in the fall when the rut is on and see what type of activity occurs. Bucks could get along now but how about when their antlers are hard and testosterone is jacked up?
The whitetail will be fighting one another and the muleys battling it out as well. But will they fight one another?
Who will win?
Even more intriguing is the possibility of whitetail and mule deer mating.
Longstanding studies by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials show some interesting dynamics including hybridization.
“Where mule deer and white-tailed deer coexist, interbreeding does occur. The long-term effects are unknown, and for most areas, the extent of hybridization is not known. The highest incidence of hybridization in the Trans-Pecos occurs in the eastern part of the region where high populations of mule deer and white-tailed deer coexist. It has been estimated that up to 15 percent of deer may be hybrids where both species occupy the same range,” TPWD reported.
“DNA sequencing techniques were used to determine the extent of hybridization in the Panhandle (Donley County) where the ranges of both species overlap. Results indicated a hybridization frequency of eight percent. ”
TPWD reported antler characteristics, tail coloration, and ear length are not reliable in recognizing hybrids.
They said hybrids can be identified by the length of the metatarsal gland that is located on the outside of the rear leg between the hock and the hoof. It typically will measure about 3 /4 inch long in whitetail and about 4 inches long in mule deer.”
“The metatarsal gland of hybrids is intermediate in length, measuring about two inches long. It has been theorized that occurrences of hybridization are initiated by white-tailed bucks, but interbreeding also can occur between mule deer bucks and white-tailed does. Hybrids appear to have at least a limited degree of fertility. Hybridization is a concern to managers who see it as a threat to their mule deer herd.:
Whitetail numbers have reached historic highs in most of their range and are healthy virtually everywhere whereas mule deer are on the decline in many areas.
I will have more on the mule deer decline soon as well as hybridization.
For now, I am seeking photos of whitetail/mule deer hybrids.
The Wildlife Journalist® publisher and Texas Fish & Game Editor-In-Chief Chester Moore was honored by the Press Club of Southeast Texas for his “Be Texas Bear Aware” public service announcement that runs on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.
Moore took first place in the radio public service announcement category at the groups annual excellence in media awards.
“It’s a real honor to be awarded by such a great organization and especially for something so special to me,” Moore said.
“I had the opportunity to create public service announcements on wildlife for KLVI who are always great about supporting wildlife conservation and the first one I came up with was the issue of black bears.”
Moore said many outdoors lovers are not aware that black bears are moving in and out of Texas through Louisiana and Arkansas and a growing population exists in the Trans Pecos region.
“I want people to be aware of bears. Part of that is educating hog hunters to be careful of their targets as a bear and hog can appear similar at a distance especially if you have no idea bears are in the area. I also wanted to get the message across that killing a bear in Texas is illegal and comes with serious legal consequences. There aren’t enough bears to justify a hunting season yet.”
Moore has long worked to get the word out on bears creating a bear awareness poster, partnering with Texas Fish & Game beginning in 2007 that has went to thousands of readers, concerned citizens and students.
“Black bears are an important part of Texas’ legacy and as a lifelong hunter and wildlife lover seeing them come back is exciting. If the efforts of me and my media partners helps a little bit that makes me happy,” Moore said.
Moore was also honored in four other categories including radio talk show for “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and independent blog for The Wildlife Journalist.
The desert bighorn sheep is now officially a celebrity in Texas.
A new conservation license plate features a stunning bighorn image and those who purchase them for $30 get the satisfaction of knowing $22 goes directly to sheep conservation efforts of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).
The new plate design is a first for TPWD.
“Our longtime plate artist, Clemente Guzman, retired, so we decided to use a photograph of a majestic Bighorn Sheep proudly looking into the desert—and perhaps its future,” said Janis Johnson with the TPWD Conservation License Plate program.
“We conducted an online survey with thousands of hunters and conservationists and had them rank several designs for a Bighorn Sheep plate and a Pronghorn plate. The Bighorn Sheep was the overwhelming favorite.”
Diehard hunters and wildlife enthusiasts know bighorns are native to Texas. The mainstream of those user groups however have no idea about Texas rich bighorn legacy and the amazing conservation efforts it took to get them back on the mountains of the Trans-Pecos.
Wild sheep have been a source of interest to me since I clipped out a statistics chart from a TPWD magazine during my childhood and put it in my dream hunt scrapbook.
I did so to serve as a reminder that we should always put in more than we take.
That graph showed 100 bighorns in Texas in 1928 and 40 in 1976, just a few years before I made this clipping.
For a six year old who was already knew about the Grand Slam of sheep this was frightening.
Now according to TPWD Desert Bighorn Program Leader Froylan Hernandez there are around, 1,500 which is at historical highs.
It will take a broader awareness of their presence in the arid Trans Pecos to support things like proper domestic sheep grazing practices so their diseases do not impact the easily infected bighorns.
This license plate along with the media blitz that has introduced it will go a long way and creating a path for bighorns to find their way into the mainstream Texas wildlife consciousness.
New generations must learn of these great animals and be inspired to help them.
Through our Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center me and my wife Lisa work with children in the foster system and those with terminal illness and who have lost a parent or sibling. We give them the wildlife encounter of their dreams through our Wild Wishes program.
The license plate has given me a chance to integrate wild sheep conservation awareness into our programs.
When I showed a group of kids at foster children’s home e a monster set Gobi argali horns I asked them what type of animal they came from.
A couple said deer, while one said antelope.
Most of the others said it was a ram.
When told that a ram is a male of a particular kind of animal none of them knew it was a sheep.
Several expectedly thought rams were male goats. (This seems to be a common belief-even among adults.)
When I told them we had wild rams in Texas in the form of the desert bighorn sheep they lit up. And they thought it was even cooler that we will have a special conservation license plate to help them.
That’s just a tiny example of the kind of conversations the new license plate will generate.
Impactful conservation takes awareness, money and creativity and all of those are present in this project.
In the long run the bighorns of Texas will benefit greatly from this small step toward the mainstream.
Did you know bighorn sheep are slowly moving back into Oklahoma?
How cool is that?
Have you ever heard of Asia’s Marco Polo Sheep-a massive mountain dweller that lives exclusively in elevations of 12-15,000 feet?
Oh and by the way , the rams sport horns upwards of 60 inches in length.
Learn about this and much, much more in the podcast of my radio program “Moore Outdoors” (May 25 edition) as I interview Gray Thornton, President & CEO of The Wild Sheep Foundation.
Wild sheep have a deep personal meaning in my life dating back to early childhood when I would sit with my Dad and cut out photos of wildlife from Sports Afield,Field & Stream and Outdoor Life and place them in a scrapbook.
Wild sheep and wild turkeys were my favorites.
Dad passed away of natural causes on a hunting trip with me five years ago but the memories of sitting in his lap and clipping out those photos will never fade.
A recent discovery of one of these scrapbooks in a storage vault brought back a flood of emotions and reminded me that a love of wild sheep has been with me my whole life.
The interview is just one of what will be many broadcasts, articles and investigations on wild sheep and their conservation moving forward.
This includes a forthcoming major feature story on desert bighorn in Texas Fish & Game magazine in the August 2019 issue.
For now check out the podcast. It’s one of the best interviews I have had in 20 years of radio.
Listen to learn about wild sheep of the world and to be inspired by their amazing conservation story.
Seeing a feral hog in thick snow was surreal to me.
I had seen thousands in swamps, cactus thickets and rocky canyons in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida but seeing one bust out from behind a tree on a snow-covered hill in Michigan was wild.
This was back in 2001, just 20 years after the first feral hogs were spotted in Michigan. Now they are in virtually every county in the state.
The feral hog issue is definitely most pronounced in the South but hogs are becoming increasingly common in the North.
A decade ago I did an interview with a radio station in New Jersey because they had just opened a hog hunting season and the host wanted advice of dealing with these invasive exotics.
If states on the northern tier of their range in America do not take action then hogs will gain a permanent foothold above the Mason-Dixon line.
Some states have taken an unusual stance on dealing with hogs. They have made hunting them illegal.
It seems counterintuitive to eliminate a potential method of removing many hogs from the landscape.
The reasoning in states like New York, Minnesota and Kansas is the spread of feral hogs has had much to do with ranches that put them behind high fences for hunting. Hogs of course escape and the population outside fences spreads.
I have no doubt this has contributed greatly to the spread of hogs in my native Texas and have written on this in Texas Fish & Game.
It’s a bizarre idea to prohibit a hunter who is out to seek deer for example from killing one when at the end of the day state officials will have to kill hogs to stop their spread.
Perhaps simply banning importing them or transporting live pigs would be better.
It will be interesting to see how management of hogs changes as they multiply.
Will states that ban hunting them see success in their fight against this foreign invader? Or will they have to change their tactics?
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 brought protected status to dozens of then-dwindling North American animals.
Among the first listings were the red wolf, black-footed ferret and ivory-billed woodpecker.
Had the ESA been established in 1900, the American bison would have been listed along with the wild turkey and pronghorn. All of those are game animals now hunted across multiple states with thriving populations.
“It is unprecedented to have so many species come back in such a big way and it has everything to do with the value put on those species and their habitat by hunter-conservationists like our founder Teddy Roosevelt,” said Keith Balfourd with the Boone & Crockett Club.
Since 1900 bison bounced back from 1,000 to 300,000 and wild turkeys went from 30,000 to nearly seven million.
Pronghorns which fell below 20,000 animals now number more than a million.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Whitetail would not have been listed as “endangered” but their population stood at only 500,000 throughout the continent. Now it’s 15,000,000.
Elk were down to 40,000 and now there are more than a million.
Contrast that with the ivory-billed woodpecker which is functionally extinct and the red wolf that exists only through a very small captive-bred introduced population in North Carolina and in various zoos and wildlife centers.
Some ESA-listed animals like the bald eagle have had huge success stories but the rise of game populations managed for hunting rarely gets mentioned in the corporate wildlife media.
One of the first actions of dedicated hunter Roosevelt and the Boone & Crockett Club was to push for the creation of Yellowstone National Park as it was one of the last intact ecosystems with abundant game.
“Roosevelt and the early proponents of Yellowstone faced many obstacles including mining, timber and railroad interests. But they prevailed and Yellowstone’s preservation made it possible to restore dwindling species to other areas,” Balfour said.
Elk from Yellowstone were transplanted to areas where they had been eliminated and so were bison.
As newly created game laws created protection for these animals their numbers began to multiply where they had been stocked. This quickly became the template for wildlife restoration in America.
The key reason for the wild turkey’s monumental increase was bringing excess birds from areas of abundance and releasing into zones with no birds. This practice continues today and has also been a cornerstone for the restoration of everything from bighorn sheep to gray wolves.
What Roosevelt, the early members of the Boone & Crockett Club and other early conservationists tapped into was that wildlife needed areas of sanctuary. And once you establish this, excess animals can be taken from there to areas of need.
To some it might seem ironic.
Hunters pushed for huge areas to be shut down to hunting and then helped create licensing systems that ensured hunting as restricted and managed by the government. On top of that they added licenses and excise taxes on sporting goods to fund conservation projects.
But these hunters knew without making sacrifices the animals they pursued would have been gone forever.
They were visionaries and the pioneering work they did gave hope that wildlife could continue to thrive in the face of growing human population and industrialization. It is not a perfect system but it works better than anything else on the planet thus far.
Many have had a hand in wildlife conservation in North America but few have had the impact of early hunter-conservationists like Roosevelt and the Boone & Crockett Club.
Their legacy lives on-in the woods, on the mountains and across the fruited plain.
A 16-year-old girl wearing a retro Metallica shirt could not believe her eyes.
“I’ve never seen a turkey. He’s so big,” she said.
The young lady was referring to a hefty golden-breasted gobbler we had displayed at Eco-Fest at Shangri-La Botanical Gardens in Orange, TX. The tall, docile bird was strutting his stuff and drawing a crowd.
She was not the only one that was shocked to see a turkey.
Hundreds came by to see it and every one of them left hearing that wild turkeys are the epitome of a wildlife conservation success story.
They also learned East Texas is seeing a return of eastern turkeys due to the efforts of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the hunter-founded National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
Our Wild Wishes® program grants wildlife encounters to children with a terminal illness or loss of a parent or sibling. We are mentoring many of them to be conservation ambassadors.
Eleven-year-old Jaxon sat in with the big gobbler and told passers-by about wild turkeys and had lots of fun making turkey calls to incite gobbles.
And if that didn’t get them the baby turkeys did.
We brought two newly hatch bronze-breasted poults and they absolutely blew away everyone who saw them.
“Their wild cousins will be born shortly out in the woods, deserts, swamps and mountains of America. If we want wild turkeys to thrive then we need to make their habitat healthy and do our best to restore them in areas where they are missing,” I told one gentleman.
I’m not saying he shed a tear when I let him pet one of the poults but he was definitely moved.
The wildlife conservation community needs to bring more people in if we want to secure the future for not only wild turkeys but hundreds of other species and their vanishing habitat.
And that will require moving the hearts of the public.
Legendary wildlife host and zoo director “Jungle” Jack Hannah once told me that you must move the heart before you change the mind when it comes to wildlife. He said this while telling kids from our Wild Wishes® program about the value of zoological facilities to conservation and giving props to excise taxes on sporting goods funding everything from game wardens to land acquisitions.
In my opinion, hunting-based conservation groups have done great work in the field but have missed in moving the heart.
I want to conserve turkeys because I grew up in a family that hunted for its food and dreamed of the day I would one day see wild turkeys in the field.
As a youngster there were virtually none in the Pineywoods where I grew up due to poaching, lack of natural fire and habitat loss. Now, groups like the NWTF are helping bring them back.
I first encountered a wild turkey on a day lease in Llano in the Texas Hill Country and since then have had deep reverence for America’s greatest game bird.
Many people left Eco-Fest thinking turkeys were amazing too and were armed with more information about the positive aspects of turkey conservation.
We need to reach a broader audience with a pro-conservation message in ways that people have never considered.
Bringing a big gobbler and some poults to a community event did that and having kids trained up to talk turkey (in Jaxon’s case literally) made people think.
Me and my wife Lisa have dedicated our life to helping hurting children and training them to be wildlife conservationists. We believe these kids are not the next generation of conservationists.
They are the NOW generation.
We have just begun this Turkey Revolution and will unveil many more projects spearheaded by these wonderful young people for not only turkeys but many species.
There is nothing like staring into the eyes of a predator.
Even a glare from captive predators like a leopard at a zoo can send chills down your spine-and in my case in a good way.
I dig that kind of thing.
A few months back I locked eyes with a wild black canid that had been seen in Orange County, TX numerous times. People were calling it the “black coyote”.
Driving down a rural road near my home I saw the creature cross the road and literally stop a couple of feet away from the white line so I did what virtually no one else would do.
I hopped out for a closer look.
Trying to open my camera bag I kept my eye on the beautiful animal that was only 10 feet away. And just as the bag opened, the coyote looked me dead in the eyes and ran off.
So much for getting a photo.
Despite the frustation I was thrilled at the opportunity to see such a magnificent animal and in recent weeks have been getting emails, texts and social media shares of unusual-looking coyotes and other suspect-looking canids.
With the recent red wolf gene rediscovery on the Texas Coast, anything that looks wolf-like in particular makes coyotes even more interesting.
Below are a couple of photos of unique-looking coyotes or perhaps non-coyote canids (hybrids of some sort).
If you have seen unusual coyotes or perhaps a non-coyote canid email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to check them out and share with readers.