The black-footed ferret is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet.
Thought extinct in the mid 1980s, a surprise finding of a handful in 1987 spawned a capture and eventual captive breeding program that currently has 370 in the wild and more at facilities like the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center near Fort Collins, Co.
In 2014, I spoke with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist Calvin Richardson about ferret restoration possibilities in Texas and he gave some hopeful information.
During the recent meeting of the Texas Black-footed Ferret Working Group on August 12th, the working group members agreed that the drought and past years of drier than average conditions over the High Lonesome have created less than favorable conditions for prairie dog densities, which has direct implications for survival of black-footed ferrets. TPWD will therefore not seek to reintroduce ferrets in Texas in 2013, but instead focus on a potential reintroduction in 2014 on the High Lonesome next fall.
Problems with Man and Nature
That reintroduction never happened.
I spoke to Richardson Feb. 15 and he said private ranches in the Panhandle that had large prairie dog towns (necessary for ferrets) were no longer under consideration and that a public tract that has the right type of habitat and large prairie dog towns was recently hit by plague.
This is typical of the black-footed ferret’s story.
On one hand the poisoning of prairie dogs in the mid 20th century had a huge negative impact on these mustelids and in turn nature deals a cruel blow every time plague rips through a prairie dog town.
Richardson said TPWD’s Panhandle office has been busy dealing with potential endangered designations on several species including the western massasauga and the prairie chicken. Ferret reintroduction at least in that region seems to be off the table for the moment-or at least until conditions in the region change.
The black-footed ferret once ranged across a huge portion of the west-central United States and perhaps one day they will again.
Their populations will never by back to their former glories but there is hope these unique predators will inhabit far more territory than they do now.
I hope my home state of Texas is included.
It would make the High Plains and the rugged Trans Pecos seem a little wilder and more complete.
Feb. 11 this video started cycling around Facebook.
I normally do not share social media videos here but this one is deserving of commentary. While the details of this particular clip are sketchy there is no doubt this is an absolutely monstrous hog. The post was shared by a woman in Hong Kong and there is some sort of Asian script on the dumpsters.
This is not a domestic strain of hog.
It is a Eurasian boar and it is the largest one this author has ever seen on video.
A 2016 story at wideopenspaces.com shows photos on alleged 1,179-pound boar killed in Russia. And while the photos there are impressive, the author admits there is no way to tell if they had been manipulated.
Video is harder to fake.
So, how big of a hog are we dealing with?
Judging by the dumpsters, the other hogs and various items in the photo I am going out on a limb and saying this hog is easily over 700 pounds.
Could it be in the 1,000-pound range?
In North America, feral hogs weighing more than 500 pounds are rare but they do exist. Various sources say in parts of Asia Eurasian boars can top 650 pounds.
To give scale for exactly how big a hog this size would be look at this illustration. In my opinion it is easy to see this hog would be bigger than the average grizzly here.
The biggest wild hog I have gathered evidence of in the U.S. was this one captured on a game camera by Richard Trahan in Tyler Co. TX
My estimates on size for this one judging from the size of that particular brand feeder which I investigated is 700 pounds.
“The bottom of the motor on this feeder is five feet, six inches from the ground,” Trahan said.
That hog is touching it standing flat-footed.
The one in this video is at least that big and likely much bigger.
The question is this a pen-raised Eurasian boar? If so, that would make a difference in terms of its rarity. A 650-pounder in the wild could easily get to 800 plus being overfed in captivity.
Most records of wild hog sizes come from hunters and there is very little hunting besides for food in many countries in the Eurasian boar’s native range. The only people worried about how big boars get are hunters who want bragging rights.
Most locals could care less.
Stories of true monster hogs have circulated for years and have always been a source of intrigue for me. I have encountered two 500 pound plug hogs in my home state of Texas and found tracks of one that was likely bigger.
We can debate the size of this beast and many likely will as it makes its rounds on social media.
One thing however is for sure.
Encountering such a beast would be an unforgettable experience and hopefully I would see it before it saw me.
An article at the Miami Herald says that federal officials are quietly considering removing endangered status from the Florida Key Deer.
With population estimates showing numbers down to around 950 and recent population hits from screwworms and hurricanes it seems like an odd time to consider reducing their status to “threatened” according to retired biologist Tom Wilmers.
“Down-listing the Key deer to threatened is beyond absurd,” said Tom Wilmers, a deer biologist who retired from the National Key Deer Refuge after nearly 30 years. “Their habitat is horrible. They’ve been hit by a hurricane. There was the horrible situation with those screwworms. And now you’re going to talk about down-listing them? What is better than it was 25 years ago? Nothing.”
Endangered species have always been under the gun so to speak due to the controversial nature of the Endangered Species Act which at times has caused logging and other activities to cease.
And in recent years there has been a trend toward delisting subspecies of. Recently the Louisiana black bear was delisted, despite still low populations and it is not surprising to see key deer examined. There are those who argue that there is not much difference between a Louisiana black bear and other black bear subspecies so protection should come from states as they determine population levels in their territory, not from the federal government.
In the case of the Florida Key Deer there is a good chance this designation change will not happen due to the high-profile of the species. However, even considering changing their status is…well…strange.
My concern for the species with a delisting is that it will embolden wildlife smugglers and poachers to take a toll on an already decimated population.
I have been on multiple Texas ranches that have more whitetail within their acreage than the Florida Keys have their namesake deer (950). When looking at situations like this it is all about perspective and I cannot help but think about the above statement and realizing a single disease outbreak or major storm could literally wipe out most of the remaining key deer. In this case I hope common sense and good science prevails and this national treasure retains the protection it deserves.
There is no animal more stunning than an Amur (Siberian) tiger.
Weighing up 600 pounds and measuring as long as 12 feet from nose to tip of tail, their size almost overrides the beauty of a striking pattern and piercing eyes.
According to an article at atimes.com Russian scientists using trail cameras have captured images of three and a half month old cubs showing there is hope for this highly endangered species.
Watch the video above to see the incredible images.
According to officials with the World Wildlife Fund there are around 500 of these majestic cats left in the wild and that is up from the nearly extinct level of the 1940s.
By the 1940s, hunting had driven the Amur tiger to the brink of extinction—with no more than 40 individuals remaining in the wild. The subspecies was saved when Russia became the first country in the world to grant the tiger full protection.
I will never forget standing next to a Siberian tiger for the first time. When I first worked with captive cats at a sanctuary during my college days, I was absolutely blown away with the size of these animals.
I was shocked that their size and rarity was not a key point in virtually any conservation programs I had heard of at the time.
They are after all the world’s largest cat, weighing up to 200 pounds more than Africa’s largest lion.
Yet, few in the mainstream know anything about them. In fact, during the dozens of lectures I have conducted on the world’s great cats, I have come to believe most people outside of the hardcore wildlife lovers believe the white tigers they see in zoos are Siberian tigers.
Those are of course white Bengal tigers and the white color has nothing to do with living in snow. That is however the correlation people often make.
Education is a vital key to conservation because it makes people aware of problems with wildlife and its habitat. The Siberian tiger definitely needs an overhaul in that department.
Who wouldn’t want to help the world’s largest cat survive? What great opportunity lies ahead if someone is willing to make a concerted effort to let the world know about this great cat that survives in one of the harshest environments in the world?
When I saw the images of the gorgeous cubs in the video above, I could not help but feel a warm sense of hope.
If we let the world know what is happening with tigers in the Russian Far East then we might just have a crack at long-term survival for the world’s largest cat which was almost wiped out of existence 80 years ago.
With all of the doom and gloom constantly being bantered about in the wildlife community that is something to celebrate.
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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.
An ancient Hebrew text prophesies that one day the “…the wolf will live the the lamb, the leopard with the calf and a little child will lead them.”
But what about the coyote and the nine-banded armadillo?
In Southeast Texas, armadillos are regular prey items for coyotes, however in this series of videos filmed by naturalist Mark Hines it is obvious this coyote and an armadillo have a bit of a friendship going.
The first two videos are from the same day but the third is nearly a month later. There have been numerous cases of predators interacting with prey in playful fashion but this is the first time we have seen this with a coyote and armadillo.
This is a fairly young coyote that Hines has captured on video many times but it is with a pack that includes mature individuals that live in the same relatively small area. That implies that all of the coyotes are tolerating the armadillo that as of yet has not met its demise, at least not on camera.
Hines has captured some captivating videos over the last few years that show a side to not only coyotes but some animals we believe have strong red wolf genetics (coywolves if you will) doing some pretty incredible things.
We will be sharing some of these videos in the coming months and giving a look at these animals in an area where few studies have been conducted on the species.
Many believe the coyote is the most adaptable mammal in North America and as someone who has had many dealings with them, including the group in Hine’s videos I concur.
They are truly intelligent creatures that can survive in the shadow of many and apparently in the presence of armadillos as well.
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