No Room for Black-Footed Ferrets in Texas-Yet

Critically Endangered

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.

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U.S. Geological Survey Photo

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.

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The former range of the black-footed ferret.

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.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Jim Fowler of “Wild Kingdom” Interview

Wild Kingdom

Growing up as a child in the late 1970s and early 80s, there was no Animal Planet and certainly not Youtube filled with millions of wildlife videos.

But there was “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and it inspired me in grand fashion.

Hosted by Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler and in later years Peter Gros, the award-winning program brought wildlife into your home in a way that perhaps no other program has quite accomplished.

I had the honor and privilege of interview Jim Fowler in 2016 and I thought you might listening to that chat which was a true career highlight.

If you ever gathered around the television to watch this program or saw Mr. Fowler on one of his many late night television appearances this will be as special you as it was to me.

Chester Moore, Jr.

World Wildlife Journalists

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*Special Membership Card

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*Special Facebook page for parents and supervised children to participate in seminars, instructive clinics and conservation challenges.

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Click here for more information.

Is This The Biggest Wild Boar Ever Captured on Video?

Feb. 11 this video of a huge wild boar 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.

Easily.

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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

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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.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Delisting Key Deer On Federal Agenda?

Key Deer

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.

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A dehydrated Key Deer drinks water provided by USFWS at National Key Deer Refuge. (Photo by Dan Chapman?USFWS)

“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 these 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.
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The key deer found smuggled last year. (US Fish and Wildlife Service Photo)
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.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Siberian Tiger Babies Observed-Species Needs PR Overhaul

There is no animal more stunning than an Amur or 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.

White tigers are not Amur (Siberian tigers). They are in fact Bengal tigers. (Public Domain Photo)

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.

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Another Eagle Killing Shows Teen Poaching Out of Control

Washington Fish and Wildlife police said a sheriff’s department officer found evidence of teen poaching with teens purposely killing 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.

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The bait pile discovered by law enforcement officials.(Washington Fish & Wildlife Photo)

And no one seems to be addressing it head on.

Check out my post on the manatee fantasy killer and teen poaching here.

Teens shooting sick dolphins with fishing arrows.

Teens shooting highly endangered whooping cranes and bragging on social media.

Multiple eagles killed across the country by teens including this which was obviously a focused effort.

A pair of teens smuggling endangered key deer in their car resulting in death of the animals.

Poaching is vile.

And when our young people are involved in so much of it everyone from the hunting industry to wildlife organizations should be asking why.

There will be more on this topic coming with top officials in the wildlife and hunting world interviewed on the subject.

This has to change and we must take off our blinders for not only the sake of wildlife but the teens themselves.

Poaching is not hunting. It is the antithesis of legal, regulated hunting and it damages wildlife populations in terrible ways.

We need to confront it here in America before it becomes an epidemic.

Unfortunately this kind of contempt for wildlife can be contagious.

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Coyote and Armadillo Are Playmates (Video)

The Coyote And The Armadillo

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.

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr. 

A Mexican wolf in TX? (Photo)

Mexican Wolf In Texas

I’ll never forget staring into the eyes of a big male Mexican gray wolf.

Its piercing eyes reflected a wild lineage that roamed the Southwest until the white man moved in with guns, traps and poison.

This was early in my career and the animal resided at a captive breeding facility where remnants of the highly endangered subspecies were being bred for release into the wild.

I shot tons of photos but they were lost in Hurricane flood damage-along with many others.

Since that time there have been numerous releases in New Mexico and even pups born in the wild there.

So, when Jaclyn Booth sent me this photo I took notice because the animal looked very much like the wolves I had seen at the facility so many years ago.

The photo came through our “The Wildlife Journalist” Facebook and had no information on where it came from.

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Photo courtesy Jaclyn Booth

My thought was “Wow, thats a gray wolf, probably a Mexican gray wolf.”

I messaged her to find out what state the photo came from and when she said it came from her ranch in Hall County, TX I was in shock.

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The photo below is a coyote from the same ranch and in fact at different angles of the same log. Compare this coyote and the canid in the above photo.

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Photo courtesy Jaclyn Booth

Now compare with this one of a Mexican gray wolf taken at the Alameda Park Zoo below. Notice the extreme likeness.

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Public Domain Photo
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Photo courtesy Jaclyn Booth

Wiped Out On Purpose

The Mexican gray wolf is indigenous to this part of the world but like all other representative of Canis lupus was wiped out due to government predator control and unregulated killing on ranches.

Is there a remnant pocket of these hailing from the captive breeding program in New Mexico? Or maybe a rogue wanderer?

It is possible but unlikely.

After all a gray wolf radio collared in Michigan was killed by a bowhunter in Missouri in 2001. That’s a much longer journey that New Mexico to Hall County, TX.

Is there a remnant pocket of Mexican gray wolves in North Texas and perhaps even in the Trans Pecos?

In 2013 I had a professional trapper who has trapped and killed thousands of coyotes tell me of seeing a Mexican gray wolf near Alpine, TX the year previous. He was adamant at what he saw.

Is there a possibility of having Mexican gray wolf-coyote hybrids (that maybe lean heavily on wolf appearance) in the region?

Absolutely. It has been proven that coyotes and gray wolves hybridize by numerous researchers.

I will be writing a lot about wild canids of the United States this year and will be posting photos, videos and research.

Are there Mexican wolves in Texas?

The jury is still out but on a ranch in Hall County there is definitely an animal that looks a whole lot like one.

More to come…

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr. 

 

Mystery Animal Photographed in Central Texas

You never know what you’re going to see traveling through the Texas Hill Country at night. Sometimes you come across a true mystery animal.

Geoffrey Bennett submitted these photos (after posting on his Facebook) of an animal his brother saw and was able to capture these images of as it climbed a rock wall.

Exact location has not been given nor would we give it but it’s safe to say it is in the beautiful limestone-encrusted Edwards Plateau.

On the initial posts several people chimed in with thoughts including jaguarundi, ringtail and lemur.

It’s definitely not a ringtail or lemur.

Jaguarundi was my first thought at seeing the photo below but after seeing the next one in the series I am convinced this is a kinkajou (Potus flavus). These rainforest dwellers are the only member of the genus “Potos” and are sometimes called a “honey bear”.

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Photo courtesy Jeffrey Bennett

The tail is what tipped me off. Kinkajous have a prehensile (climbing/gripping able) tail and this one is curled up. I have a kinkajou at our Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center and his named is “Irwin”.

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Photo courtesy Jeffrey Bennett

His tail is always curled up.

Plus the body and head just look kinkajou and if you look close enough you can see what looks like a collar.

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Our kinkajou “Irwin” taking a nap in his hide.

If this is a kinkajou, what is it doing in the Texas Hill Country?

They are common animals at zoos and wildlife parks and are not a rare pet. In fact, for those who like exotics they make a much smaller and generally safer pet than say a lion.

My suspicion this is someone’s pet that escaped.

What do you think of the identify of this cool-looking animal?

Post your comments below.

Have you seen anything like this? We’d love to see the photos.

We appreciate Mr. Bennett giving us access to these pics and sharing this unique encounter with us wildlife lovers.

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr.

Monster Hogs Will Become Apex City Predators

Genetics. Age. Food/Cover.  Those are the ingredients necessary to create maximum size feral hogs or any other wildlife for that matter.

Without the genetic code animals don’t have the capacity for super size. Without food and cover it is impossible to feed their potential. And without reaching the optimal age, it is all a moot point.

These three factors are the reason why gigantic feral hogs will become the apex predator in many American cities.

Feral hogs have entered the city limits of many cities in the American South and are becoming major problems for animal control, homeowners, golf course managers and park superintendents.

There are no doubt hogs in cities like Houston, Orlando and others major cities right now with the potential to outgrow the average grizzly bear.

Greenbelts as well as abandoned lots, dumps and other open areas provide adequate nutrition.

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Domestic hogs left free to graze integrate with feral hogs and can produce monstrous offspring.

And then there is the age factor.

Once hogs enter cities there is virtually no way to control them.

Trapping has very limited effectiveness. Shooting them under virtually every circumstance is off limits for obvious reasons. No one will have the stomach to allow hunters with trained curs and pit bulls to capture/kill them and poisoning (where legal) is not going to be possible due to dangers to pets and people.

So, when that hog with the genes to be a giant enters a city, it has everything else it needs to do just that.

These hogs will do massive damage to everything they put their snout to and will pose a danger to people and their pets. Hogs are most fond of plant material but they can and often do prey on live animals.

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Photo submitted by Tyler Clines. Will cities allow effective means of capturing hogs like using trained dogs? The answer is most likely “no”.

That means “Fifi” the poodle could be on the menu when her doting mother takes her for a walk in the park.

Such hogs already exist and have for years but as hogs numbers continue to skyrocket even the urban areas in the feral hog’s range that have had no swine migration will see them move in.

Early in my writing career I got some revealing intel on such animals. The first was almost a face to snout encounter.

When taking my girlfriend (now wife) Lisa out on a date at a seafood restaurant we heard something step out of the cane just behind us in the parking lot.

As we fixed our eyes toward the racket a huge mud-covered animal emerged.

At first in the dim light at the back end of the parking lot I thought it was a young steer as cattle are common in any pasture, wood lot or in the case chunk of marsh next to the restaurant.

But it was no steer.

This was a hog, one that weighed well beyond 500 pounds.

It grunted heavily when it saw us (we were only 10 steps away) and then went on about its business of rooting up the ground.

The area the animal came from is a piece of marsh probably in the 300 acre range next to a large refinery facility. This is bordered by a large chip channel and a whole bunch of industrial buildings and homes.

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Hogs weighing 400 pounds are not uncommon and those weighing more than the average grizzly do exist. These type of animals will likely being showing up in cities.

Obviously that huge hog, perhaps a domestic set free to graze years ago as used to be common in Texas had found its nice. It does not take hogs much time to go back to their wild origins and integrate into purely feral populations.

This was not the only time I came across evidence of monster hogs in the area.

Around the same time, a man told me had located a really big black boar in a wood lot behind the Vidor, TX Wal Mart and wanted to know if I wanted to tag along with he and his dogs to catch it.

I declined.

Two weeks later a letter arrives in the mail with a photo of the hog they killed, all 400 pounds of it. I later drove by the area to inspect and saw the 20 acre wood lot the beast had lived in amongst a city of 10,000.

As hogs push deeper into urban territory, certain individuals will find these sanctuary areas that will allow them to grow to epic proportions.

It will be important to educate the public on these animals with a very special emphasis on not feeding them. Feral hogs are bad enough but feral hogs without any hunting pressure who know humans feed them will eventually turn to animals that approach people.

And at some point someone will get hurt, maybe killed.

I have written extensively on hog attacks and they are more common than many might suspect.

Having been chased up a tree on two occasions by wild hogs both in Texas and Tennessee, I can attest being on the side of their wrath is a frightening thing.

We should always use caution when hogs are around and realize some of them tend to be more Hannibal Lecter than Porky the Pig.

(To subscribe to The Wildlife Journalist blog enter your email at the top right of this page.)

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

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