Tag Archives: chester moore

“Black panther” captured on TX game camera?

“Black panther” reports are common in the American South.

Accounts of mysterious black cats crossing the road in front of motorists or seen by hunters are frequent but rarely backed up by photography.

In my 25 years of wildlife journalism I have learned most people assume the animals they are seeing are black (melanistic) cougars. The problem is cougars do not produce melanistic offspring and there has never in history been one documented by science.

So, what are people seeing?

That question is broad and we will dive into that in another post, however one possible solution is the jaguarundi.

The late Don Zaidle who wrote extensively on man-eating animals was doing some research on wild cats and suggested 16 years ago I look at the jaguarundi as a possible “black panther” suspect. Shortly after I actually saw one of these cats and it sort of clicked that people could be seeing these animals and call them a “black panther”.

After all, virtually no one outside of hardcore wildlife fans even knows that jaguarundi exists so “black panther” is a quick an easy label to give them.

These photos came from B. Harper who got them on a game camera near the Texas-Mexico line.

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jaguarundi tail

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My friend Jim Broaddus operates Bear Creek Feline Center near Panama City, Fla. and has some of the only captive jaguarundi in America. Here is what he had to say about the photos.

“The first image looks 100 percent like a jaguarundi. The second one of the tail looks promising.  The third one throws me off. If it’s a jaguarundi it been eating better than most and the head seems too large to me,” Broaddus said.

I will add that the photo of the tail also looks promising because of the slate gray coloration of the fur. That is classic jaguarundi although they can be even darker and a solid brown color as well.

Below is a crop and lighting enhanced version of the third photo. Keep in mind this is in a part of the country where all five native Texas cat species once dwelled and may possibly do so to this day. These are the bobcat, cougar, ocelot, jaguar and jaguarundi.

When people hear “black panther” they think of cats like the one below but this is a black leopard-a genetic variant of the typical Asian and African species. We are not talking about leopards or jaguars which also produce black offspring in this scenario.  As I said we’ll cover all of that in another blog.

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What do you think is the identify of this mysterious cat? Like Broaddus I am sold on photo 1 being jaguarundi but also believe photo 2 is one as well. Photo 3 is up for grabs but it could also be a jaguarundi as well. Some say it is a domestic house cat but there is something about it that I can’t pinpoint. Ah, maybe in my next post I can figure it out.

E-mail chester@kingdomzoo.com with your thoughts and share this post with others to get their opinion.

Don’t forget you can subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the top right bar on this page.

Chester Moore, Jr.

what is this cat black panther

More on Texas feral monkeys (Photos & Stories)

Wow!

The response to our story on feral monkeys in South Texas has been tremendous. Click here to read in case you missed it. If you would like to subscribe to this blog to keep up with these kinds of stories enter your email address in the form to the top right of this page.

Since our original posting we have received several interesting stories and photos from people who have encountered these animals.

First up is an account shared by Rico Ramirez.

I had a client of mine who hunted near Dilley, TX. His story was quite haunting.  He stated that it was during the peak of the rut season.  It was very early In the morning when he was in  the stand. All I know is that it was still dark.  He had his small lamp with him.  He was reading a magazine when he heard a huge bump and the stand actually felt like it moved. He said the  bump and thump was getting louder as if someone was on the stand.  He said he reached for his pistol not knowing if it was an illegal, smuggler, or run away inmate.  He shined his flashlight through the window out of the door when it got quiet.  Then he said the noise was then on the roof of the blind.  He was in survival mode and scared.  He said there was a window that was open for air when he saw a small human like hand was trying to get in.  He said the hand was moving in an up and down motion. The hand was somewhat furry. He said he ran out the door leaving most of his gear in the stand.   He didn’t return till sunrise got his things and called the land owner.

He went on to say the landowner said it was probably one of those (fill in the blank) monkeys.

A gentleman from Richland Rock Resources shared this photo from a few years ago of one of the monkeys near a drill site in Cotulla, TX.

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This message came from Becky Rubin.

I, unfortunately don’t have a photo to share of these monkeys in Texas. But I do have a story. In the late seventies, or early 80s I took a Primate Behavior class at UT. We took a field trip to see these Japanese macaques and camped over night. It was a fantastic experience to have the monkeys run up to the cars and be so close to them. I’d love to see photos from any other UT student’s visits to Dilley.  loved reading the article. It brought back a really fun memory!

Well, Becky we do have a photo for you.

Lorrie Ramirez took a special topic course in Primate Behavior in the Spring of ’95, when she was an undergrad student at The University of Texas-Pan American and documented her encounter.

We went to observe the macaques in Dilley as part of our course work. In this picture, I was pretending to eat like the macaques were and moved in close to get this shot. Just thought I would share.

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People often see things in the wild they cannot explain. Coming across a Japanese macaque in the arid thorn-infested brush country of South Texas would certainly confuse most people.
We believe it is important to educate people about all aspects of wildlife and even appreciate the oddities in the field. In fact, we tend to seek those things out most often due to the curiosity of me and my family and the passionate response of those who follow this blog.
Once again if you have photos, video or accounts of these monkeys or other feral primates not only in Texas but anywhere in the United States please send to chester@kingdomzoo.com.
If you would like to subscribe to this blog to keep up with these kinds of stories enter your email address in the form to the top right of this page.
Chester Moore, Jr.

Wild boars kill ISIS fighters! For real

A stampede of wild boars killed three Isis Jihadi fighters in Iraq recently.

According to the Times of London the large group of boars were living in the dense reeds in the al-Rashad region on the edge of agricultural fields. In other words prime hog habitat.

“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti-ISIS forces, told the Times of London.

Details of the attack are sketchy but what we do know is that boars in some form or fashion killed Isis fighters.

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It might seem strange for there to be wild boars in Iraq as the Western idea of the Middle East is large tracts of sand with no life. The fact is there are arid forests and even pristine wetlands in the war-torn country. The Eurasian boar is one of the numerous native mammals and there are animals in the country that we would call “feral hogs” that are a mixture among domestic breeds and Sus scrofa the Eurasian boar.

The native hogs are likely the subspecies Sus scrofa attila that taxonomists believe extend from Hungray all the way into the Mesopotamian Delta in Iraq and possibly Turkey and Iran as well.

Although this is the first time we know of hogs being involved in the war on terror, over the years I have documented numerous cases of hogs attacking people.

The Pineville Town Talk tells the story of a Pineville, La. man who had a pig enter the house he was visiting.

“Boston Kyles, 20, of 497 Pelican Drive told deputies he was visiting his sister’s house at the time of the incident. He said he had gone there to clean fish and was sitting in the house’s front room when the pig entered through the front door. Kyles told deputies he stomped the floor to try to shoo the pig out of the room, but the pig charged him, Maj. Herman Walters said.”

“Walters had heard of pigs attacking people in the woods but said this was the first time he had heard of a pig going into a house and attacking someone.”

An Edgefield, South Carolina man experienced one of the scariest hog attacks I could find occurring in the United States.

The Edgefield Advertiser reported, “A man was hospitalized recently after being attacked by a wild hog at his home on Gaston Road. The hog, which eyewitnesses estimated to weigh upwards of 700 pounds, materialized in Fab Burt’s backyard while he was working in his garden.”

“It came out of nowhere and attacked me. It had me pinned on the ground and was mauling me.”

Fortunately, Burt’s seven-month-old German shepherd, named Bobo, was on hand to help him fend off the hog.

It looks like the Isis terrorists did not have any “Bobo” to save them. In a strange case from what is a brutal, ugly war, nature struck back-with a vengeance.

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Chester Moore, Jr.

Coral snake eats copperhead (video)

This is probably the coolest amateur shot snake video I have ever seen.

Coral snakes regularly eat earth snakes but this is a fairly large copperhead, at least in comparison to the coral snake in the clip and it shows anything can happen in nature.

Thanks to Donna Grundy for sharing this amazing footage. I’ve had this one in the archives for awhile but now that snakes are out and about I thought it was time to share.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Feral monkeys in Texas (photo and more)

The thorn-filled plains of South Texas are the epitome of biodiversity. From the gorgeous green jay to the massive indigo snake the region is a wildlife haven.

As a veteran bowhunter (who wishes to remain anonymous) climbed into a stand overlooking a drying creek bottom he wondered if the big whitetail buck he had been pursuing would reveal itself this evening.

It is after all what drew him here and with the wind blowing into his face and away from what he thought was the buck’s bedding area, everything was perfect.

There was one small glitch.

He did however get to the stand a late and he would only have about an hour before dark to make it happen.

That’s “ok” he figured as these are the minutes when the wild lands come alive.

Then he heard it.

A high-pitched bellowing scream that echoed throughout the bottoms.

As his adrenaline production went into overload, he pondered what might be making the sound and why it was coming his direction. The screams got louder and louder, so he readied an arrow just incase.

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Photo courtesy M. Odom

Suddenly from out of the underbrush walked a large monkey. With a pinkish-red face and gray body it walked along the edge of the treeline before eventually disappearing into the shadows.

It was a shocking sight for sure. How did a monkey end up in South Texas?

Well, at at least it was not the monster he had pictured in his imagination.

There exists an area in the South Texas Plains where a population of Japanese macaques live and they have a long, bizarre story.

National Geographic covered them in a documentary. Watch this clip to the get the basics.

The Snow Monkeys of Texas (National Geographic) from Harrison Witt on Vimeo.

One of our readers M. Odom snapped this photo of one of the monkeys on his deer lease near Dilley, TX so we had to share.

Have you ever seen a monkey in Texas? If so we would love to see the photos. Send to chester@kingdomzoo.com. If you would like to subscribe to this blog to keep up with these kinds of stories enter your email address in the form to the top right of this page.

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Chester Moore, Jr.

Cougar kills javelina (photo)

Ron Wehmeyer, sent in this amazing shot  of a huge cougar standing over its recently killed javelina on his ranch out in the Texas’ arid Trans Pecos region.

Having photographed many cougars over the years I estimate this one to be in the 150 pound range which is very large.photo2-1

Do not believe any of the so-called “experts” who say all of Texas’ cats are small. We do have some really big ones as this photo proves beyond a shadow of a doubt.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog to keep up with these kinds of stories enter your email address in the form to the top right of this page.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Red and yellow can really hurt a fellow

“Red and yellow, kill a fellow.”

“Red and black venom lack.”

That is the poem I grew up with mom taught me to distinguish the highly venomous coral snake from our local mimic, the Louisiana milk snake.

With a nervous system attacking venom like that of their cobra cousins, the coral snake is without question one of if not the deadliest snake bites in America (mojave rattler is the other contender).

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The author checks out a large Texas coral snake caught in the Pinewoods of East Texas.

However, a recent study has discovered something that might get the striped serpent an edge.

This study shows the venom of the Texas coral snake in particular has ability to cause severe pain. The following is from an article at ucsf.edu…

The venom contains a toxic mixture of chemicals that includes two special proteins that join together, glom tightly onto tiny detectors on human nerve endings and don’t let go. These detectors normally sense acid burns, and after the snake bites, the victim’s brain receives unrelenting signals of an acid-like burn.

“Bites from this snake are associated with really intense, unremitting pain,” said David Julius, PhD, the Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology & Medicine at UCSF, who led the research. “This work helps to explains why and gives us new tools for examining how our brains perceive pain.”

But  don’t break out the machetes to start slaughtering coral snakes.

There is also research that suggest certain subspecies venom can help treat epilepsy as well as breast cancer. We’ll have more on that soon but for now here is the article about the research on the Texas coral snake.

And although these snakes don’t rattle or show a white mouth to warn you, consider the toxins they can inject a big “Don’t Tread On Me!” declaration.

To read more click here.

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Ursus americanus

The tracks were so fresh I expected to see their maker appear at any second.

Nearly as wide as my two hands combined and nearly as long as my foot there was no doubt these were left by a very large black bear.

I kept my camera ready as any encounter would be up close and personal.

In a remote area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in northern California, I was at a stretch of river where huge boulders lined the shores, creating a rugged maze.

It was wall to wall granite with the ground being a mix of smaller rock and sand.

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A bear photographed by Al Weaver while hog hunting near Bay City, TX more than a decade ago. This bear is hundreds of miles from the Louisiana border and even farther from Mexico. How far had it wandered or are there more in Texas than previously thought?

The tracks that ended at a huge flat outcropping led me  close to the river. The view was stunning  and I took time to savor the moment but my quarry remained elusive.

An hour later I found myself a few hundred  yards above this location.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught slight movement.

Through the binoculars what looked at first like a bush turned out to be a black bear standing as if something had caught its attention too.

I am not sure if it was the same bear whose tracks I had followed.

Perhaps it had caught scent I left behind but one thing is for sure. The chill that ran down my spine at that moment reminded me of why I pursue wildlife and  on this occasion wildlife might have very well been pursuing me.

After all, I was in this majestic animal’s domain.

Ursus americanus is the most abundant bear on the planet with an estimated 600,000 scattered throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. They are a true wildlife conservation success story but not all is well.

Parts of their historic range are devoid of bear while some others are starting to see the first sign in decades.

Texas is a prime example.

Ursula americanus eremicus, the Mexican black bear, is protected from harvest in Mexico and over the last two decades they have been spilling into Texas from the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains.

Most of the population is centered around Big Bend National Park but there are verified bear sightings and road kills near Alpine and also as far east as Kerr County.

In fact, bear sightings in the Texas Hill Country have increased dramatically in recent years. One even paid fisheries biologists at the Heart of the Hills Hatchery near Ingram a visit.

A similar yet less documented return is happening in East Texas where black bears from Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma are crossing the state line. Most of these are subadult males searching out mates and in most cases they are striking out.

We did however verify at least one denning mother in Newton County dating back several years.

These are Ursus americans luteolus, the Louisiana black bear, an animal designated as a threatened species since 1992 under the Endangered Species Act but recently moved off of that list due to reported population increases.

Reader Jimmy Sligar submitted this photo of a young black bear from a game camera on his deer lease in East Texas.

Texans haven’t seen bears on a regular basis in more than a century so educating the public will be a big task for all who consider themselves fans of this iconic American animal.

Consider me one .

Over the years I have written dozens of articles and broadcast many radio programs promoting bear restoration in Texas. Working to a great extent in the hunting and fishing industry I have found this position slightly controversial at times but by and large most people have been very supportive.

You see when people learn to understand bears they respect them and when they respect them they do not mind sharing the woods with them.

Bears represent wildness and this writer will never forget the wildness I felt looking over the picturesque landscape in northern California and seeing that huge, stunning bear.

That’s the kind of encounter that leads me into the woods and will continue to do so. Let’s hope there are many more opportunities to encounter bears throughout America and even in my home state.

Their return has already begun. Let’s do what we can to help them along.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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Bears, Etc. will be one such organization doing their part to help the black bear. Next Wednesday they will be holding a very special event in Conroe. I look forward to attending. Maybe I’ll see you there. This should be a great presentation and is certainly for a wonderful cause.

Mottled Duck Mystery

The mottled duck has always had a soft spot in my heart.

They are a native duck of the Gulf Coast and always symbolized the brackish-intermediate wetland I love so much.

Growing up on the Gulf Coast of Southeast Texas they were a common sight of my youth and then sometime in my twenties they started to dwindle.

Now there are restrictive bag limits for hunters and much study of this beautiful but under appreciated waterfowl. The waterfowl conservation community has spent much time studying these species in the last 10 years and while looking over various studies one particular tidbit caught my attention.

mottled stamp

The Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge began outfitting mottled ducks with transmitters to track their movements in the mid 2000s. And according to refuge officials there have been some surprising results.

The results indicate that mottled ducks, which normally avoid open water, have begun spending extended time offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists suspect habitat loss and saltwater intrusion, both a result of coastal development, may be forcing the ducks out of their wetland habitats. Coastal research in other regions shows similar trends, indicating the problem may be more than just local.

The idea of a puddle duck like the mottled duck in the open waters of the Gulf seems strange indeed but the fact is there is still much to learn about this species but this study goes to show why it is important to learn about wildlife habitat and movements.

Without that knowledge managing species is impossible and with the continual growing pressure on our wildlife resources, good management is more important than ever.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

Jaguars in America: 5 Things No One Reports

Jaguars captured on game cameras in New Mexico and Arizona have captured a fair amount of media attention over the last decade.

A majestic species generally affiliated with the Amazon, jaguars are highly adaptable cats that fare just as well in desert mountain regions as they do as they do in dense rainforest.

The idea of jaguars crossing into the American Southwest seems odd for those with little understanding of the species which brings us to the first of five points never mentioned in media coverage.

    Jaguar Range: The historical range of jaguars goes all the way into western Louisiana and bleeds over into California to the West. As you can see looking at this map by cat research specialists Panthera (not to be confused with defunct metal band Pantera), that range has decreased dramatically.

jaguar range

    Rivers No Barrier: The jaguar is a water-loving cat and is arguably more comfortable in the water than even the tiger which has been portrayed as the world’s top water-loving large cat. Jaguars have been encountered swimming large stretches of the Amazon River and are regularly documented feeding on caimans (a type of crocodilian) in the water with a bite to skull nonetheless!
    Jaguars are “Black Panthers”: The term “black panther” is thrown around indiscriminately and in my 25 years as a wildlife journalist I have found most Americans relate it to black cougars. The problem is black cougars most likely do not exist or at least have not been proven to exist. There is however an American cat that produces black offspring and that is the jaguar. The condition is called “melanism” and it is not uncommon in jaguars. The large black cats seen in zoos, on television programs, etc. are other melanistic jaguars or leopards which can also have melanistic offspring.
    Size Matters: Jaguars are the world’s third largest cat behind the tiger and lion. Their size varies greatly throughout their range with the largest specimens living in parts of Brazil averaging 220 pounds. The largest on record was a male that weighed 326 pounds with an empty stomach. That is about the size of an average Bengal tiger.
    Texas Sightings: Over the last decade I have gathered several alleged jaguar sightings from Texas along the Rio Grande River region and into the Trans-Pecos. These sightings are under investigation but unlike New Mexico and Arizona there are no official trail camera programs attempting to study any possible movements into Texas. The Trans-Pecos is a huge area and is vastly uninhabited so it is possible there are jaguars touching Texas soil no one has seen.
    In terms of anecdotal evidence, I have two specific reports that after interviewing eyewitnesses lead me to believe they were most likely telling the truth.
    We will be doing numerous articles on jaguars this year and always appreciate reader feedback.
    For now check out this great clip from the World Wildlife Fund of a melanistic jaguar crossing the Amazon.

Chester Moore, Jr

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