I love cattle especially wild ones. There is something powerful and majestic about the bulls in particular.
Numerous species exist around the world but my favorite is the banteng of Southeast Asia.
I first learned of these while in college doing some studies on Australia’s wildlife. Banteng were introduced there in the 1830s and there are about 10,000 of them dwelling Garig Gunak Barlu National Park.
That is actually the largest population of wild banteng found anywhere. In their native Southeast Asia their numbers have dwindled.
There is a domesticated strain of banteng idenfited as “Bali cattle” and there has been some introducing them into the gene pool to help bring some diversity.
A study entitled Rapid development of cleaning behavior by Torresian crows on non-native banteng in Northern Australia (That’s a mouthful, huh?) shows some positives of their introduction
In this paper we report the observation of a rapidly developed vertebrate symbiosis involving ectoparasite cleaning by a native corvid of northern Australia, the Torresian crow, on a recently introduced bovid ungulate, the banteng. On three separate dates we observed a total of four crow individuals eliciting facilitation behaviours by a total of ten female banteng to assist in the removal of ectoparasites.
Most exotic introductions are considered a negative although in reality people would be shocked with which animals in their country are actually native. This one is at least proving interesting scientifically and benefiting a native species.
One of the animals we plan on acquiring for the next phase of the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center is a banteng . If anyone has any contacts here in the states please contact us.
And don’t worry. As much as I like beef, banteng will not be what’s for dinner.
That might not seem worthy of the exclamation point there but it needs to be said emphatically.
Over the last year I have examined at least a dozen bobcat photos people thought were cougars because the tail was longer than they expected.
The video below shows a bobcat captured on a game camera by friends of mine in Orange County, TX.
This particular bobcat has a tail longer than just about any I have seen but there are many of them out there with tails close to this. Some have little powder puff looking tails but most stretch out 3-4 inches. This one is probably 8-9 inches in length.
That is long for a bobcat but nearly as long as a cougar which has a tail nearly as long as the body.
I have no scientific way of estimation but I daresay 75 percent of alleged cougar sightings in the eastern half of the United States are bobcats.
I know for a fact there are cougars there too but bobcats are far more numerous and I know from personal experience how many people think they have a cougar photo but find out it is a bobcat instead.
This is no fault of their own. Wildlife identification studies are not a priority at schools and in fact game wardens even get very little wildlife identification education during their formal training.
I appreciate any and all game camera photos and if you have some you would like to have evaluated email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobcats are one of my favorite animals and I have had the pleasure to work with them in captivity, photograph them on many occasions and have probably seen 200 plus in the wild.
In fact on a peace of property near the set of John Wayne’s “The Alamo” near Bracketville, TX I saw five bobcats in one day.
Seeing them is fairly common for me but I always rejoice knowing I caught a glimpse of one of America’s most successful predators.
“That is next movie they need to make. We’ve got one about a killer shark but they need to make one about a killer gar,” said my Dad.
“Wouldn’t that be cool?” he asked as we sat on the side of the road between Bridge City and Port Arthur, TX fishing for alligator garfish.
At eight-years-of age I thought that would be epic to say the least and if any of the producers of such high art as “Sharktopus” are reading this blog, it very well could become the next SyFy Original.
Just sign those royalty checks to “Chester Moore” please.
Dad always liked to make me laugh and that certainly did but there certainly are not a bunch of garfish attacks to report.
There is however something quite interesting.
While “Jaws” is on the minds of beachgoers in Texas (our variety-bulls, lemons, blacktips) “Teeth” is soaking up some of the same salty waters.
Angler Marcus Heflin caught a sizable alligator garfish while fishing the surf at Sea Rim State Park at Sabine Pass along the Texas-Louisiana border.
This was the first gar I have heard of on the beach anywhere along the Gulf Coast although I have long suspected they are there.
As a child I had a collection of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazines and one of them had a profile of Sea Rim State Park-where Heflin caught the gar pictured above.
It had fishing hotspots and there were several marked for garfish in the surf.
Garfish are considered a freshwater species but do well along the Gulf Coast. I grew up fishing for them in Sabine Lake and surrounding waters, a bay that at its southern end is only seven miles from the surf.
Mobile Bay in Alabama is a hotbed of alligator garfish activity and they are present in numerous salt marshes along the Louisiana coast.
Still, you can find almost no references to garfish in the surf.
The question is just how common they are in Gulf waters and how far out do they go?
These are very mysterious fish with little known about their life cycles or habits in comparison to America fish for comparable size.
So, if you’r ever at the beach and see something that looks kind of like a mutated alligator swim beside you don’t worry.
You just have had an encounter with “Teeth”.
There is no danger to be concerned with except in my eight-year-old imagination where a ravaging gar seemed like an intriguing proposition.
There was something about those 1980s Fruit Loops commercials.
The debonair sounding “Toucan Sam” was and is a memorable icon of pop culture and was what initially got me interested in toucans.
After seeing them on my cereal box in the mornings I started looking them up in the personal wildlife book library I had accumulated and found them fascinating.
Fast forward to 1999 and I found myself in the rainforest of Venezuela and five feet away from this white-throated toucan on the shores of the massive Lake Guri.
I was mesmerized as I snapped this photo.
The unique design and beautiful contrast of light and dark was in my opinion the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.
Sure, cardinals and red-headed woodpeckers had more standard beauty but there was something special about the toucan-all toucans.
When we founded Kingdom Zoo in 2012 me and my wife Lisa knew we wanted at toucan.
We searched high and low to no avail so we did what we should have done to begin with. We prayed.
We also gave away plush toucans to needy children in the community as a way of showing Christ’s love but also believing that he who gives us given unto.
We recently had the opportunity to purchase a gorgeous male green aracari toucan. We named him “Papaya”.
This friendly and very active bird had his official debut last weekend at the Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center and seeing people’s reactions was special.
Most have never seen a toucan up close, only on the cereal box or perhaps in a distance enclosure at a zoo. Our micro zoo provides close interactions with animals and “Papaya” has become our number one bird ambassador.
He is a true treasure and I could not be happier.
Dreams do come true. Sometimes they come after profound revelation. Sometimes they are passed down from family members.
And sometimes they can even be founded gazing at a cereal box excited about the sugary snack inside.
And don’t give me any flack about GMOs and refined sugars. You know you were eating them too.
Outdoor photographer Gerald Burleigh is known widely in his home state of Texas for his whitetail deer photography as well as his images of the life cycles of waterfowl.
While setting a game camera to lure in feral hogs on a stretch of property near the Neches River in Southeast Texas, he came across something interesting.
An alligator found his bait pile and came in and ate corn and gorged itself on some old donuts.
Alligators are carnivores that will eat virtually anything that swims in front of them but mainly eat fish and turtles.
This one apparently has a sweet tooth.
Something else interesting about this video is the camera is not set directly by the water. This alligator had to walk a pretty good way to find the food.
Alligators will actually cover long distances during the mating period and some of the very largest alligators are found in ponds far from the main waterways where they have set up after arriving there to find no mates during breeding season.
These areas house some of the very largest alligators because they are detached from their main habitat. The biggest alligators are targeted during the alligator hunting season so many of the largest specimens are those that have forsaken coastal marshes, main river channels and other spots close to civilization.
Alligators can grow to impressive sizes but it takes the correct genetics, available food and cover and the ability to live their maximum life cycle which can be upwards of 80 years.
Hunting pressure targeting the very largest alligators takes away the largest adults so truly large alligators (over 11 feet) are become increasingly rare.
Alligator populations themselves are high but those of maximum size are not as common as they used to be.
This one looks as if it might not make it too much longer. Any alligator that is willing to gobble up donuts would no doubt had a hard time resisting a chunk of rancid chicken dangling over the water.
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.
There is something powerful about the eyes of a great white shark.
In the 1975 blockbuster “Jaws”, obsessed shark hunter Capt. Quint describes them as “lifeless eyes…black eyes…like a doll’s eyes”.
As an 18 footer turned its eye to look at me while on a cage diving expedition to the Farallon Islands I quickly disagreed with Quint. Black they were but lifeless the sharks’ eyes were not.
They were filled with purpose. To kill. To eat. To survive.
Long believed extinct in the Gulf of Mexico or at least an extremely rare visitor, it seems there are survivors.
In 2014, “Katharine” and “Betsy”, two young great whites were verified in Gulf waters.
Both of these sharks were fitted with SPOT transmitters by research/conservation group OCEARCH. These tags communicate with satellites and when the information from those tags if fed back to OCEARCH, it allows the public to view their movements at OCEARCH.org.
When, Katharine, all 2300 pounds of her, staked out the stretch of coastline off of Panama City Beach, Fla., people paid attention. More than four million logged onto the OCEARCH website, crashing the server the week and causing a media firestorm.
“Those two sharks, Katharine in particular, drew an enormous amount of attention to great white sharks in a very positive way and the interactive nature of the site, gave people a way to see great white movements take place in a way never before possible,” said OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer.
“We are solving the life history puzzle of ‘Jaws’ out of the Cape Cod area for the first time in history and it has been interesting to see unfold.”
Cape Cod is one thing but the Gulf of Mexico? That’s the domain of bull sharks and black tips, not great whites. Right?
Great white populations are on the rise due to 20 plus years of gill nets being banned along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. These nets caught and killed many juvenile great whites that are born on the East Coast and migrate into the Gulf to feed.
The shallow, nearshore areas along the eastern seaboard and portions of the Gulf Coast, especially Florida are “nursery” areas where the younger sharks spend their time. Both Katharine and Betsy were tagged off of Cape Cod in August 2013 and covered thousands of miles of water before entering the Gulf.
In 2005 I wrote an article called “Jaws in the Gulf” for Tide magazine recalling historical references and at the time a recent sighting. The article was a bit controversial as great whites in the Gulf seemed too magnificent to believe.
Now it has been vindicated. But that’s not the point. Seeking out the mysterious is a big part of what we do.
The point is the most iconic shark in the planet is proven to inhabit the Gulf and could be on the rise. Fishermen and conservationists need to know so these great predators can be protected.
NOAA has some extremely interesting older data on great whites in the Gulf of Mexico. Their earliest recorded white shark was off the coast of Sarasota, Fla on a set line in the winter of 1937. Another specimen was caught in the same area in 1943.
In February 1965, a female was captured in a net intended for bottlenose dolphins at Mullet Key near St. Petersburg. In addition, National Marine Fisheries Service officials reported 35 great whites as bycatch in the Japanese longline fishery in the Gulf from 1979 through 1982.
Those sharks died but last year the first great white ever known to be caught from the surf was taken by an angler in Panama City Beach, Fla.
Instead of killing it, he fitted it with a tag, photographed and released it.
Knowing about great whites, their rarity and conservation problems is crucial so great whites meet happy endings when encountered by anglers-the user group most likely to see them.
It might seem counterintuitive to save something that can and occasionally does eat humans. But the fact is we need things like great white sharks to keep us humble, to remind us, we are vulnerable and to keep us in a sense of wonder.
That was the state I was in gazing out onto the Gulf of Mexico while fishing the 61st St. Pier in Galveston, TX with my Dad at age 12.
“It’s a shame we don’t have a lot of great whites off our coast,” I told him.
“Maybe we do. We just haven’ found them yet,” Dad replied.
Dad is gone now and I sure would like to tell him, they have been found. Great whites dwell the Gulf of Mexico and you never know. There might have been one cruising the surf just beyond that pier on that night so long ago.
In other words, have they become the latest large wild creature living quite cozily within the city limits of the largest cities in the nation?
The answer is “yes”.
Right now there are sizable feral hog populations Dallas-Forth Worth and Houston in my home state of Texas and also around Baton Rouge, La. and a number of sizable metro areas in Florida.
I believe what we are about to see is cities harboring some absolutely monster-sized hogs.
In the past I have written and lectured on what I call “Monster Hogs” which are any weighing more than 500 pounds. Such animals are few and far between but some of our cities offer all of the right ingredients to make it happen.
There is adequate habitat, food and cover and large boars in particular which tend to be solitary are great at remaining hidden. They may in fact possess more “intelligence” than any wild animal in North America.
Add to this a lack of hunting pressure.
Hogs are popular with hunters and in fact, have superseded whitetail deer as the most harvested animal in Texas with a whopping 750,000 new killed annually according to Texas AgriLife. Louisiana and Florida also support a huge hog hunting culture.
The fact that firing guns in city limits is a no-no will give hogs with monster genes the opportunity to live to maximum potential.
This is where it will get interesting.
Sightings will be elusive but these creatures will be seen perhaps in schoolyards near children or eating Fifi” the poodle as granny takes it for a stroll in the park.
We are fielding increasing reports from shocked citizens seeing normal-sized hogs in greenbelts and suburbs but how will the public react to seeing a boar just shy of average grizzly proportions(600 pounds) strolling down main street?
The cottonmouth is the most feared snake of the American South.
With a reputation for a short temper, this stout pit viper often flashes the white of its mouth to say “Don’t Tread On Me”.
Wise people don’t.
I have dealt with cottonmouths on hundreds of occasions and actually found some of them to be quite docile but the one in this photo was not.
It rose up about a foot of the ground in an almost cobra-like stance. Actually it was sort of a cross between a western diamondback rattlesnake’s “s” position and a cobra.
The snake in question is the biggest I have ever worked with and is nearly four feet in length.
Another interesting thing about this particular snake is that unlike most cottonmouths I have worked with, it did not want to maintain its position and lash out. It lunged at me while conducting the photo shoot and kept advancing forward.
One of the things that continually amazes me about the amazing creatures the Lord graced us with is individuality. Most people, including those into wildlife, look at snakes as all one in the same. A snake is a snake is a snake…or something like that.
In reality there are vast differences among individuals in a population and also from region to region. The cottonmouths I encounter in the Pinewoods of East Texas do not tend to be as aggressive as the ones along the Texas coast.
In addition it is virtually impossible to get those I find along the Interstate 12 corridor in East Texas/Southwest Louisiana to show their white mouth while the ones just north and south of there do it frequently.
One of the intriguing things as a journalist pursuing wildlife is that we cannot interview them like I might a wildlife biologist so we spend as much time in the field as possible shooting photos and videos to capture a profile of a given species.