In the area near my home in Southeast Texas, we saw a tremendous amount of wild game movement seeking cover from the cold and water as most ponds and shallow canals were frozen.
On the second night of the freeze, I turned the corner off of a farm to market road heading toward my house. It was about 10 at night and I saw a larger boar (200 pound class) standing on the side of the road.
I slowed down, grabbed my phone and took this picture as it crossed the road.
This photo is taken about 1/4 mile from a high school. It’s only 1/2 mile from a neighborhood.
I’ve been talking about big hogs in suburban and urban areas for several years now. Well, here’s one that seemingly showed up in my neighborhood to say, “You’re right”.
What I noticed were the huge tusks.
By the way, here’s a dirty little secret about the tusks of boars.
When you see a boar mounted, the tusks are almost always pulled out of the jawline. Most of the tusk (2/3 or more) is in the jawline. So, when you see a mounted hog with five inch tusks, there were probably only two inches protruding the mouth.
This hog had 3.5-4 inches of tusks protruding from its mouth.
When I got home and looked at the pic, I noticed something unusual with the back left leg of the hog. It almost looks as if its deformed.
Is that a motion blur of some kind? That’s certainly possible and I’m leaning that direction with my opinion.
Or is there some kind of weird deformity or injury here?
Higher Calling Wildlife® hosted by wildlife journalist Chester Moore on the Waypoint Podcast Network recently received some major honors.
At the Press Club of Southeast Texas Awards, Higher Calling Wildlife took top honors in the news category for the “Man Attacked By Hog” episode.
In addition, his “Wild Sheep Pandemic” public service announcement took first place in the Public Service Announcement category and was written, narrated and edited by Moore to raise awareness to the issue of pathogen/disease transmission between domestic and wild sheep.
He also took first place for the following categories:
*Chester’s program “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI, took first place for radio talk show for an episode he did on Texas’ desert bighorns with Froylan Hernandez, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Desert Bighorn Sheep Program leader.
*Travel writing for “Sea Flats Safari: Seeking The Flats Slam In The Florida Keys” articles in Hunter’s Horn from theHouston Safari Club Foundation.
*Environmental writing for Chester’s in-depth work on wild turkey restoration in East Texas here at Higher Calling Wildlife®.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by a prestigious group of media professionals like the Press Club of Southeast Texas. Getting honored for broadcasting about wildlife conservation is really exciting”, Moore said.
Higher Calling Wildlife® received another major honor as the program was ranked one of the top wildlife conservation podcasts on the planet by Feedspot. In the 2021 rankings, the program (in its first year) ranked in the top 20.
“I just received an update that we are now the number 10 wildlife conservation podcast on the planet ranked by traffic, social media followers, authority & content. This kind of thing motivates me to work even harder and to use the God-given gift of communication to forward the cause of conservation,” Moore said.
According to movifree.org, Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M. ovi) is a bacterial species commonly found in the nasal cavity and sinuses of apparently healthy domestic sheep and goats.
It is transmitted to wild sheep and goats (bighorn sheep, thinhorn sheep, and mountain goats) via nose-to-nose contact and, less commonly, aerosol/droplet transmission. In bighorn sheep and very likely thinhorn sheep, M. ovi has been associated with large all-aged die-offs due to pneumonia, which is often followed by years of lower lamb birth and survival rates that can have devastating population impacts.
The two films were rallying cries at a two-day summit of the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) and its Chapters and Affiliates in San Antonio, TX.
Hosted by WSF Affiliate, the Texas Bighorn Society (TBS), the goal was to galvanize, organize and strategize wild sheep conservation.
“Leaders and delegates of our chapter and affiliate network convene every year in a one-tent, one-campfire gathering to address challenges and opportunities for wild sheep conservation across North America and internationally,” said Gray N. Thornton, President, and CEO of WSF.
Experts from around the country discussed many items, ranging from fundraising to engaging use of social media, but was M .ovi was front and center.
From capture and removal plans to testing and treatment of domestic sheep herds in bighorn country, speaker after speaker tackled this topic.
Froylan Hernandez, Desert Bighorn Sheep Program Leader with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), shared the latest on sheep in the Trans-Pecos.
That included drought-related issues and research showing non-indigenous aoudad carry M. ovi and are a growing threat to bighorns and other wildlife through food and habitat competition.
Taking a practical approach that considers the needs of private landowners as well as bighorns, TPWD is engaging the issue directly.
Other issues are impacting sheep as well. Thinhorns are feeling the impacts of climate change in Alaska and Canada. Migration corridors are being looked at and predation always looms as a growing threat.
The challenges are obvious, but discussion and actions taken at the summit were urgent and optimistic.
Despite recent die-offs, Texas is still just below historic (1800s) level desert bighorn populations thanks to the efforts of TPWD, TBS, WSF, and others.
New Mexico has seen a big shift in numbers to the positive over the last few decades and Mexico is experiencing a renaissance of sorts in desert bighorn sheep conservation and hunting.
Upgrade is the goal, but challenges continue to rise.
“We’re going to face those challenges and dare to do epic stuff,” Thornton said.
“We’re going to continue the legacy of putting and keeping wild sheep on the mountain and collaboratively we can make it happen in a big way.”
That was exemplified at the wrap-up dinner and auction that saw thousands of dollars raised for TBS water projects in West Texas.
A particular herd of desert bighorns has taken residence in a remote area near the Mexico border. And with current and historic drought an issue there, these projects could be lifesaving.
But that wasn’t all.
Just before the night was over, Thornton announced The Iowa Chapter of WSF sought to fund a special project in Nebraska.
A small but impressive herd of Rocky Mountain bighorns lives in the northwestern corner of the state and the goal is to translocate some to another area with suitable habitat.
With disease already an issue there, the hope is to spread healthy animals into other areas and expand the population.
More than $100,000 was raised with a $50,000 donation from WSF and the rest pledged from numerous chapters and affiliates.
It was an inspiring way to end an event that saw selfless dedication to a wildlife resource highlighted from the Yukon to Colorado and from Arizona to Wyoming.
From Stone sheep to California bighorns, no species or subspecies was left unmentioned, and each chapter and affiliate seemed focused on not only maintaining but growing sheep populations in their state.
This event was a major victory for hunter-conservationists.
It was evident without the interests of hunters and the funding that comes through WSF, its chapters, affiliates, and state/provincial/tribal sheep tags, these animals could easily slip into obscurity.
And that is inspiring because the commitment from everyone in the room was real and passionate.
And that’s a major victory for wild sheep.
For animals facing so many threats, it will take zeal and commitment to see them through.
And those two forces were alive and well at the summit.
Conservationists from the United States, Canada, and Mexico left inspired for the cause of wild sheep.
There’s much work to do but there’s a powerful group of allies to make it happen.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) is currently racing through Congress with unprecedented bipartisan support. RAWA could bring $50 million to the state to help protect wildlife, restore land and give Texans more ways to enjoy the outdoors.
Help is needed to get RAWA to the finish line. The public is encouraged to contact their U.S. senators and representatives to vote “yes” for this important legislation according to officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
On a national level, RAWA would provide $1.4 billion in dedicated annual funding for proactive collaborative efforts by state and tribal wildlife conservation initiatives to support at-risk wildlife populations and their habitats. The funding would come from existing revenues without new taxes or government programs.
State agencies throughout the country have identified 12,000 species in need of conservation assistance in federally approved State Wildlife Action Plans. These plans would help guide spending from RAWA. Additionally, tribal nations would receive $97.5 million annually to fund proactive wildlife conservation efforts on tens of millions of acres of land. At least 15 percent of the resources would be used to recover species listed as threatened or endangered.
“The litany of ways natural resources bolster the Texas economy and improve our quality of life is seemingly endless,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“Studies show property values can increase up to 20 percent when adjacent to natural areas. Natural buffers make coasts and communities more resilient to intense storms and flood events, thereby protecting our citizens and saving billions of dollars in recovery costs. While it would do much to protect fish and wildlife that need it most, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would also mean a long-term investment in the public health and well-being of all Texans, as well as stewardship of our home ground.”
More Rogue Waves (Wild Story!)
A few weeks ago, I mentioned research on rogue waves in bay systems and ship channels.
The response has been wild!
I will be doing a major feature in Texas Fish & Game in the July/August issue on the topic but thought I would share an account I just received here.
This one is quite intense and it comes from Dan Elder.
Two years ago on a Sunday morning my brother and I were wade fishing on the North side of the ship channel between Port Aransas and Corpus Christi.
“We looked to our left and saw an enormous wave approaching us that seemed like a mile away. It was a perfect wave, tall and breaking. As it approached, we could see dolphins jumping and riding the wave. It looked to be 6-10 feet tall and we thought it was some form of tidal wave. We had no idea what we were seeing and ran toward the shore line from chest deep water. We ran frantically because we thought we were going to die. As we finally got to the very shallow water (10 minutes of running), the wave hit, knocking my anchored boat about 60 yards, and hitting us (who were at waters edge with a 2 or 3 foot wall of water.”
“We then looked toward Port Aransas and saw the very large ship and realized the cause of the wave. Full cargo of oil going too fast down the channel. We called and reported the event to the Coast Guard.”
Since that time, I have seen a similar event from my boat. Same location, but wave not as large. This is a busy sea lane with many small boats and some wade fishermen. I don’t know if there is a speed limit for these ships, but there should be because the wave created in the first incident could have easily swamped a small boat. “
After posting an article at fishgame.com asking for rogue wave stories, I got an email from David Clark, the Recreational Boater Safety Representative for the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee in the Houston- Galveston area.
He is also Chairman of a Working Group that was formed in early 2021 to increase recreational boater awareness of the waves generated by ships transiting the Houston Ship Channel.
“We designed signage that will be placed at the boat ramps and other locations around the Galveston Bay Complex. The signs are being manufactured now and installation should begin in May. Currently, 5”x7” cards of the sign graphic are being displayed, along with other boating safety literature, at bait shops, marinas, fishing tackle stores, etc., in the area. The signs will have a QR code that directs people to the Recreational Boater Resources area of the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee’s website,” he said.
As far as coastal stories go, this is in my opinion on par with the award-winning great whites of the Gulf Coast series of articles we have published. It is deeply interesting.
What’s coming in the next issue will be a truly unique look at situations too many anglers find themselves in more frequently than I even thought.
And a personal encounter with one of these rogue waves in the Sabine system is what inspired a look into the issue.
The story hopes to raise awareness and save lives.
And it might just send cold shivers down your spine.
Chester Moore is an award-winning wildlife journalist and conservationist. He is Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game magazine and contributes to Sports Afield, Hunter’s Horn, Deer & Deer Hunting, Tide, The Lakecaster and many others. He is host of “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and of The Higher Calling podcast.
He is author of fifteen books including Hog Wild: Hog Hunting Facts, Tips & Strategies, Texas Waterfowl and Flounder Fever. Chester is a lifelong hunter and angler who enjoys everything from bowhunting wild turkeys to surf fishing for sharks to fly fishing for rainbow trout.
He was awarded the Advocatus Magni Award in 2020 from the National Wild Turkey Federation for his work with wild turkeys, the Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy award in 2017 for his work with children and wildlife and was named a “Hero Of Conservation” by Field & Stream magazine. Altogether he has won more than 150 awards for conservation, writing, radio and photography.
On the program Moore will talk about wild turkeys ranging from their life habits o conservation issues.
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Yesterday I exchanged texts with a private biologist in Texas who owns land in the Hill Country and surveys everywhere from East Texas to remote desert in the Trans Pecos.
What’s happening in my home state is bad, but it’s even worse in other places.
The following is from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Central Washington, Idaho, and northwest Montana also saw increases in drought extent or severity as short-term dryness continues to build upon long-term moisture deficits extending back to last year. Many parts of southern Idaho, and the rest of the West, have set records for the driest 3-month period (January to March) going back 100 years or more. Meanwhile near record warmth increased evaporative demand from plants and soils.
Farther south, extreme drought expanded in parts of California, Nevada, and New Mexico while moderate and severe drought expanded across Arizona. In California, Cooperative Extension reports impacts to agriculture including reduced forage, livestock stress, decreased water allocation, and the selling livestock earlier than normal. Data such as reduced stream flows and declines in satellite-based vegetation health and soil moisture indicators confirm these reports.
This is already having a big impact on wildlife. As early as last summer, wildlife officials in Nevada in conjunction with partners like The Wild Sheep Foundation were dropping water on manmade guzzlers (water tanks) to supplement water for desert bighorns and other wildlife.
There are concerns across much of Texas for wild turkey and quail production in much of the state.
This will end up being the United States biggest wildlife story of 2022 and we will do our best to keep you up to date.
Helping Asian Elephants
Since 2007 I have been writing about the need to get more attention to Asian elephants and their dire conservation needs.
There are literally 10 times as many African elephants yet they seem to get the bulk of attention.
I was excited to learn of the Center of Asian Elephant Conservation at the St. Louis Zoo.
Check out what they’re doing.
The Center for Asian Elephant Conservation’s partnership with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and others will significantly enhance our scientific understanding of rewilding elephants. Through a ground-breaking research project based in Myanmar, a framework will be developed for elephant release that incorporates a diversity of scientific approaches at all decision stages. To test this framework, approximately 30-50 elephants will be released into the wild in the near future to gain a deeper understanding of which animals are most likely to succeed in the wild and which management choices can ensure success. This project will be a tool for environmental managers to use when designing future elephant reintroduction programs across Asian elephant range countries.
Between 2005 and 2021, they contributed more than $420,000 to the International Elephant Foundation to support Asian elephant conservation in Asia and has supported projects in Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India.
The Zoo is also eading the fight against Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV), a viral infection that affects elephants in the wild and in zoos, by contributing to prognosis and treatment protocols that have saved elephants. In 2021, the Zoo established its own EEHV lab to further our commitment to fighting this disease.
Growing up in South Florida, Emily and Amanda Gale, The Gale Force Twins, discovered their love and passion for the water.
Last weekend I had a chance to hang out with them and interview them for the Higher Calling Wildlife podcast at the Hunt-Fish Podcast Summit.
“At an early age, we started fishing off the docks of Islamorda wanting nothing more than to go deep sea fishing. We attended the University of Miami, earning degrees in Microbiology and Immunology while competing on the track and field team as pole vaulters. The two of us spent our summer breaks and long weekends working on a busy fishing charter boat out of Key West,” they said.
“It was there that we finished our sea time, honed in on our skills and earned our USCG 50 Ton Captains Licenses. With that we started our own business, Gale Force Twins LLC.”
Upon graduating, the girils left the academic world to pursue careers in the sportfishing industry.
“After a few years of running our own charter business. We began vlogging our adventures as female captains on the water. The response was exponentailly positive. We now film, edit and produce educational yet entertaining videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Although each video is unique they all share the same goal: to Educate, Explain and Entertain. We take pride in keeping our pages family friendly while we take our viewers with us to experience the variety of fishing opportunities that the world has to offer.”
The folks at Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC were kind enough to ask if I wanted to release one of the Rio Grande turkeys I had been photographing them release on the Rafter K Ranch. It was cool being on this side of a release. They are working on a TPWD-permitted turkey restoration project.
I never take moments like this for granted and thank God for them in a very literal sense.
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*Population estimates in Kentucky and hunting opportunities.
*Travel and migration issues
*Opportunities for future elk restoration
*Plus, much more.
Rogue Waves In Channels and Bays
A large segment of our readership fishes along the Gulf Coast of the United States.
And due to my own experience I have been conducting an investigation on large rogue waves produced by oil tankers and other large cargo ships.
These can be life threatening so I am raising awareness to the issue through Texas Fish & Game as well as a future edition of the podcast.
Here’s an encounter I shared in a recent story at fishgame.com.
Reader Chris Polnick recently shared this harrowing encounter with us.
“Across from the dike quite a few years back, a buddy and I were doing some night fishing. We were out at the end of the small jetty. The waters were fairy calm. We were out there a few hours and I estimate the water line at the time to be at least three feet below the top of the jetty. All of a sudden a wave hit the jetty and the water pulled way back off the rocks and wave number was enough to splash us,” he said.
Polnick said as the water pulled even further back the second wave had just enough time to grab what we could just before the third wave washed across the top of the jetty, luckily only about mid-shin level.
“Luckily for us we were able to maintain our footing. Much higher and we would have been pushed off the jetty for sure. We lost some tackle boxes a rod and a few other items. You don’t think much about a life jacket on the jetty but we came real close to needing one that night!”
Have you ever encountered a wave like this in a bay or channel? If so, please share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sharing your story could help save someone’s life.
Fatal Grizzly Bear Attack
According to a report at CNN.com, a grizzly bear fatally attacked a father of four in Montana.
Sheriff Brad Bichler of the Park County Sheriff’s Office told CNN Craig Clouatre, 40, was hiking with a friend Wednesday in the Six Mile Creek area, which is about 20-25 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, when they split up.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I am writing this update. After an extensive search this morning we have located Craig,” Bichler said in a Facebook post.
“It appears he had an encounter with a grizzly and unfortunately did not survive,” Bicher’s post said.
Grizzly numbers are rising in Montana and Wyoming and black bear numbers are increasing across much of their range. Many times these are attacks are simply people being in the wrong place at the wrong time and meeting the wrong bear.
We were excited to get an update from our friend Rachael Risby Raz with the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem about the Persian fallow deer restoration project we have supported for the last eight years.
At the beginning of March, we released a large group of nine Persian Fallow deer from the breeding center at the Zoo into the wild at the Nahal Sorek Nature Reserve in the Jerusalem hills.
Three females and six males were released, and of these, seven deer were fitted with GPS tracking collars.
In the past, only the females are fitted with GPS collars. This is because the males’ necks can expand during the breeding season which means that the collars can snap and break.
This year we have acquired special elastic collars that expand when needed and thus were able to fit collars to some of the males as well.
Nadav Ganot, the Zoo’s conservation project coordinator, reports that all the deer are doing well in the acclimatization enclosure and in the coming weeks, the gates to the enclosure will be opened and the deer will be free to go into the wild. This process usually takes a few days.
The project is in partnership with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Special guests for the event include Gray Thornton, President & CEO The Wild Sheep Foundation, Renee Thornton, Chair Women Hunt, Dale Rollins (Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch), Brittany Perry, biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation, Gale Force Twins (Emily and Amanda), Captain Stacy Lynn, Captain Eric Trout, Heroes On the Water, Laura Lindsey and Camille Null.
We will post a special updates with links to the first podcast to come from the event. All podcasters will interview the special guests and there will be special round-table discussions as well.
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A monster black bear has been captured and relocated in Tennessee.
A 500-pound black bear living near Tusculum college in Greeneville had become habituated to human and unnatural foods and was relocated to a remote area of the Cherokee National Forest according to officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
Wildlife Sgt. David Carpenter said the bear had regular access to garbage, birdseed, and pet food had and been in the area for a few years but ramped up its activity and property damage last year on the agency’s Facebook page.
Wildlife Officers decided to trap it then due to the increasing potential for negative interaction, but were unsuccessful after the bear changed its travel routine. Recent activity indicated it was back to its old ways and Officers Ryan Rosier, Austin Wilson, and Sgt. Carpenter located the bear in a small vacant wood lot and were able to free-range tranquilize it. They worked the bear up and requested the assistance of the Greeneville Fire Department to help move it to the transport cage due to its size. They were glad to help and were able to use some of their specialized equipment to expedite the process.
Kudos to TWRA officials for the successful relocation of a monster bear and reminding us how big black bears can get.
The Most Dangerous Thing In The Woods
A couple of years ago someone asked me what was the most dangerous thing to encounter in the woods.
Since I’ve written and broadcasted extensively on cougars, snakes, feral hogs and bears they were expecting one of those as the answer.
“People, ” I said.
“There is nothing more dangerous than people, especially in remote forests and mountainous regions.”
Deep woods can sometimes mean big dangers. (Public Domain Photo) The answer came from collecting stories as a journalist over the years and my own personal experiences which I will discuss in upcoming posts and broadcasts.
The stories are omnipresent.
Take for example the caller to my radio program “Moore Outdoors” on Newtalk AM 560 KLVI who found a body burning while teal hunting with his son south of Houston.
Another caller revealed that in the 70s he and his father were out night fishing near High Islalnd, TX and see someone against the shoreline burying something and decided to leave.
Turns out it was monstrous serial killer Dean Corll who brutalized dozens of teenage boys.
Remote areas are often the most peaceful but due to the isolation can be extremely dangerous.
My goal is to educate people on what can happen in these areas and how to be prepared so that all deep woods hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing trips are safe.
That will require bringing to light some uncomfortable facts. And it will also involve creating a system of proactive safety.
I see these human-related threats falling into four categories.
*Idiot Hunters: These are those rare , unethical, clueless hunters who should not be in the woods (and give the rest of us a bad name). Every years stories of people shooting someone because they heard something coming through the bushes. This is probably statistically the most dangerous human threat because of the widespread nature of hunters in America.
*Poachers: Encountering a poacher in the woods can be dangerous if they assume you will turn them in or if you make the mistake of confronting them instead of law enforcement handling the duties. It’s not as dangerous as it is in Africa where organized crime and even terror cells are involved in high stakes rhino and elephant poaching but it is a potential threat.
*Drug Trade: Finding meth labs and pot farms is not good. People do not want their operations found out and will go to any length to stop someone from squealing.
*Predators: This is the highest level. This is coming across someone hunting humans whether to rape, kill or terrorize.
I will be doing a podcast series on this topic. Have you had a crazy human encounter in the woods or on the water?
Sharing your encounter might help save someone’s life.
Drugs In Bonefish
A three-year study by Florida International University (FIU) and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) has discovered pharmaceutical contaminants in the blood and other tissues of bonefish in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys.
“Coastal fisheries face increasing threats associated with human-based contaminants,” said Jim McDuffie, BTT President and CEO.
“Pharmaceuticals are an often overlooked dimension of water quality and their presence in South Florida bonefish is cause for concern. These contaminants pose a significant threat to the flats fishery, an important part of Florida’s recreational saltwater fishery, which has an annual economic impact of $9.2 billion and directly supports 88,500 jobs.”
Since the study began in 2018, FIU scientists and BTT research associates, in partnership with Sweden’s Umeå University and the University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), have sampled 93 fish in South Florida, finding an average of seven pharmaceuticals per bonefish, and a whopping 17 pharmaceuticals in a single fish. The list includes blood pressure medications, antidepressants, prostate treatment medications, antibiotics, and pain relievers. Researchers also found pharmaceuticals in bonefish prey—crabs, shrimp and fish—suggesting that many of Florida’s valuable fisheries are exposed, and not only the bonefish fishery.
At a BTT panel event in Tallahassee, FL, lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Rehage presented the study’s findings.
“These findings are truly alarming,” said Dr. Rehage. “Pharmaceuticals are an invisible threat, unlike algal blooms or turbid waters. Yet these results tell us that they are a formidable threat to our fisheries, and highlight the pressing need to address our longstanding wastewater infrastructure issues.”
Approximately 5 billion prescriptions are filled each year in the US, yet there are no environmental regulations for the disposal of pharmaceuticals worldwide.
Pharmaceutical contaminants originate most often from human wastewater and are not sufficiently removed by conventional water treatment. They remain active at low doses, can be released constantly, and exposure can affect all aspects of fish behavior, with negative consequences for their reproduction and survival. Pharmaceutical contaminants have been shown to affect all aspects of the life of fish, including their feeding, activity, sociability, and migratory behavior.