Tigers Coming Back-In China!

Tigers are in my opinion the most beautiful creature on the planet.

While other animals take up far more of my focus as a wildlife journalist, tigers have always had a special place in my heart. In terms of sheer beauty, nothing comes close in my opinion.

Over the years, I have written numerous pieces on tiger conservation and the life history of these iconic cats.

An Amur (Siberian) tiger roaming the wild lands of China. (Photo Feline Research Center of National Forestry and Grassland)

I just got some great news from The Wildlife Conservation Society regarding the Amur (Siberian) tiger.

Scientists from Northeastern Forest University in Harbin, China, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), UC Davis, Amur Tiger National Reserve, World Wildlife Fund, and other groups recently published their results in the journal Biological Conservation, and say that four major forested landscapes – Laoyeling, Zhang-Guangcailing, Wandashan and the Lesser Khinghan Mountains may be able to support more than 300 Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) including 119 breeding females. .

WCS officials said at least 55 individuals identified in recent surveys.

To achieve the goal of 300-plus tigers in China, the authors say that large prey species, such as red deer and wild boar, need to be restored, along with extensive land-use planning, improving connectivity of habitat, reducing negative human impacts, and extensive international cooperation.

WCS officials said as many as 500 Amur tigers Amur tigers roamed throughout northeast China as late as the 1930s. However, by 2000, due to loss of habitat and prey combined with poaching, there were no more than 12~16 Amur tigers found along the border with Russia.

An Amur tiger in China takes time to groom itself in front of a trail camera. (Photo Feline Research Center of National Forestry and Grassland)

Since then, the Natural Forest Protection Project halted logging over much of the region and led to the relocation of forest workers out of the region. The creation of nature reserves, improved anti-poaching efforts, and compensation for human-tiger conflicts have further helped to ease the pressures facing tigers in northeast China.

Camera trap surveys from 2013 to 2018 detected a total of 55 individual tigers in the four forest landscapes in Northeast China, with an increase from 7 individuals in 2013 to 33 individuals in 2018 according to WCS reports.

During this same period, at least 20 cubs were born in northeast China. Amur tigers are distribute across 47813kmin four major landscapes, but the vast majority are found in the Laoyeling Landscape, where the Chinese government recently created the Northeast Tiger Leopard National Park along the border with Russia. At 14,600 km, this park represents the largest protected area for tigers in the world.

Seeing positive trajectory for tigers is exciting and something I plan on digging a little deeper into in the coming months.

Chester Moore

The Epic American Drought And Wildlife

For IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Inquiries: Text 409-920-2062 or email chester@chestermoore.com.

What’s happening across the Western United States is frightening.

As a wildlife conservationist, seeing the words “significant drought” over 1/3 of the Mountain West is beyond concerning. “Significant” is the designation above extreme.

It’s like the Spinal Tap amplifier that goes to 11 instead of 10.

Most of the rest of that region is in extreme drought with everything else in some level of drought conditions even after a monsoon season that provided rain to some areas in southern New Mexico and Arizona.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife has been dropping water to guzzlers in the desert to ensure desert bighorn sheep have water. We covered that here.

Without it, many of these sheep and other wildlife would die.

(Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

Now wildlife officials in Utah are looking to drop water in guzzlers at Antelope Island State Park in Utah’s Great Salt Lake as fresh water sources in the higher elevations preferred by the sheep are drying up.

Arizona, one of the nation’s driest states, has been hauling water during droughts for years will haul more than three million gallons in 2021. There saguaro cactus is beginning to die-off which will have a ripple effect on wildlife.

This drought is reflected in big way in wildfires.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 4,384,403 acres have burned so far in 2021. That’s compared to 2,919,926 acres in 2020 and we still have a couple of months of fire season.

A wildfire in New Mexico. (Photo US Forest Service)

We’re even starting to see some health issues with wildlife. An example is in Washington where 38 deer in Washington have tested positive for deadly blue-tongue. That state has been one of the hardest hit, especially in the area of temperature.

Some will argue, these are natural cycles and wildlife will just have to deal with it.

That’s a lame way of looking at things.

The wildscapes of our nation are anything but natural. We have dammed rivers, cut off travel corridors, restricted natural fire which makes healthier forest and breeds these super fires that are blazing right now and developed many of the best riparian areas.

That means we have a responsibility to aid wildlife when things we can’t control like temperature make a negative impact.

At the Wild Sheep Foundation’s (WSF) 13th Chapter and Affiliate (C&A) Summit in Lewistown, Idaho (June 25 & 26), a hat was passed to raise money to bring water to drought-stressed desert bighorn sheep herds in southern Nevada. 

A mature desert bighorn ram visiting a guzzler in southern Nevada. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

By the end of the C&A Summit according to WSF’s Keith Balfourd, eighty-two thousand dollars was raised.

This figure is now up to an incredible $182,000 from generous WSF chapters, affiliates, and individual WSF members.

That is difference-making money in the drought stricken Nevada desert and shows the kind of efforts we will have to make if this drought persists.

Forecasts shows this drought continuing until at least late fall.

We will continue our coverage and let you know where you can help in this situation.

In the meantime, let’s pray for rain and creative strategies to help wildlife in a trying time.

Chester Moore

The Bonefish Of Miami

Anglers travel the globe fishing for bonefish but did you know some of the biggest bonefish can be caught right outside of Miami, Fl?

Join Higher Calling Gulf Coast host Chester Moore as he talks with Capt. Mo Estevez about the amazing bonefish action in the Miami area’s Biscayne Bay.

Click here to listen.

The author with a big bonefish caught while fishing with Capt. Mo Estevez.

In this episode learn the following:

*Biscayne Bay’s unique ecosystem

*Catching bonefish on spinning gear

*Catching bonefish on the fly

*The story of a 14-pound bonefish & more!

Wildfires Impacting Jerusalem Area-(Report On Persian Fallow Deer/Zoo)—UPDATE!

UPDATE: We got a report from our friends at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo that skies are clear in the area.

“Reports are that the deer are okay. They have an area which is not burnt and has food,” said the zoo’s Rachael Risby Raz.

You can read our initial report on the fire situation below and learn more about the struggles with wildlife in Israel and how you can support the Persian fallow deer project.

Here’s a photo from this morning from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority showing one of the fallow deer bucks post-fire.

(Photo Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

Israel—A major wildfire is burning in the Jerusalem Hills area.

We were contacted about the fires this morning by our friends at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo who we partner with via donations to their important and successful Persian fallow deer restoration project.

An older female with a GPS collar (an earlier release from the Zoo’s breeding core) together with fawn who was born this year; another female whose neck we cannot see in the picture, so it is not possible to determine whether she was released from the Zoo or is a nature-born deer; and the fourth deer is a young nature-born deer. (Photo Israel Nature and Parks Authority.)

An article in The Jerusalem Post quoted Fire Chief Insp.-Gen. Dedi Simchithe saying the blaze was human-caused, although it was still unclear if it was an accident, due to negligence or intentionally sparked.

Other sources point directly to arson, which makes this even more tragic.

“The thick smoke from the fire was seen from Jerusalem as the skies darkened over the city,” said Rachael Risby Raz with the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

Zoo officials saw the smoke overhead and ashes fell at the zoo, which is around 15 kilometers away from where the center of the blaze was.

Today’s smoke-impacted view from the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

“Our thoughts went immediately to our Persian fallow deer, who are part of the Zoo’s successful re-introduction project in the Jerusalem Hills. The acclimatization enclosure for the project and the main area where the deer live is in the area of Nahal Sorek,” Raz said.

The Zoo conservation team were in touch with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who are their partners in this important endeavor, throughout the day and night.

“Luckily the fire did not go down from the direction of Har HaTayassim to the Nahal Sorek gorge. This is good news for our deer, they had a place to go. The vast majority of the area in which they are concentrated has not been damaged,” Raz said.

We will keep you updated as we believe this is one of the planet’s most important conservation projects.

This year zoo officials reported the breeding herd there had 13 fawns and there have been several generations of deer born in the wild.

Restoring this deer of the Garden of Eden to the Holy Land is a worthy project and one we recommend you support if possible.

Our prayers are with Jerusalem, Israel, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and their conservation projects.

To make donations to the Persian fallow deer restoration project click here.

Chester Moore

Water Drops Saving Nevada’s Desert Bighorns

Nevada is a facing an intense drought.

Southern Nevada in particular is in the grips of one of the worst droughts in decades, along with much of the Western United States.

While researching the drought for a series of articles on about its impact on wildlife, I noticed something.

The area I photographed this beautiful desert bighorn in Jan. 2020 for our Sheep Scrapbook Project was facing some of the worse conditions. Having a love for that part of the world, I dug deeper.

A desert bighorn ram (with an ear tag) photographed by the author in Nevada in 2020.

What I found out is the drought conditions are so bad in fact, officials with the Nevada Department of Wildlife are dropping water from helicopters to “guzzlers” set in the desert for bighorns and other wildlife.

Guzzlers collect water from rain and concentrate it in a water trough for animals to use during particularly arid conditions.

The following are my questions about the project and answers from Doug Nielsen, Public Affairs/Conservation Education Supervisor with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

A herd of bighorns at a guzzler. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

(Chester Moore) How much water was brought to the guzzlers?

(Doug Nielsen) Between June 2 and July 14, the department hauled 71,846 gallons of water to 20 different water developments or guzzlers. Most of those are in the extreme Southern Nevada area, but a couple are near Tonopah in the Central part of the state.  In 2020, that number was 167,000 gallons and it was distributed among 30 guzzlers.

How was the water put into the individual guzzlers?

Basically, the water is ferried by helicopters using a Bambi Bucket like those used to fight wildland fires. The helicopter pilot dips the bucket into a portable water storage tank and then flies the water into the remotely located guzzler. At the guzzler, the pilot drops the water into a fol-da-tank and from there it is pumped into the storage tank of the guzzler. In past years the water was dropped onto an apron, but this new method saves water and is much more efficient.

A water drop at a guzzler in the southern Nevada desert. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

How many sheep in the area could potentially be impacted?

The hardest hit area at the time was the Muddy Mountain-Black Mountain complex. Between the two ranges there are approximately 900 sheep, the largest concentration of sheep in the state.

A big desert bighorn ram visits a guzzler. (Photo Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife)

How does this drought compare to the 1996 drought there and the ones in 01-02 timeframe?

I spoke with Pat Cummings, field biologist in the Southern Region, and he said the two years of severe back-to-back drought are far worse than that of 1996. We had no monsoonal weather flow in 2019 or 2020, and any other rain storms were almost nonexistent. Though we had some monsoonal moisture in July, he said it is premature to consider Southern Nevada as being out of the drought. Some recharge of the water developments and springs has taken place, but there are still areas of significant concern. Those include the Hiko, Specter, Bare and McCullough mountain ranges.

In 2020 we went 240 days without measurable precipitation. So far in 2021, we have had only 13 days with rain and 2.8 inches of rain.

(Thanks to Doug for providing us with the great information and photos.)

This is the U.S. Drought Monitor’s drought map as of Aug. 12. You can see most of the West is in extreme drought. The dark red portions are considered “significant drought” which is above the extreme phase. Get full details here.

This is truly a monumental conservation effort and if the drought in Nevada continues, more water drops will certainly be necessary. Desert bighorns can drink up to a gallon a day and then you factor in other wildlife’s water demands and you can see the tremendous problem drought is causing in the wild lands of the American west.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife is doing all they can to conserve wild sheep under these challenging conditions as are other states facing similar scenarios.

We can do our part by supporting groups that offer support like The Wild Sheep Foundation and Nevada Bighorns Unlimited who help support sheep through funding, research and manpower efforts that aid state, federal and tribal agencies.

These are special animals and during this trying time all of who have a heart for them need to do our part to ensure their survival in all areas.

Chester Moore

Understanding the Majestic (And Frustrating) Permit

Join Chester Moore as he interviews Dr. Aaron Adams, Conservation & Science Director for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust about the misunderstood and mysterious permit.

These flats fish thrill (and frustrate) anglers throughout Florida and the Caribbean and are facing a number of conservation challenges.

Photo courtesy Dreamstime.

Want to learn more about permit? Don’t miss this one.

Click here to listen.

This episode is part 2 of our Flats Slam series that began last week as we focused on tarpon with Capt. Brian Barrera on the Higher Calling Gulf Coast branch of our podcast.

Listen to that episode here.

Seeking The Silver King-In Texas!

The tarpon, known by its fans as the “silver king”, is arguably the most prestigious nearshore sportfish in the world.

A tarpon is the logo of our Higher Calling Gulf Coast branch and is a species we are doing our best to raise awareness of in relation to conservation initiatives.

Don’t miss this episode of Higher Calling Gulf Coast as I interview Capt. Brian Barrera about fishing for tarpon in Texas.

If you’ve ever dreamed of catching the “silver king” in Texas, this is a can’t miss show.

This kicks off three weeks of programs on the Flats Slam.

Click here to listen.

Capt. Brian Barrera with a nice South Padre area Silver King. (Photo by Kelly Groce)

Keeping Sheep On the Mountain

“To put and keep wild sheep on the mountain”

That’s the mission statement of The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) and although it is a big, inspiring statement, it is also nuanced.

For those into wild sheep, visions of releasing bighorns from areas of abundance to locations that need population boosts immediately come to mind.

Translocation of sheep after all is the heart of bighorn management.

But it’s not the hardest part.

Keeping those sheep on the mountain is the greatest challenge in a world where things are changing rapidly and old threats still exist.

“Disease is still our number one threat,” said Gray Thorn, WSF President & CEO.

“And that’s one of the primary things we will be addressing during our Chapter and Affiliate Summit in Idaho.”

Thornton told me that when I visited WSF headquarters in Bozeman last week.

The author and WSF President & CEO Gray Thornton in front of the replica of the world record Rocky Mountain Bighorn at WSF headquarters. The horns are from a replica taken from a mold of the original horns and the hide is from another sheep legally acquired from a taxidermist.

As a WSF member and a wildlife journalist who closely follows all things sheep, it was great to visit the headquarters.

It’s a beautiful building and of course filled with wild sheep taxidermy including a replica of the world record Rocky Mountain bighorn but it’s certainly not massive.

For an organization that puts millions of dollars on the ground for sheep each year, one might expect huge offices with many employees but that’s not the case.

It’s a handful of people working extremely hard to make an impactful organization even moreso.

The Wild Sheep Foundation headquarters in Bozeman, MT. (Photo by Chester Moore)

“The COVID situation presented many challenges for us as it did for everyone else but we quickly pivoted making the best use of technolgoy and were able to make strides forward,” Thornton said.

This included a virtual expo that saw membership numbers increase and fundaising records fall.

In all, $4,488,500 was raised in three evening auctions from conservation permits according to WSF officials.

“Depending on the permit, eighty-five to one hundred percent of these funds are directed to these fish and wildlife agencies for wild sheep conservation, management, and enhancement programs.”

According to the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies 74 percent of all agency wild sheep conservation funding comes from an auction or raffle conservation permit.

An example of those funds being used for the group’s mission statement came with a 2021 reintroduction of bighorns into Montana’s Tendoy Mountains.

Translocation of sheep has allowed bighorns to be one of North America’s great comeback stories. This desert bighorn is about to be released at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Texas after being captured at Elephant Mountain WMA. (Photo by Chester Moore)

The sheep were driven overnight to Dell, MT, where they were released at dawn the next morning into the Tendoy Mountain Range according to WSF Communication & Marketing Director Keith Balfourd.

Additionally, efforts have also went toward keeping sheep on the mountain this year with a collaborative water project with the Texas Bighorn Society for desert bighorns and weighing in on domestic sheep grazing policy on public land.

The aforementioned disease issue comes directly from domestic sheep and goats.

There’s something about wild sheep that gets to a person when encountering them.

The author photographed this desert bighorn in Nevada in 2020. He is on a quest to photograph wild sheep in all states and territories by 2029.

Whether it’s drawing a dream tag to hunt Stone Sheep in British Columbia or photographing them across various states as I am doing, these animals are truly inspiring.

And it’s good to know there are people like WSF and it’s chapters and affiliates working hard to make sure these great animals have a place on the mountain today and in the future.

Visit the Wild Sheep Foundation’s website to learn more.

To subscribe to this blog and get many updates about wild sheep and other mountain wildlife, enter your email at the prompt on the top right of the page.

Chester Moore

Bison!

As the sun rose over the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, the silhouettes of American buffalo (bison) dotted the horizon.

Truly wild bison are a rare commodity and seeing them in person is a powerful experience when considering their nearly extinct status 120 years ago.

While slowly driving through this incredible setting, a couple of beautiful pronghorn caught my attention.

I pulled over to take some photos.

Another gentleman had just stopped to do the same and as we adjusted our lenses, his wife shouted from their truck.

“Bison!”

Does this bison look happy? This is about 30 seconds after he scared the author at nearly point blank range and then attacked a younger bull. (Photo by Chester Moore)

Turning around, we found ourselves nearly eye to eye with a massive bull bison.

And he looked angry.

Really angry.

The whites of his eyes showed as he grunted at the distance of about 15 feet which means we were about 1/2 second away from 1,500 pounds of fury.

We gently backed up and then a couple of other bison that just crossed the road caught his attention.

He immediately ran out and slammed into one of them. The other, younger bull struck back but then ran off leaving the big bull on its own.

He then proceeded to roll in the dirt, grunt and buck up and down like a bronco.

Yes, this was the same bison that walked right up to us a few seconds earlier.

Bison hurt more people in Yellowstone than any other animal and in fact a recent attack on a woman sent her to an emergency trip to an Idaho hospital.

People look at them as large cattle from the dairy farm because they are unafraid of people in the park.

It’s called confidence people, not docility.

As I type this at the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport, I can’t help but smile. It’s a memory from an amazing trip where the Lord blessed me with many opportunities to get boots on the ground conservation information.

I will bring it to you here and via the Higher Calling Wildlife podcast.

I’m well aware of bison dangers and in fact avoided fishing what looked to be an incredible spot in the Lamar Valley due to bison presence. Not only were there big bulls but lots of babies there.

Being between a momma bison, a calf and a fishing hole is not a good idea.

Bison babies are super cute but do not approach them. Mom and her herd friends will likely stomp you into a mudhole. (Photo by Chester Moore)

I fished elsewhere and did quite well.

This trip not only brought me information but clarity. Sometimes only being in wild places does that for me.

I’m just glad I’m writing a blog about my bison encounter instead of reading one someone else wrote.

“Wildlife Journalist Attacked By Bison” is not a headline I want to read any time soon.

Chester Moore

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Introducing Great White University

Me and my wife Lisa (a teacher of 20 years) are proud to announce Great White University.

We’re calling it “The Apex In Youth Ocean Wildlife Education”.

It will involve Zoom teachings, one-on-one interactive classes, home school classes and events and more centered on ocean wildlife education.

It’s for the young and young at heart.

Our first class is June 14-17 and it’s only $20 for four days of 90 minute teachings, lessons and activities each day and more. It’s called Dangerous Wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico and focuses on sharks, rays, barracuda, moray eels, octopus, box jellyfish and all kinds of Gulf dwelling creatures deemed as “dangerous”.

Are they really?

You’ll find out here.

This class costs only $20 and will be limited to only 50 people so book by clicking here now.

This will be the first of what we believe will be cutting-edge ocean wildlife teachings. I’ve been working on this for three years and have a format we believe will work even for kids who don’t like school and adults too. This format is all ages because there is no age limit to a love for ocean wildlife.

The author holding a surf board that was attacked by a great white shark off the coast of California. The board had been pulled behind the boat to entice shark encounters while the author was in the cage. He has had a lifelong fascination with sharks and ocean wildlife and is excited to bring a fun, informative and inspiring program to help others learn about ocean wildlife.

Our friend Sam did something that inspired us. She sent in a payment for two places and said she wanted to pay for two kids in our Wild Wishes program. Wild Wishes grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or a sibling. We are calling it our scholarship program. To date we’ve granted 120 of these special encounters.

We can only host 50 for this class to make it work with integrity for everyone and we would like to have 10 of our Wild Wishes kids participate. Two more stepped up to scholarship kids before I posted this so we have six spots left for scholarships.

Would you like to scholarship a kid from our Wild Wishes program? You can do it through our pay link here and simply put “scholarship” in the message prompt. If someone wants to pay for the rest of the scholarships it will be $120.

I have been working on this for three years and I am very excited about bringing it to people. It represents three years of special investigations and a lifetime of seeking out ocean wildlife.

I knew this was the right time as I just had the honor of breaking the story of a great white shark appearing in Texas waters. There will be much more coming.

Book now before it’s too late.

Stay tuned for more updates…

Chester Moore

You can subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the subscribe prompt at the top right of this page. You can contact Chester Moore by emailing chester@chestermoore.com. Subscribe to the podcast by visiting thehighercalling.podbean.com.

The Inspirational Voice Of Wildlife Conservation