The Future Of Conservation Journalism

This is your chance to invest in conservation journalism and to be an extension of this blog.

I am a wildlife journalist/outdoor writer with a heart and proven track record for conservation coverage.

Investigating the most in-depth part of conservation requires being on location and when you see stories here of me in the Rockies, on the Lower coast of Texas or in Florida no one paid my expenses.

That was all on me.

A common misconception is that all of this is underwritten by media companies but that’s not the way it is.

It’s getting tougher and tougher with prices of everything rising so I am trying to get others to invest in conservation through helping with my travel expenses for the first half of 2021.

You can donate here through Gofundme.

The money will be used for airfare, hotel and rental car (when needed). I have trips to Arizona for Gould’s turkey, jaguar and wild sheep lined out and Florida for a variety of coastal issues.

Some of the particular aspects of these issues literally no one is working on so we’re breaking ground and trying to raise aware awareness for the betterment of the resource.

Any help is appreciated. If you don’t know who I am and what links I have to conservation here are some of my awards

Any donation is appreciated. Click here to donate.

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“Advocatus Magni Award” from the National Wild Turkey Federation-TX (2020)

“Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy Award” Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association (2017)

“Conservationist of the Year” from Texas Soil & Conservation District (2013)

“Hero Of Conservation” Field & Stream Magazine (2006)

“Conservation Communicator Of The Year” Sportsman’s Conservationist of Texas (1994)

“Youth Conservation of the Year” Sportsman’s Conservationist Of The Year (1993)

In addition I have won more than 150 awards for writing, photography and radio from a variety of organizations including 10 awards in 2021 by the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association.

By God’s grace and a deep passion He put in me I have been able to do this. With your help I can continue.

Sincerely,

Chester Moore

Horse Stabbing Eerily Similar to 2020 killings

Another Texas horse has been killed under very mysterious circumstances.

This time the horse was owned by Port of Port Arthur Commissioner Randy Martin and killed at his feed store, The Commissioner’s Corral Feed Store on West Port Arthur Road.

It was stabbed to death according to a report from KFDM.com. You can watch the news report here.

This is eerily similar to a series of horse killings in 2020 we reported on here at Higher Calling Wildlife.

person s hand on white horse s face
Photo by Tatiana on Pexels.com

Last summer in Pearland, TX five horses were killed in the span of a month in one neighorhood and and authorities confirmed at least one of those was stabbed like Commissioner Martin’s horse. Exact means of death in the series of killings was not released to the media.

Those horses also had their meat taken and that was not the case in the Port Arthur killing.

The Pearland killings are likely tied to a black market meat trade that has been uncovered in Florida where these types of slaughters have been going on for several years.

But meat harvest is not the only motive behind Texas horse killings.

Horses are an important part of outdoors culture around the world. (Public Domain Photo)

The second situation is the killing of horses for seemingly no gain other than to kill the animal or perhaps terrorize the owners.

And within an hour of Port Arthur, a string of these kinds of horse killings began in 2017.

Two of the killings were the same little girls’ horse-one two days before Christmas in 2017 and the other in February 2018 after someone gave her a new horse. Another child’s horse was killed in the same area Nov. 2017.

These horses had no meat taken. They were left dead where they were shot.

And those killings are strikingly similar to reports from summer 2020 between San Antonio and Port Mansfield.

Jessica Neu’s horse Seabiscuit was shot in a navigation district pasture outside the small coastal community last August.

“You see it on social media all the time, but I never thought it would happen to me. Someone shot and killed our horse last night in his pasture in Port Mansfield. If anyone has any leads please let us know. I am completely devastated R.I.P Seabiscuit” she said in a Facebook post.

An Aug. 5 2020 story at Spectrum News details a July killing of a little girls’ horse in Caldwell County, TX. where a horse was shot in the head and left to die. Caldwell County is a four hour drive straight up Highway 77 from Port Mansfield.

close up photo of brown horse
Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

Another little girl’s horse was killed in February 2020 near Poteet according to the San Antonio-Express News. Interestingly, this is just an hour from the Caldwell County killing, one turn off of 77 from Port Mansfield (37 North).

A series of horse killings has also taken place in Colorado and Utah. A well-publicized cluster of killings in South Carolina which were believed to be stabbings has more recently been linked to feral hogs. We’ll have more on that soon.

If you have any information on any of these horse killings report it to local law enforcement officials. Horses are an important animal for many people, especially in the outdoors community.

Why they are the target of such violent acts is a mystery that needs solved-quickly.

Chester Moore

TX Bear Story Wins TOWA Award

Black Bear Crosses Lake Falcon, published here at Higher Calling Wildlife earned first place for outdoor news reporting at the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association “Excellence In Craft” awards banquet in Port Arthur, TX.

The story written by award-winning wildlife journalist & conservationist Chester Moore detailed the story of a bear caught on video by a fishermen swimming from Mexico to the Texas side of the lake.

It also detailed the black bear’s return throughout South, West and Northeast Texas.

“It’s an honor to win this award for a subject I am so passionate about. Hopefully this will help give me an opportunity to raise more awareness to the return of bears to Texas,” Moore said.

Moore, who has recently joined Bear Trust International (BTI), believes conservation groups like BTI and conservation-minded hunters and outdoor lovers will be crucial to future bear management in Texas.

“Texans are not used to bears but in parts of the state they are going to have to get educated. I highly recommend connecting with BTI and learning about bears and bear management,” Moore said.

Moore was awarded 10 TOWA “Excellence In Craft” awards including five first place showings in publication, magazine feature, website and video categories.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be recognized by such a prestigious organization of such talented outdoor communicators,” Moore said.

Besides being the founder of Higher Calling Wildlife, Moore is also co-founder of the Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® and the Wild Wishes® program with his wife Lisa where they work with critically ill and abused children in nature settings.

He is also a member of many wildlife and fisheries conservation groups in addition to BTI including the Houston Safari Club Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Coastal Conservation Association, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, The Wild Sheep Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society, Oregon Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society and the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance.

Moore is Editor-In-Chief of Texas Fish & Game, host of “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and  the “Higher Calling Wildlife” and “Higher Calling Gulf Coast” podcasts.

Freeze kills Texas Antelopes

The record-setting freeze that hit Texas over the last week has devasted two species of well-established non-indegenous antelope species in several areas.

The nilgai antelope, a native of India and Pakistan has been free-ranging along the Lower Coast from around Baffin Bay to the Mexico line for more than 80 years.

These very large antelope are notoriously susceptible to extreme cold and we have received a report of more than a dozen dead nilgai found on one eight mile stretch of road with others standing around in very uncharacteristic fashion.

It’s hard to get in-depth reports at the moment with power outages, etc. especially since the majority of nilgai live on two of Texas’ largest private ranches, the King and Kenedy but there is historical precedence.

According to officials with the Texas Tech Natural Science Research Library, a past freeze put a huge hit on the species.

During the severe winter of 1972–1973, 1,400 of 3,300 nilgai (estimated population at the time) were killed by the weather in southern Texas. This die-off was exacerbated by previous brush clearing, which resulted in forage loss and increased competition with livestock and other wildlife.

The much smaller blackbuck antelope is a more widespread species and while there are free-ranging populations in the Edwards Plateau, most live behind game proof fences.

Also from India and Pakistan, they are not the most cold tolerant of animals and there are numerous photos floating around social media of large numbers of blackbuck as well as some axis deer dead on ranches.

The blackbuck antelope. (Public Domain Photo)

We will have more on the impact on these animals that have become an important part of the Texas outdoors economy and are highly valued for their meat (especially nilgai) and revered by sportsmen.

If you have any photos, videos or reports of dead wildlife in Texas email chester@chestermoore.com.

Chester Moore

NWTF Convention Goes Virtual (PODCAST)

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) will host its annual Convention and Sport Show but this time virtually.

And registration is officially open.

As with many recent conventions across the country, the 2021 NWTF convention will look much different than previous years but still provide a wealth of information, entertainment and inspiration for turkey hunters and other wildlife lovers who support NWTF.

Listen to Chester Moore talk with NWTF’s Pete Muller about the show on the Higher Calling Wildlife Podcast.

The NWTF will host the 45th annual Convention from Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, MO, highlighting many of the acclaimed wildlife exhibits bringing conservation and the outdoors lifestyle directly to at-home viewers.

An inquisitie Osceola turkey checking out the author near Florida’s Myakka River.

“Attendees will be able to experience the many great things that make our Convention and Sport Show so special — a lineup of great music, including a Lee Brice concert; messages from leaders in the conservation and hunting communities; awards for those dedicated to the NWTF mission; a veterans celebration; and silent and live auctions, among so much more.”

The Convention and Sport Show kicks off Monday, Feb. 15, and will continue through Sunday, Feb. 21, with evening programming streaming Friday and Saturday.

In addition to on-demand video content and seminars, virtual attendees can enjoy the immersive exhibit hall that will host nearly 100 vendors. Once registered, you will be able to interact directly with the brands you all know and love, and experience all the great outdoor products the sport show offers.

An eastern gobbler photographed near Cato, NY.

Access to the convention is free with current NWTF membership. Non-members will get an annual NWTF membership when registering for convention access and a $25 Bass Pro Promo card. All participants can join our scavenger hunt and interact to earn points for a chance to win a TriStar Upland Hunter 20 gauge.

“We encourage friends, family and loved ones who cherish the wild turkey and our outdoors lifestyle to register for the convention to join in on the fun,” said Jason Burckhalter, NWTF chief information officer. “Although in a different environment, the show must go on as we look forward to celebrating all of our achievements, members, volunteers and partners.”

For more information or to register for the 45th annual Convention, visit https://convention.nwtf.org/.

Jaguar Returns To Arizona

A trail camera captured the image of a jaguar in Arizona’s Chiricahua/Dos Cabezas mountain range Jan. 6.

According to officials with the Chiricahua National Monument, it is the same male that has been photographed in the area off and on since 2016.

Both Arizona and New Mexico have verified jaguar migration into their jurisdictions through a trail camera project over the last 15 years.

Although chiefly associated with South America and tropical rainforests, jaguars occupy a variety of habitats that once included Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. There are even historical accounts of them in Louisiana.

Jaguars face a host of problems including increased poaching.

The Asian black market for tiger parts, such as claws for traditional medicines, has depleted most of Asia’s tiger populations. Due to having direct links because of thousands of workers in South and Central American countries, they are targeting jaguars-in particular for their claws and heads.

According to a study published in Conservation Biology, jaguar poaching, as noted by seizures of jaguar parts by wildlife officials and customs agents, increased 200-fold in South America in five years.

Jaguar parts have increased in value on the black market.

Hunting of jaguars is illegal in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, the United States, and Venezuela.

Ecotourism has proven a valuable asset to wildlife in areas where it is feasible but only in Brazil’s Pantanal region is the jaguar a factor. It’s the only place on Earth where ecotourists see them regularly. Otherwise, they are one of the planet’s most elusive animals.

Impoverished people with very little governmental oversight will have a hard time passing up the opportunity to kill these cats if it means money.

There have been a few attempts at “green hunting” for jaguars to dart them for GPS collaring and research with success in Bolivia.

We are partnering with Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center for project to engage kids in jaguar conservation. It’s called Jaguar Revival.

Its goal is to revive awareness of jaguar conservation and inspire young people to get directly involved in the cause. It will use investigative journalism to get the story of what’s really happening with jaguars to the public.

It will also issue conservation challenges for kids and teens and create a reward system that recognizes young people stepping out to help these great cats.

You can get your kids and grandkids involved by clicking here and having them take the jaguar challenge to win cool prizes.

“Since jaguars inspire us, we believe they can inspire young people struggling with depression and anxiety in this challenging time in our world,” said Lisa Moore with the Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center.

” We are sending out Jaguar Revival care packages with special exclusive merchandise only available to kids facing these challenges. If you know of any we can help please email lisa@kingdomzoo.com.”

In the next month we are launching a podcast series on jaguars and announcing more ways we are helping Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center with the Jaguar Revival project.

It’s an exciting time for everyone who loves these great cats.

Chester Moore

Science Overrides Emotion On Bear Bill

California State Senator Scott Weiner’s “Bear Protection Act” would have ended all hunting of black bears in California.

He withdrew the bill Monday after a vast opposition from wildlife managers, conservation organizations, and hunters.

Bear Trust International’s Executive Director Logan Young said his group strongly opposed the legislation as it was based “100 percent off emotion and had zero scientific data to back it up”.

“Sportsmen and conservationists rallied together to display the true biological facts and proven negative outcomes of what they were proposing. The right decision was made,” Young said.

Under a management system where hunting is one of the tools, black bear populations in California have increased from 10,000 in 1982 to 40,000 in 2021.

And that’s factoring in vastly more people and development that has eaten up their habitat in the last 40 years.

California officials tightly regulate bear hunting with a cap put on harvest annually based on surveys. Last year fewer than 1,000 bears were harvested.

As bear populations have grown in the Golden State, so has the issuance of depredation permits where state officials deem a bear can be terminated due to livestock attacks or dangerous behavior around people.

In 2018 (the last year stats were available), more than 300 depredation permits were issued, which is a full third of the usual harvest in the state. Banning hunting would certainly increase human-bear and livestock-bear conflicts, ending in more killing of bears.

Science should dictate wildlife management, and what California is doing now works.

I love bears.

In Texas, I started Texas Bear Aware, a program that raises awareness of black bears returning to the state in 2007. Through Texas Fish & Game magazine, we have distributed thousands of educational posters and worked with tens of thousands of wildlife class students on bear issues.

And it’s not so we can hunt them.

It will be a long time before these animals are ever at a huntable number in Texas unless some drastic migration happens. And it won’t.

Banning bear hunting where they are flourishing (300,000 in the Lower 48 and 600,000 in North America total) is pointless.

There are real bear issues right now that need looked at around the globe. In America, helping support wildlife overpasses like ones instituted in Colorado and Texas will save their lives.

More importantly, on a global level, species most American’s don’t know to exist are having real problems.

The world’s smallest bear, the sun bear, which lives in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia is a prime example.

A sun bear (Public Domain Photo)

These bears are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, and there is great concern due to an increased market for their bile.

Traditional medicine adherents use the bile, and while most comes from bile farms where bears are kept in tiny cages and have their bile harvested from them in shocking ways, wild-caught bears replenish those that die (and they do so frequently).

Poachers also kill them for their claws and other parts, and they catch babies to sell as pets.

The sloth bear is truly unique among bears. (Public Domain Photo)

The sloth bear of India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal has had increasing issues in the human-conflict arena. Supporting education initiatives for the species from groups like Bear Trust International, for example, would do much to help them.

We support these actions and have used our media platforms to raise awareness throughout the world.

There are bears out there that need protecting, but they’re not in California. They need managed, and the current system is doing a great job of that.

No system is perfect, but when wildlife managers follow the North America Model of Conservation that allows hunting as a tool, wildlife flourishes.

And that’s precisely what bears are doing in California.

Chester Moore

Not A Cat

It crawled out of a hole in the base of an old live oak stump and sat atop as if it owned the world.

The small, striking creature had a round face, with large cupped ears and a gorgeous, banded tail.

It was an animal I had heard of and now at age 18, was seeing in a remote creek bottom in Menard County, TX.

Kasey Johnson found this ringtail in a deer blind near Spring Branch, TX.

It was a ringtail cat.

Well, that’s the name I had always heard-“ringtail cat” with the emphasis on “cat”.

My studies on this charming animal however, told me it was not a cat at all.

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials, the ringtail is a cat-sized carnivore that is kin to raccoons, not felids. Its bushy tail is flattened and nearly as long as the head and body, with alternating black and white rings.

These are highly nocturnal animals that conduct most of their business in the middle of the night. My sighting however was about an hour before dark and since I was positioned in a ground blind, it never knew I was there.

The ringtail sat there for 30 minutes or so and then crawled down and disappeared into the brush.

Ringtails are associated with the Texas Hill Country and Trans Pecos and according to TPWD are distributed statewide. My high school art teacher who is a brilliant wildlife artist told me of seeing one in Pinehurst in Orange County around the time I was in school in the 90s.

I also have reports from a trapper who claims to have caught one in Sour Lake and a camper who reported seeing one near Sam Rayburn reservoir.

The International Union on the Conservation of Nature shows them present through the state, but I have never seen one or even a game camera photo of one in Southeast Texas where I live.

The IUCN ringtail range map.

Until now.

On the Jan. 29 edition of my radio program “Moore Outdoors” I spoke about ringtails and mentioned these obscure sighting references.

A listener emailed me and said I should contact TPWD-licensed wildlife rehabber Pam Jordan.

She was in possession of a ringtail brought to her by a TPWD game warden that was caught in a live trap by a resident of Bridge City, near the shore of Texas’ northenmost bay Sabine Lake.

The mysterious Southeast Texas ringtail caught in a live trap is a large specimen.

Was this a ringtail brought from someone who hunts or perhaps owns land in the Texas Hill Country? It very well could be.

I have solicited wildlife reports, photographs and trail camera evidence for decades in the region and only have the above accounts with no hard proof.

Could it be a native remnant of a small, hidden population?

TPWD, IUCN and researchers at Texas Tech University show evidence it could be. The below map from Texas Tech’s Natural Science Research Laboratory shows a verified sighting in Jefferson County.

No one will ever know the origin but this mystery give us a great opportunity to learn of a beautiful, unique resident of Texas. Jordan said this animal will be released into a safe, undisclosed location and said people should not take animals from the wild home with them. Such incidents causes problems for the animal and often the people who caught them.

Jordan does an incredible job rehabilitating a variety of animals and you can help support her mission by clicking here.

She noted that ringtails were brought into caves by miners who had no conflict with them as they worked during the day when ringtails sleep. At night however they would awaken and prey on the rodents in the mines.

Since that sighting in my youth I have only spotted two other ringtails and both of them were in Menard County during the same timeframe. And I have spent a vast amount of time in ringtail country.

I was blessed to have had the opportunity to see the one Jordan is caring for at her facility.

A ringtail may not be a cat but they’re very bit as fascinating and mysterious as any of the wild cats that inhabit Texas. Seeing one today reminded me there are always surprises in the wild.

And some of them are downright beautiful.

Chester Moore

TPWD and NWTF Turkey Release Inspires

Wild turkeys are fast on their feet and often flee from danger by running instead of taking to the air.

They can however fly quite fast and as each box opened on a private tract of land in Titus County, TX, the flying ability of the wild turkey was on display.

Marked with the logo of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), these six boxes held six Eastern turkey hens captured in Missouri and transported to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials at the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport.

Annie Farrell of NWTF releases one of the Eastern turkeys at the Titus County location.

Working together on restoring the Eastern turkey to East Texas, TPWD and NWTF have forged a powerful partnership that saw hope for this subspecies in the region literally taking flight.

According to TPWD Turkey Program Director Jason Hardin, there are now about 10,000 Eastern turkeys in the region thanks to stocking birds from partner states like Missouri and enhanced management on public and private lands.

One of the six hens flying into her new habitat. (Photo by Chester Moore)

It’s a brilliant conservation program and one that has inspired turkey hunters and private landowners to do more to manage forests for turkeys.

This particular turkey release, however, inspired another group of people.

Higher Calling Wildlife’s mothership is the Wild Wishes program that grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling. To date, the outreach has granted 115 wishes and is working on many more.

“We filmed the release with our smartphones and put together a virtual turkey release for one of our wish families. They have been basically shut-in since COVID started because of health issues with children, so we wanted to do something special for them. We knew they would love seeing the turkeys released, and TPWD and NWTF officials have been very gracious in allowing us to have our kids participate in these releases,” said Lisa Moore, director of the Wild Wishes program.

Emily Odom, 16 of Graham, TX, got to participate in a release in 2020 on the same property and said it was one of our her life highlights.

Emily Odom was inspired by her 2020 turkey release experience.

“I’ve been in the Wild Wishes program since I was nine, and it changed my life so much for the better. Getting to open that box and watching those turkeys fly out was so freeing and inspiring for someone like myself who has had some challenges. I loved it,” she said.

It inspired her so much in fact she went home and did some wild turkey artwork and has begun a program to raise awareness of wildlife conservation through artwork.

“That turkey release helped inspire that. I’m so grateful to the Moore’s for taking me into the Wild Wishes program years ago and for NWTF and TPWD for letting me be part of a release,” she said.

Emily’s first artwork of her conservation project. She sent this pic over to us to show us her progress just a week after the 2020 turkey release.

As Emily said, there is something special about seeing those turkeys fly out of the boxes into an area that needs a population boost. East Texas by the early 1980s was essentially devoid of wild turkeys, but thanks to TPWD and NWTF, there is a growing population.

That’s inspirational for turkey hunters, wildlife lovers and a very special group of kids who have been able to take part in person and virtually.

Chester Moore

Social Distancing Can Save Wild Sheep

“Social-distancing” is a term most hope disappears from the lexicon soon. While the concept of keeping a safe distance during the COVID-19 pandemic is wisdom, losing the connection to others is challenging for humanity. For wild sheep, social-distancing is essential.

Domestic sheep and goats can transmit a form of pneumonia to bighorn and thinhorn sheep that is devastating to herds. It is so devastating that more than two million that existed at the time of Lewis & Clark’s expedition declined to around 25,000 by the early 1900s.

“Wildlife agencies and conservation groups have done a remarkable job of bringing them back to around the 150-175,000 range, but there is still a major problem with exposure to domestic sheep. Die-offs are occurring in pockets right now in states like Oregon and Utah,” said Chester Moore, an award-winning wildlife journalist and founder of Higher Calling Wildlife.

Higher Calling Wildlife seeks to raise awareness of mountain and forest wildlife conservation. It also mentors young people dealing with critical illness and traumatic loss to use media for conservation purposes.

One of those young people is Reannah Hollaway, who, through the program and the generosity of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, got to take part in a desert bighorn capture and relocation in 2019.

“I have cystic fibrosis, which affects the lungs, and have had to take special precautions during COVID-19. This gives me a unique understanding of the need for keeping wild sheep and domestic sheep apart. This kind of social-distancing can save bighorns,” she said.

Reannah Hollaway helps put a tracking collar on a desert bighorn at Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area courtesy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Higher Calling Wildlife.

Hollaway is a student at Texas Tech and studying to work in the field of wildlife management.

She chose this degree after a wildlife encounter through Higher Calling Wildlife’s mothership, Wild Wishes. This outreach grants wildlife encounters to young people with a critical illness or the loss of a parent or sibling.

To raise awareness of the need for sheep social distancing, Higher Calling WIldlife has begun the Sheep Scrapbook project, which seeks photos taken of wild sheep throughout North America.

Anyone who submits a wild sheep photo to chester@chestermoore.com gets a Sheep Scrapbook Project collector’s coin and a Higher Calling Wildlife decal. Pictures are posted in a gallery at highercallingwildlife.com.

“It’s our way to get people of all backgrounds to think about wild sheep, and the response has been tremendous,” Moore said.

“We’re hoping that when people focus their cameras on sheep, whether in one of our national parks or a hunting or fishing expedition, they can take time to realize these animals are facing a real problem with pneumonia. It’s time all of us who love wild sheep do more to support organizations and agencies searching for ways to keep wild sheep social-distanced from their domestic cousins.”

The Inspirational Voice Of Mountain & Forest Wildlife Conservation