Fighting The Good Fight

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

That quote from Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” reflects how I feel about 2020 on a personal level as well as simply being a human on Planet Earth at this very moment.

COVID-19’s impact on our world has been nothing short of historic and there is more to come. I wish I could give a prediction of a quick deliverance from this pestilence along with its human and economic cost but I would be lying.

Early into the pandemic, I explained how it would impact wildlife with everything from poaching running rampant in Africa where science-based, legal hunting and ecotourism were shut down to important wildlife surveys in America being cancelled.

Public Domain Photo

All of that has happened and we will continue our coverage on that topic in 2021.

The business that I work in, the hunting/fishing/wildlife media industry has been ravaged by COVID-19’s economic impact. I’m putting my trust in God for finances going into a new year because things are not looking bright otherwise.

And I knew this would happen the moment I read the word “pandemic” in a World Health Organization Report.

That inspired action.

I don’t do what I do professionally for the great money, because I could make more elsewhere. I don’t do it for the accolades, nor for the fringe benefits of wildlife recreation access although that at times has been abundant.

I do it because I believe in it. Wildlife has been a passion of mine since childhood. A couple of years back my mother found a report from my fourth grade where I said I wanted to be someone who helps endangered wildlife when I grew up.

This is in me.

And it is why me and my wife Lisa founded Higher Calling Wildlife this year. I needed something that could function under a business model of low cost and high effectiveness.

By using investigative journalism and cutting-edge educational strategies, the mission of Higher Calling Wildlife is to raise awareness to mountain and forest wildlife conservation and stream fisheries. It’s free to join (and you can do that by clicking here) and it involves young people.

Me and my wife Lisa have a ministry called Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center and its offshoot the Wild Wishes program. Wild Wishes grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling. To date we’ve granted 112 wishes ranging from encounters with wolves to giraffes and special days at our small zoological facility.

Teens from the Wild Wishes program who have an interest in conservation are mentored in media and have an opportunity to contribute to the conservation cause through our Higher Calling magazine, e-newsletter and other media platforms.

In our first year, we have put out two of these e-magazines, Issue 1 and our Wildlife of Israel special edition and started our Sheep Scrapbook Project that raises awareness to wild sheep dying of pneumonia exposure from domestic sheep. We are giving out collector’s coins for those who submit photos they have taken of wild sheep in North America.

We posted on four Facebook pages related to hunting and parks and had such a great response we ran out of coins! The second bunch should arrive this week.

There were also some other positives from this year.

My “New Life For New Mexico’s Bighorns” article that was posted here won 1st place in the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association Excellence In Craft awards for the blog category. We also took 1st in the independent blog category for the Press Club of Southeast Texas along with receiving a total of 13 awards for writing, radio and photography in both media competitions.

Our Turkey Revolution project entered its second year with unprecedented media coverage in publications ranging from Texas Fish & Game to Hunter’s Horn. This year’s goal of photographing an elusive eastern turkey in East Texas happened in April and was documented here.

Eastern gobblers photographed in Newton County, TX.

Here at the end of of 2020, put my faith in Christ, my focus on prayer and hard work and moving forward with the best of my abilities.

I challenge all of you to find a way you can contribute in 2021. There will be opportunities to help spread the word about our projects you will see here and through our e-newsletter and Higher Calling magazine if you join for free.

I also challenge you to spend more time outdoors.

There is healing of soul in the mountains, forests and waterways of our world. There is no bad news where eagles soar, trout swim and turkeys gobble.

I have been doing this locally, spending time fishing in a stream near my home and some private ponds at a friend’s property. It has allowed me to clear my head when the news of the day has been frustrating.

I have gotten back into flyfishing this year and have challenged myself to catch a five-pound bass on fly gear. I haven’t hit that mark yet but did get my best flyfishing bass ever-a four pounder.

The author with his best-ever bass caught on fly gear caught Dec. 2020.

Talk about fun!

And that’s something we will continue to cover here. Yes, we will have true news as it relates to wildlife but it will be balanced with fun challenges and interesting stories that hopefully inspire as well as educate.

Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

I don’t know about the world, but it certain helps preserve my enthusiasm for life.

Stay safe. Stay healthy and venture beyond the pavement into the wild. Great things can still happen there.

Chester Moore

Bingo The Christmas Dingo (Video)

Christmas is a special time of year around the world and it has always been very important for the Moore family.

It has taken on an even more significant meaning since me and my wife Lisa founded the Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® and the Wild Wishes® program to bring the love of Christ to hurting children through wildlife encounters.

When you see kids in such despair, understanding the gift of Christ coming into the world, inspires us to want to give everything we can to bring His hope into their lives.

In 2018, I wrote a children’s storybook called “Bingo the Christmas Dingo” that tells a heartwarming story of Santa Claus adopting an orphaned dingo puppy he found in the Outback of Australia.

It’s a tale of adoption and wildlife conservation.

Now , each Christmas we do readings of the book to various facilities where we work with kids in the foster system as our gift to them.

My friend Brandon Swarers turned the story into an animated storybook sort of like the vintage videos we grew up with.

This is our gift to the kids and kids at heart out there this Christmas and we hope you enjoy it.

Chester Moore

Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® was founded by Chester and Lisa Moore in 2012. The facility, located in Pinehurst, TX, is not open to the public but is only accessible to children facing various struggles from being in the foster system, to abuse, critical illness and special needs. All encounters for these children is free. The Wild Wishes® program grants wildlife encounters to children with a critical illness or loss of a parent or sibling. You can donate at kingdomzoo.com or wildwishes.org. All donations are tax-deductible.

An African Marsh Buck In TX

Sightings of antelopes are not uncommon in Texas.

The blackbuck antelope of India is a common resident of exotic game ranches and they are fairly common free-ranging outside of high fences in the Texas Hill Country,

In fact, I recently photographed some near Kerrville.

African antelopes are rarer but kudu, lechwe and several gazelle species are found on some ranches.

Sitatunga (marsh buck) are a central African forest antelope that are extremely rare even on the many large, high fence game ranches I have been on over the years. In fact, I have never seen one.

Photo by Chester Moore

That’s why getting a Facebook message that one was hanging out around a residence just outside of Beaumont got me excited. My friend took a couple of photos with her cell phone at her residence and a relative did the research to determine it was indeed a sitatunga. I have kept her anonymous because the sighting was literally behind her house.

I set a Moultrie Mobile cam on the property and within a few hours got a photo of the beautiful antelope. The camera has been there for over a month and it never returned.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, sitatunga reside in the swamps, savannas, forests and forest clearings of central, eastern and parts of southern Africa, ranging from Cameroon and Central African Republic in the north to northern Botswana in the south.

It is theorized that sitatunga likely occurred alongside waterways throughout western and central Africa as well, but are no longer found in that region.

Hunting ranches in Texas have created a a thriving industry that produces large number of animals. Animals like the scimitar-horned oryy, blackbuck antelope and axis deer have been sent back to their native lands where they were endangered from these ranches.

A sitatunga hunt would demand anywhere from $10-12,000 according to sources I reached out to so this animal was either from a hunting ranch, a breeder or perhaps someone who enjoys keeping beautiful exotic hoofstock.

An official with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said the animal was sighted six miles away two weeks before I got my game camera photo.

And a few days ago, I got this photo from reader Ben Broussard that was taken three weeks after mine and about eight miles away. Either it’s the same animal or there were multiple escapees. I’m betting on it being the same animal. Again, sitatunga are not a common exotic in Texas.

Ben Broussard submitted this game camera photo of what I assume is the same sitatunga around eight miles from the location of my photo.

I have reached out to several exotic owners in Southeast Texas to see if they had an escapee or if they knew anyone who did. Everyone was shocked there was a sitatunga in the area-whether it was behind a fence or free-ranging now.

I have written numerous times in recent years that animal enocunters in the United States have changed dramatically because of the introduction of exotics.

This sitatunga situation was an interesting surprise. It likely simply got out of a hole in a fence or escaped during the two major hurricanes that hit Southeast Texas in 2020.

I hope it makes its way back home but likely it will continue wandering.

Interestingly, this antelope known as a “marsh buck” in Africa is probably better suited for survival in our swampy habitat than most exotics.

Chester Moore

Cougar Attack Or Not?

Last week, officials with the Hood County Sheriff’s Department reported they believed a Lipan man was killed by a cougar (mountain lion).

We reported on that here.

At the time of the report officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) were tracking the animal.

Photo by Chester Moore

Now, TPWD according to Sheriff’s Department officials have said they do not believe a mountain lion was the killer.

Here’s the TPWD statement.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is aware of this tragic loss of life and has provided assistance to the sheriff’s office in evaluating the circumstances and information available.Texas Game Wardens, TPWD biologists, and subject matter experts conducted an inspection of the scene. There is not any evidence of a predatory attack by a mountain lion at the location where the victim was found. A USDA Wildlife Services trapper also evaluated the evidence and came to the same conclusion as our staff.

Fatal mountain lion attacks on people are extremely rare. In the past 100 years, there are fewer than 30 confirmed deaths due to mountain lion attacks nationwide. TPWD has no records of a confirmed fatal attack on a person by a mountain lion in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife also has no confirmed records of a mountain lion from Hood County. The recent confirmed sighing from Rowlett in Dallas County was nearly 100 miles away and is considered unrelated to the event.

Sheriff’s Department officials responded with the following statement.

It appears we have two conflicting reports from two agencies that are experts in their field.We stand behind the preliminary findings of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, that rule out a suicide and a homicide on the death in question.The investigation continues and we continue to gather pictures and statements from locals that have seen and capture on film images of mountain lions.

The point of my article was to report the event and to note the response to it would be controversial.

It has proven to be just that.

We will not know the exact story until the investigation is completed but I want to point out a few things here.

TPWD is correct in the assertion that cougar attacks are rare and fatal attacks are even rarer but there have been documented attacks in Texas.

TPWD’s official cougar brochure affirms there have been four non-fatal attacks since 1980.

Since the investigation is ongoing details are sketchy as to why TPWD’s findings were different from Sheriff’s Department officials but that’s not really the point here.

The most important issue is someone died. Human loss always comes first.

Something that I have seen growing and predicted would come with this as listed in the first entry in this series is the following.

A. People blaming other animals. (Dogs, feral hogs in this case)

B. People blaming humans.

C. Denying of cougars being in this area. (We’ll get to the cougar’s range in another post.)

When we reported on the tragic death of an Anahuac woman from a feral hog attack last year people defended the hogs saying it was really dogs. Now people in social media are saying this isn’t a cougar it’s a hog killing, a dog killing or a murder.

Maybe it was not a cougar. We will see.

But if the conclusion were to change for example to another animal people would be defending that one too.

Human populations are growing. And populations of many predators are growing.

Grizzly numbers are growing in the Yellowstone region. Wolf numbers in the Lower 48 are growing. Feral hog numbers are skyrocketing. And in some areas cougar numbers are growing.

Photo by Chester Moore

There will be more attacks on humans. There will be even be more predation on humans. It’s inevitable.

Will it be common? I hope not, but that is irrelevant for someone being mauled by a bear in their backyard.

This is why we have to call a predator a predator.

I am all for the conservation and population sustainability of wildlife, including predators. I am also for the management of those animals and the honest discussion of what they are.

It will save lives.

Hogs can be predators and they sometimes kill. (Photo by Chester Moore)

I’ve read posts regarding to my first story saying things about the alleged attack like ,” Good, they’re finally taking back their land.”

Another said, “I’m all for animals killing more people.”

Are they really?

Would they be happy with a mountain lion or a feral hog killing their child or spouse?

And if they are we have an even deeper problem.

We should get some conclusion to this tragic story soon but this discussion on apologizing for animal attacks needs to continue.

To move forward with true conservation we have to consider animals and people and if that means taking out a bear or cougar stalking kids on a playground, then so be it.

If those who always defend the predator in these scenarios would put a little energy and finance into helping wild tigers from being slaughtered for their parts in Asia or fighting pollution impacting polar bears for example I would stand with them-on those issues.

Sadly, the only thing they typically stand on is voicing their opinions on social media about how much they hate people and pretend to love wildlife.

True love requires action and that means going beyond pontificating the propensity of animals to attack.

Chester Moore

Black Bear Photographed Near San Diego-Texas!

Israel Hernandez was expecting to see deer on his trail camera on a hunting lease near San Diego, TX.

After all, the region is known for its large-antlered and abundant whitetails.

He was shocked however to get this photo of a black bear.

This confirmed sighting is evidence of continued black bear movement from Mexico into South Texas.

Last summer we posted a story and accompanying video of a black bear swimming from the Mexican side of Lake Falcon into Texas. You can check that out here.

Black bears are native to both Mexico and Texas.

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

Most of the population lives around Big Bend National Park, but there are verified bear sightings and road kills near Alpine and also where this bear was photographed in Duval County and Southwest of there in Zapata County.

Black bears are also slowly returning to the Pineywoods of Texas from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. 

You can read our story on that here.

Black bears are making a comeback in Texas and we lead the coverage on the issue. Subscribe to this blog for in-depth stories of black bears in Texas and information pertaining to mountain and forest wildlife from throughout North America.

Chester Moore

Cougar Reportedly Kills TX Man

A cougar (mountain lion) has reportedly killed a man from Hood County, TX.

According to the Hood County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were told Christopher Allen Whiteley (age 28) was missing and last seen on 12-2-20 in the early morning hours.

Photo by Chester Moore

Deputies checked a wooded area nearby and eventually found Whiteley, who was found deceased.

Whiteley’s body was sent to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.  The preliminary findings say he died from a wild animal attack, possibly a mountain lion.

Sherriff’s Office officials said they contacted a Governmental Trapper with the USDA, who specializes in tracking and removing mountain lions.

The Hood County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Game Wardens, and the Governmental Trapper are working on locating the mountain lion.

Animal attacks bring out many responses from the public and various animal interests. Undoubtedly there will be controversy surrounding this so I want to address the following points.

  1. Cougars are native to the region-despite what some will report. Although not common in Hood County, cougars are known to dwell there and it’s part of their native range. In fact, officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department verified on Dec. 1 a cougar sighting near Rowlett which is 111 miles to the northeast of the attack.
  2. Someone will blame a cat sanctuary. In every single instance of cougar attacks I have seen outside of deep wilderness, naysayers claim it is the result of someone keeping a cougar as a pet and escaping or an escapee from a small zoo or sanctuary. I will go out on a limb here and say this was a wild cat, not an escaped captive.
  3. Someone will blame the victim. Cougars kill people It’s not often but tell that to the man who lost his life here and his family. People will say the man shouldn’t have been in the woods, cougars were here first and similar pathetic excuses for the fact they do kill. Cougars are awesome. I believe in their conservation but blaming humans for every animal attack has got to go.
  4. Blame another animal. Last year we reported on a fatal hog attack near Anahuac, TX and people defended hogs saying a person or perhaps dogs killed the woman, not hogs. A cougar attack has specific evidence that is hard to miss. It is most likely a cougar.

Sherriff’s Dept. officials said the public in the Lipan area are urged to be mindful of their surroundings and keep young children and animals inside at night.

“The safety of Hood County Citizens are my priority one, but please don’t interfere with the process of locating the animal and stay clear of the area being actively worked by officials,” said Sheriff Roger Deeds

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials there have been four cougar attacks on people since 1980 in Texas, all of them in the Trans Pecos region.

The author has been interested in cougars since childhood. Here he gets an up close look at a baby cougar on a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department radio-collaring mission in 1997. He got to accompany for a special story on cougars.

This is the first modern era attack I have reported on outside of the Trans Pecos.

Seeing a cougar is a great thrill.

But these are potentially dangerous animals.

Perhaps it’s time for more cougar education in Texas as game cameras and this recent attack along with the aforementioned TPWD-verified sightings are showing these great cats in areas people don’t expect to encounter them.

We should certainly manage these great animals for population viability but keep in mind that means managing cougars around people and people around cougars.

Chester Moore