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