It’s a little thing.
But seeing one would be a very big deal to me.
I want to see a long-tailed weasel.
I might have seen one in 1998 when crossing over Adams Bayou near my home in Orange County. It was at night and this little creature crossed the road. At first it looked like a mink but the color wasn’t quite right and it didn’t quite look as bulky as the mink I was used to seeing in the area.
Still, I can’t call that a sighting.
I want to see one and know that I saw it.
I have a spot where I see mink about every third trip. Some of them are quite large and aren’t very spooked by human presence.
But these weasels are another issue.
I am in the process of seeking out reports in the Orange, Newton and Jefferson County areas of Southeast Texas. If you have a sighting or game camera photo please emailed firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to stake out an an area and try to lure one out with a predator call for photos and also set up a game camera for photos. I have one potential spot mapped out near where I had my “possible” sighting nearly twenty years ago.
It is perfect habitat and there has been some possible depredation on poultry.
It easy to get caught up with the bigger and more widely known animals but I like the little shy guys too.
Makes sense for someone who operates “micro zoo”, doesn’t it?
Looking forward to seeking out some weasels. At the very least it should be challenging. Chester Moore, Jr.
Bobcats have tails!
That might not seem worthy of the exclamation point there but it needs to be said emphatically.
Over the last year I have examined at least a dozen bobcat photos people thought were cougars because the tail was longer than they expected.
The video below shows a bobcat captured on a game camera by friends of mine in Orange County, TX.
This particular bobcat has a tail longer than just about any I have seen but there are many of them out there with tails close to this. Some have little powder puff looking tails but most stretch out 3-4 inches. This one is probably 8-9 inches in length.
That is long for a bobcat but nearly as long as a cougar which has a tail nearly as long as the body.
I have no scientific way of estimation but I daresay 75 percent of alleged cougar sightings in the eastern half of the United States are bobcats.
I know for a fact there are cougars there too but bobcats are far more numerous and I know from personal experience how many people think they have a cougar photo but find out it is a bobcat instead.
This is no fault of their own. Wildlife identification studies are not a priority at schools and in fact game wardens even get very little wildlife identification education during their formal training.
I appreciate any and all game camera photos and if you have some you would like to have evaluated email email@example.com.
Bobcats are one of my favorite animals and I have had the pleasure to work with them in captivity, photograph them on many occasions and have probably seen 200 plus in the wild.
In fact on a peace of property near the set of John Wayne’s “The Alamo” near Bracketville, TX I saw five bobcats in one day.
Seeing them is fairly common for me but I always rejoice knowing I caught a glimpse of one of America’s most successful predators. Chester Moore, Jr.
The aoudad (barbary sheep) is now a part of the Southwestern landscape that will never leave it-at least not until something cataclysmic like a worldwide flood or giant astroid strikes the planet.
Imported from north Africa for hunting more than 60 years ago in Texas there are now large feral populations in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
The aoudad is rufous tawny in color according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
“The insides of the legs are whitish. There is no beard, but there is a ventral mane of long, soft hairs on the throat, chest, and upper part of the forelegs. The horns of the male sweep outward, backward, and then inward; they are rather heavy and wrinkled, and measure up to 34 inches in length. Females also have prominent horns although they are not as large as those of the male.”
According to Wikipedia aoudad are fond of mountainous areas where they both graze and a browse.
They are able to obtain get all their moisture from food, but if liquid water is available, they drink it and wallow in it. They are crepuscular which means they are active in the early morning and late afternoon and resting in the heat of the day. They are very agile and can achieve a standing jump of over seven feet and will flee at the first sign of danger.
“They are well adapted to their habitats which consist of steep rocky mountains and canyons. When threatened, they always run up and bounce back and forth over the tops of the mountains to elude predators below. They stay in rough, steep country because they are more suited to the terrain than any of their predators. Aoudad are extremely nomadic and travel constantly via mountain ranges.”
One rancher had a 640 acre tract in Real County that was high fenced and had aoudad on it when he bough it. If you were to take all of the surface acres with canyons, hills and caves it is probably more like three times that size, at least it feels that way when I have been there.
Aoudad have rarely been killed there although herds as large as 30 have been seen.
He came across an aoudad ewe at a game sale and had the idea to fit her with a bell around her neck. When she got with the herd, he could hear the area they were in on the ranch. It is often extremely quiet out there.
The herd completely rejected her.
Another ranch had an aoudad in an acre pen that had grass grown up several feet high. They went to find the animal to try and lead it into a chute to put in a cage for the sale. It took them an hour to find the aoudad in an acre pen. They animal kept quietly crawling around on its knees.
These animals are survivors but are extremely elusive. Even in areas where they are common aoudad are far more shy than any of the native North American sheep.
Wildlife managers believe they outcompete native sheep for food and water but there are opposing viewpoints out there. We will discuss some of those in coming posts but either way the aoudad is here to stay. Chester Moore, Jr.
Outdoor photographer Gerald Burleigh is known widely in his home state of Texas for his whitetail deer photography as well as his images of the life cycles of waterfowl.
While setting a game camera to lure in feral hogs on a stretch of property near the Neches River in Southeast Texas, he came across something interesting.
An alligator found his bait pile and came in and ate corn and gorged itself on some old donuts.
Alligators are carnivores that will eat virtually anything that swims in front of them but mainly eat fish and turtles.
This one apparently has a sweet tooth.
Something else interesting about this video is the camera is not set directly by the water. This alligator had to walk a pretty good way to find the food.
Alligators will actually cover long distances during the mating period and some of the very largest alligators are found in ponds far from the main waterways where they have set up after arriving there to find no mates during breeding season.
These areas house some of the very largest alligators because they are detached from their main habitat. The biggest alligators are targeted during the alligator hunting season so many of the largest specimens are those that have forsaken coastal marshes, main river channels and other spots close to civilization.
Alligators can grow to impressive sizes but it takes the correct genetics, available food and cover and the ability to live their maximum life cycle which can be upwards of 80 years.
Hunting pressure targeting the very largest alligators takes away the largest adults so truly large alligators (over 11 feet) are become increasingly rare.
Alligator populations themselves are high but those of maximum size are not as common as they used to be.
This one looks as if it might not make it too much longer. Any alligator that is willing to gobble up donuts would no doubt had a hard time resisting a chunk of rancid chicken dangling over the water. Chester Moore, Jr.
The smell of southern fried seafood hit my nostrils as the car doors opened.
As I walked over to open the door for my then girlfriend (now wife) Lisa, the pleasant aroma hit every hunger button I had. Visions of shrimp and sausage gumbo danced in my head.
Then as Lisa stepped out of the car I heard something move in the tall cane behind us.
As we fixed our eyes toward the racket a huge mud-covered animal emerged.
At first in the dim light at the back end of the parking lot I thought it was a young steer as cattle are common in any pasture, wood lot or in the case chunk of marsh next to the restaurant.
But it was no steer.
This was a hog, one that weighed well beyond 500 pounds.
It grunted heavily when it saw us (we were only 10 steps away) and then went on about its business of rooting up the ground.
The area the animal came from is a piece of marsh probably in the 300 acre range next to a large refinery facility. This is bordered by a large chip channel and a whole bunch of industrial buildings and homes.
Obviously that huge hog, perhaps a domestic set free to graze years ago as used to be common in southeastern Texas. It does not take hogs to go back to their wild origins and integrate into any purely feral hog populations.
This was not the only time I came across evidence of monster hogs in the area.
Early in my writing career a man told me had located a really big black boar in a wood lot behind the Vidor, TX Wal Mart and wanted to know if I wanted to tag along with he and his dogs to catch it.
Two weeks later a letter arrives in the mail with a photo of the hog they killed, all 400 pounds of it. I later drove by the area to inspect and saw the 20 acre wood lot the beast had lived in amongst a city of 10,000.
Both of the aforementioned hogs were boars and large, solitary ones that can find enough woods to hang out during the day and vacant field, cattle pastures (common in southern cities) right of ways along highlines and drainage canals can thrive
Throw in the aforementioned practice of allowing domestic hog breeds like Yorkshires and Durocs feed on open range with cattle and you have an even bigger chance of huge hogs showing up. Hogs show little regard for fencing and also need no help from man to survive beyond captivity.
As hogs push deeper into urban territory, certain individuals will find these sanctuary areas that will allow them to grow to epic proportions.
Animal control offices throughout the South (and as far north as New Jersey) are contending with hogs now on a daily basis but monsters like these are unlikely to participate in any trapping program they initiate.
Without the gun as an option in these urban sanctuaries, those hogs with the genetic code to grow huge will, dethroning the coyote as the apex of city-dwelling wildlife.
Young pigs will provide coyotes food but the ones I am writing might just decide to make coyote their food.
They are able and in some cases totally willing. Chester Moore, Jr.
Are feral hogs the new coyote?
In other words, have they become the latest large wild creature living quite cozily within the city limits of the largest cities in the nation?
The answer is “yes”.
Right now there are sizable feral hog populations Dallas-Forth Worth and Houston in my home state of Texas and also around Baton Rouge, La. and a number of sizable metro areas in Florida.
I believe what we are about to see is cities harboring some absolutely monster-sized hogs.
In the past I have written and lectured on what I call “Monster Hogs” which are any weighing more than 500 pounds. Such animals are few and far between but some of our cities offer all of the right ingredients to make it happen.
There is adequate habitat, food and cover and large boars in particular which tend to be solitary are great at remaining hidden. They may in fact possess more “intelligence” than any wild animal in North America.
Add to this a lack of hunting pressure.
Hogs are popular with hunters and in fact, have superseded whitetail deer as the most harvested animal in Texas with a whopping 750,000 new killed annually according to Texas AgriLife. Louisiana and Florida also support a huge hog hunting culture.
The fact that firing guns in city limits is a no-no will give hogs with monster genes the opportunity to live to maximum potential.
This is where it will get interesting.
Sightings will be elusive but these creatures will be seen perhaps in schoolyards near children or eating Fifi” the poodle as granny takes it for a stroll in the park.
We are fielding increasing reports from shocked citizens seeing normal-sized hogs in greenbelts and suburbs but how will the public react to seeing a boar just shy of average grizzly proportions(600 pounds) strolling down main street?
More to come… Chester Moore, Jr.
Most of mammals we see where I live Southeast Texas would be considered of the common garden variety.
Whitetail deer, raccoons, opossums and squirrels are the most frequently seen creatures that thrive in our woodlands, prairies, marshes and urban areas.
In fact, these animals are common sightings throughout North America
There are however some really strange mammals in the region that are very rarely seen by human eyes and yet they can live in suburban backyards.
Take the eastern mole for example.
These burrowing mammals have tiny eyes but they cannot see and spend almost all of their time underground.
According to the Mammals of Texas, “…moles feed largely on earthworms and grubs, although beetles, spiders, centipedes, insect larvae and pupae, and vegetable matter may also be eaten. In captivity, they have consumed mice, small birds, and ground beef.
“The average daily food consumption is about 32 percent of the body weight of the animal, although a mole can consume more than 66 percent of its body weight in 18 hours. Active prey is killed by crushing it against the sides of the burrow with the front feet or by piling loose earth on the victim and biting it while thus held. Captive moles kill earthworms by biting them rapidly in several places, often nearly cutting the worm in two.”
The saliva of males contains a type of toxin that paralyzes worms and insects. And if that is not weird enough, they can move as quickly backwards as they can forwards.
If the mole isn’t odd enough for you than let me introduce you to the shrew.
These mouse-sized insectivores are arguably the most voracious predators on the planet and East Texas has two varieties: the southern short-tailed shrew and the least shrew.
According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, shrews have an extremely high metabolic rate. This rapid conversion of food to energy requires that these animals consume up to their own body weight in food every day.
“The highly social and gregarious least shrew often cooperates in building burrows or nests, which are sometimes shared with other least shrews during the nesting and wintering seasons. The species uses the runways and burrows of moles, voles and other small mammals but will make its own runways in soft, loose soil. Tunnels under the snow provide protection from wind and intense cold, allowing least shrews to remain active all winter.
Least shrews rely mainly on their senses of touch and smell. Sight and hearing are not well developed.
The least shrew only lives a short time, usually a little over a year.
God created many amazing creatures and although the big ones get most of the media attention, those on the small side are just as interesting.
The cottonmouth is the most feared snake of the American South.
With a reputation for a short temper, this stout pit viper often flashes the white of its mouth to say “Don’t Tread On Me”.
Wise people don’t.
I have dealt with cottonmouths on hundreds of occasions and actually found some of them to be quite docile but the one in this photo was not.
It rose up about a foot of the ground in an almost cobra-like stance. Actually it was sort of a cross between a western diamondback rattlesnake’s “s” position and a cobra.
The snake in question is the biggest I have ever worked with and is nearly four feet in length.
Another interesting thing about this particular snake is that unlike most cottonmouths I have worked with, it did not want to maintain its position and lash out. It lunged at me while conducting the photo shoot and kept advancing forward.
One of the things that continually amazes me about the amazing creatures the Lord graced us with is individuality. Most people, including those into wildlife, look at snakes as all one in the same. A snake is a snake is a snake…or something like that.
In reality there are vast differences among individuals in a population and also from region to region. The cottonmouths I encounter in the Pinewoods of East Texas do not tend to be as aggressive as the ones along the Texas coast.
In addition it is virtually impossible to get those I find along the Interstate 12 corridor in East Texas/Southwest Louisiana to show their white mouth while the ones just north and south of there do it frequently.
One of the intriguing things as a journalist pursuing wildlife is that we cannot interview them like I might a wildlife biologist so we spend as much time in the field as possible shooting photos and videos to capture a profile of a given species. Chester Moore, Jr.
A beautiful herd of longhorn cattle made their way across a bluebonnet covered meadow.
Walking down a trail from an oak thicket, one particularly massive bull stopped and glared at us so I felt obliged to jump out of the truck and shoot photos.
We were at YO Ranch Headquarters near Mountain Home in Kerr County and had just completed granting a “Wild Wish” for a little boy named Amos who got to encounter a giraffe and many other exotic animals at the legendary ranch.
“Wild Wishes” is a program that grants exotic animal encounters to kids who have a terminal illness or have lost a parent or sibling.
Amos and two other wish kids who accompanied us followed me and another chaperone out to photograph the massive bull when we noticed something in the bushes. Hiding under the shade of a live oak was a massive bison. The longhorns were cool but this was awesome!
This thing was easily in the 2,000 pound range and gave us a real thrill as buffalos were the topic of conversation riding down the road. “Wild Wishes” grants exotic animal encounters for children who have lost a parent or sibling or who have a terminal illness and to think that the Lord granted us this chance to see such an amazing animal together was humbling to say the least.
Then it got better.
From behind another tree stood up something big and white. At first it looked like a bull but when it turned around chills ran up and down my spine. This was no bull. It was a white buffalo.
The Great White Buffalo!
As I snapped photos, the majestic bison looked us square in the eye and then retreated into the oaks as we stood blown away.
All three of the kids knew about the legend of the white buffalo and its importance to Native American culture and so did I of course. And I could not help but sing a chorus of my friend Ted Nugent’s “The Great White Buffalo”.
We had no idea such a creature existed on the huge ranch and would not have seen it if we had not decided to pull over and photograph the longhorns.
I have no question the Lord had His hand on this encounter and so did the kids who were excited beyond measure. They had seen something that until then only seemed like a legend.
I have had many incredible wildlife encounters and this one ranks right up there with seeing great whites in the Pacific. This was a lifelong dream come true and I got to share it with three very special kids and a friend who is as big a buffalo fan as I am.
Part of my love of bison comes from knowing their tragic history and the great conservation efforts that saved them.
According to the Texas Bison Association, Bison were hunted in various ways. Before the Indians rode horseback, they would encircle the herd with tribe members on foot. By getting the animals to mill within the ring they formed, Indians were able to fire large volleys of arrows into the herd until they downed an adequate number of animals.”
“In the 16th Century, when horses were acquired by the Plains Indians, bison hunting became easier. The Indians used other methods to harvest the mighty buffalo: stampeding herds over a cliff, driving the animals into a large natural trap, or into bogs or blind canyons. The most famous hunting technique was the “horse surround.” Several hundred riders would form semicircles on two sides of the herd, then move in until they created a circle around its entirety. As pressure was applied by the oncoming riders, the bison would begin to get confused, start milling and eventually stampeded into a frenzied milling mass. At this point, riders would move in and begin the slaughter with showers of arrows or plunging lances.”
Then came wholesale slaughter of bison by European settlers that was as much to wipe out the Plains tribes that relied on them as it was to sell bison parts. What was once a herd of millions was reduced to less than 1,000 by the late 1800s.
According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, legendary rancher Charles Goodnight started the remnants of the herd on his JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle in 1878, in attempts to save the animals that had meant so much to him.
“It was actually his wife that influenced the cattle and business tycoon to preserve them, before they disappeared, so that future generations might be able to see and appreciate these special creatures.”
“Somehow, against the odds, a herd of genetic-related Southern bison have managed to survive the decades since, and now, we all benefit from the Goodnights’ vision. When the bison were initially donated to TPWD and moved to Caprock Canyons State Park in 1997, it was discovered that their DNA was different, and feature genetics that are not shared by any other bison in North America. In fact, the Official Texas State Bison Herd at Caprock represents the last remaining examples of the Southern Plains variety.”
Now YO Ranch Headquarters and other ranches proudly raise bison and they are flourishing right here in the Lone Star State on private land and at Caprock Canyons State Park. Without ranchers and hunters, there would likely be no bison today.
As we walked back to the trucks, the moms, grandmas and dads were excited for the kids (and this big kid) who just encountered something special.. They got to see all of this go down but one thing they did not see were its eyes.
We started into the eyes of the white buffalo.
None of us may ever be the same.
We locked eyes with a legend. Chester Moore, Jr.