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.
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.
(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.
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.
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 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Higher Calling Wildlife founder Chester Moore won big at the Southeast Texas Press Club awards held Sat. Nov. 13
He won first place for an individual blog for this blog“Higher Calling Wildlife” in a category rarely that included blogs from many genres ranging from news to art.
The awards which recognize media based out of Southeast Texas is a prestigious organization covering all facets of electronic, print, and broadcast media.
Moore won first place in radio talk show for “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI for his interview with “Wild America” creator and host Marty Stauffer.
Moore also won for investigative radio program for his special program on human dangers in the woods including examining the “Missing Texas 40” cases around the Sam Houston National Forest that aired on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.
Additionally, he took first place for radio public service announcements for his ongoing “Wildlife Journalist Chronicles”.
He took second place for specialty publications for his “Turkey Revolution” tabloid and his “Higher Calling Wildlife” story in the Pet Gazette for the news release category as well as taking third in social media for his work on Instagram.
“It’s an honor to be a member of the Press Club of Southeast Texas, much less win these awards. It’s always exciting to be recognized for the hard work I put into my wildlife journalism career. This year’s entries were especially important to me as I have been on a certain trajectory with mountain and forest wildlife, turkey, and the whole human dangers in the outdoors topics,” Moore said.
“It’s such a privilege to see my name popping up alongside other great journalists and media professionals in these awards. There are some truly great people in this profession in Southeast Texas and I’m blessed to be able to live and work in that area.”
Last year Moore won the “Adovcatus Magni” award for his work with wild turkeys from the National Wild Turkey Federation-Texas and in 2017 was given the Mossy Oak Outdoors Legacy Award for his work with wildlife and children.
This summer has been a fun one here at Higher Calling as we have been on a three month long quest called “Summer of the Bear”.
The goal has been to raise awareness to bears and bear conservation around the world.
It started with reporting on greatly increased bear sightings in my home state of Texas and has seen us doing lots of giveaways including plush bears for kids and special edition Texas Bear Aware tokens.
This week ends our summer bear project and we’re doing it in a big way publishing this podcast I recorded with Jack Evans of Bear Trust International.
Listen to the show below as we talk about that organization’s great conservation education work.
Thanks to everyone who participated by sending emails, social media interaction, photos and videos.
The “Summer of the Bear” was a big success thanks to you.
“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.”
Those heartbreaking words showed up in my Facebook feed just a day after I started looking into mysterious horse killings in Texas, Florida and Louisiana.
I was able to interview the horse’s devastated owner Jessica Neu, who said the horse was shot in the chest, head on and no meat was taken.
“This was in a pasture right outside of Port Mansfield, TX. It’s the navigation district property where local kids can keep livestock and show animals..”
There is no known motive and as she noted in her post, these killings are showing up all over the place. If you have any information for Neu, contact her here.
The podcast also addresses three similar killings in the Liberty County area from 2017-2018.
The Pearland killings involved the harvest of meat. Like the death of Neu’s horse, the ones in Liberty were shot and left to die with no meat harvest.
These are both bizarre situations and ones that I believe deserve attention here as horses are such an important part of the lifestyle of outdoors lovers.
There are two different situations happening regarding horse killings.
The Pearland killings along with a similar situation in central Florida most likely is tied to some sort of black market horse meat trade.
In order to butcher a horse and load it up it would be like skinning and packing out a large bull elk.
One hind quarter would possibly weigh over 100 pounds. There’s a good chance this would take more than one person and the risk level of taking the horse, killing and taking the meat is far higher than a drive by shooting of sorts.
The second situation is the killing of horses for seemingly no gain other than to kill the horse or perhaps terrorize the owners.
An Aug. 5 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.
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.
Is there a pattern here?
There are a few similar reports from other states.
There is nothing more majestic than a bighorn ram navigating its mountain domain where the air is thin and the scenery stunning.
As me and my wife Lisa photographed a gorgeous Rocky Mountain bighorn ram enjoying a natural mineral lick at 12,000 feet in Colorado, another ram appeared.
Popping its head up over what looked like a sheer cliff from our angle, the younger ram carefully made it’s away toward the lick, cautiously approaching the older and larger animal.
I thanked God for the moment because I knew it was He that put me and Lisa on this path.
Six months earlier the Holy Spirit whispered the words “Higher Calling” into my spirit and put me on a trajectory that led me on a path of deeper purpose and of elevated expectations.
As COVID-19 continues to shake the world and people debate everything from wearing masks to rioting, there is no doubt times are confusing.
In his letter to the church in Phillip, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
And that’s what seeing the great animals of the high country reminds me of-God, His Creation and divine purpose.
There was a reason these rams had a mineral lick in their alpine habitat and they instinctively knew they needed it.
When the universe was flung into Creation, those purposes were built into the Earth and the sheep and here we were witnessing it.
There is something pure about mountain air and special about the creatures that thrive in these environments.
Wild sheep don’t always live in the highest altitudes though. They will move down into valleys and fields to feed. And when they do, they are often in grave danger.
There has been a pandemic of sorts ongoing with wild sheep in North America since the 1800s when domestic sheep entered their landscape. Carrying bacterial pneumonia, they transfer it to their wild cousins and the results have been catastrophic.
From two million wild sheep on the continent when Lewis and Clark set out on their expedition to 25,000 or so in 1900 it was brutal.
Hunter-conservationists and concenred fish and game agencies stepped in and through translocation and careful management have brought numbers up to around 175,000 but the threat still exists. And wild sheep still die when the co-mingle with domestics.
Maybe there’a s lesson here for us.
Co-mingling with those infected can only bring trouble.
The coronavirus is one aspect but I am talking about all of the infection of the hateful, vicious fighting over issues that will only truly be settled when the Lord returns. I am talking about the abandonment of honor for fellow humans.
At 12,000 fee that day there were no political debates, election ads, controversies of social issues or division thereof.
It was just me, my wife, what ended up being three Rocky Mountain bighorn rams and a tangible sense of God’s presence.
If I had not heeded the words “Higher Calling”, we would not have experienced this and many things in my life would be different.
This blog would not even exist.
There is something to this whole “Higher Calling” thing and that is for each of us to discover and I believe those who purpose it in their hearts will do so in 2020.
And I am soon heading back to the mountains to do just that.
Author Michael Bond impacted several generations with his iconic “Paddington Bear” series.
Featuring a spectacled bear from South America, a species known little outside of its indigenous range, the books and animated features have done more to raise the profile of the species than anything.
They are the only South American bear species and are named for the light pattern on their face, neck and chest that in some individual resembles spectacles or eyeglasses.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Network, little is known about this elusive bear and while the mystery surrounding them may add to its mystique, it does little to further its conservation.
Lack of knowledge about these bears considerably compromises the conservation management for the species.
This rare, charismatic bear is highly endangered, primarily due to habitat fragmentation that has caused bears to lose access to critical feeding areas. Although this bear is generally found in humid, alpine cloud forests, Spectacled Bear Conservation (SBC) discovered a population of more than 65 bears in the low elevation dry forest, providing a unique opportunity to observe these bears in the wild.
SBC says spectacled bears are a vulnerable species seriously threatened by habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict.
The lack of knowledge about spectacled bears in the wild impacts our ability to make conservation decisions or plans. Spectacled bears are the only bear species in South America with potentially as few as 2,500 mature individuals remaining.
I have reached out to some researchers to get some in-depth information on the species we will hopefully be able to post soon. Until then, enjoy this introduction to the beautiful, enigmatic and endangered spectacled bear.
Rhinoceros are not just animals of savannah and desert as we established in the first two installments of this series (Pt. 1, Pt. 2).
These great animals inhabit moist forest and even highland areas in Africa and in Asia, most of the remnant rhino populations are in dense forest or mountainous areas.
African rhinos get a fair amount of mainstream wildlife coverage but their cousins in Asia get almost none which was a big inspiration for me to do this series.
The Javan and Sumatran rhinos are as on the edge of extinction as any animal on the planet, but not everything in Asia is bad.
In fact, in India, there has been quite a turnaround in the population of Indian or one-horned rhinos according to officials with the World Wildlife Fund.
Both range countries, India and Nepal, have been very successful in expanding greater one-horned rhino numbers from around 200 individuals at the turn of the 20th century to a total of around 3,500 today.
Vigorous anti-poaching patrols and successful translocations from one area to another has brought the species back from the brink of extinction.
In Africa, rhino farming has been extremely successful in South Africa and hunter-based iniatives including “green hunting” where rhinos are darted and sperm is collected to artifiically insimiate rhinos in other areas have proven successful especially for white rhinos.
But the situation is very serious out there on the poaching end. The Asian demand has not ceased. Here are a few standouts to show how much effort it takes to keep rhinos in existence.
*Zoo Poaching: A rhino was poached for its horns at a zoo in France in 2016. “Rhino poaching has historically targeted wild populations,” said Dr. Susie Ellis, Executive Director of the International Rhino Foundation in a 2016 news release.
“This is the first such known poaching incident at a zoo. Criminal networks fairly recently began targeting museum specimens in Europe. Zoos, as living museums, now are also at risk. In response to the Paris rhino killing, we urge all zoological facilities to take serious measures to keep their rhinos safe.”
Terror Cells: It is believed major poaching syndicates are in league with terror groups using funds from rhino horns and ivory to help fund their activities. If you think dealing with poachers is bad, think about it being tied in with terrorists.
Assasinations: Lt-Col Leroy Bruwer, 49, a top rhino poaching ring investigator died in a hail of bullets in Mbombela on the R37 connecting Mbombela and Lydenburg March 18, 2020.
The people protecting rhinos and working for their conservation are doing incredible work and deserve our prayers and support both in awareness-raising and finances.
Below are some groups doing great work for rhinos.
The giant ungulates are truly wonders of Creation and are also among the planet’s most critically endangered animals.
In part 1 of our series we established that these animals are not only dwellers of savannah and desert but also inhabit forest and mountainous areas in Africa.
Africa has two species, the black and white (square-lipped) rhinoceros and of those two the black had the largest historical range.
That wide-ranging distribution included several now extinct subspecies including the western black rhinoceros which the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) deemed extinct in 2011 after a search in heavily-forested Cameroon proved fruitless.
The eastern black rhino is often found in highland forest and like all rhinos will inhabit savannah as well.
Like all black rhinos, these are browsers which mean they prefer eating from bushes, trees and other woody vegetations whereas grazers eat grass and low vegetation. Forests offer ample grazing opportunties as well as cover.
That’s why account for exact black rhino numbers in forested nations is challenging. Helicopter, drone and airplane surveys are not as effective as they are on the savannahs.
White rhinos prefer open areas more than their darker-colored and smaller cousins but will spend time in forested areas, especially if they find a good mud hole or trees to use for a rubbing post. (To scractch that itch.)
Sumatran rhinos are even more critically endangered than their African cousins with fewer than 100 left in the wild according to Save The Rhino International (STI). These rhinos are the smallest of all but they are incredibly agile.
Sumatran rhinos can run fast and are very agile. They climb mountains easily and can negotiate very steep slopes and riverbanks. With the protection provided by the horns and rims of hard skin and cartilage on nose and head, they can easily break through the densest vegetation, leaving round tunnels
These Javan rhino is in even worse shape in terms of population wtih only single population of around 70 animals believed to exist in the wild. These animals which currently live in dense forest once had an incredible distribution according to STI.
Javan rhinos used to live in a variety of tropical landscapes, both lowland and highland, from the mangroves of the Sunderbans in India and Bangladesh, the mountains of southern China, to the sub-montane shrubs on the highest volcanoes of Java. The Javan rhino probably had a wider ecological range than either its larger relative, the greater one-horned rhino, or its compatriot, the Sumatran rhino.
The reason for this series is to give a look at overlooked aspects of African rhinos and their range and to bring awareness to those forest-dwellers in Asia that are far closer to extinction than even those in Africa.
For whatever reason they get almost no attention from the corporate wildlife media. This is our way of shining some light on a dark spot in wildlife conservation.
In the next and final article in the series we will examine an Asian rhino that is on the rebound and look at some conservation project that could radically change the trajectory of rhino populations in Africa for the better.