Gentle Giants-On the Move?

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Manatees are on the move-at least along the Intracoastal Waterway corridor in Louisiana.

A recent verified sighting near Lake Calcasieu near the Texas-Louisiana border shows that this winter all of these amazing creature are not near the warm springs in Florida. Some of them are far from their home base.

This happens more frequently than we realize.

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My Dad, Chester Moore, Sr. a friend were fishing the Intracoastal Canal near the Louisiana border back in the late 1960s. The fishing was slow and the two were getting bored—until, that is, something strange and very large materialized next to them.

“This big animal came up that was nearly as long as our 12 foot aluminum boat,” Dad told me. “It came up right beside us and just sat there. It was so big and ugly we got scared, pulled anchor, and left.”

After reporting the sighting to a game warden, they became a little embarrassed. Turned out the strange creature was a gentle manatee the warden had under observation. Manatees rarely appear in Texas.

“He told us the manatee had been seen around that area and they were keeping an eye out for it to make sure poachers didn’t’ get it,” Dad said. “We didn’t know what a manatee was, but once he explained to us what they are, we turned a little red. They’re not exactly vicious, dangerous creatures.”

A correct assessment, for sure. My wife, Lisa, and I have snorkeled with them in Florida’s Crystal River back in 1999, 2005 and 2014  and found them gentle, playful creatures.

Chester Moore, Jr.

East Texas Bear

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Kingdom Zoo reader Jimmy Sligar got the game camera photo of a lifetime a few weeks ago.

He got this shot of a black bear looking right at the game camera he had set near his feeder. It is not the clearest shot but it is definitely a bear and shows these iconic animals are indeed returning to the Pineywoods of East Texas, an area that has had very sparse bear populations for the last 50 years.

This shot was taken in Leon County.

Chester Moore, Jr.

east texas bear

World’s Scariest Animals Pt. 2

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A few days ago we looked at some of the world’s scariest animals and the response was great, so I thought it would be fun to look at some more creatures that inspire goosebumps.

Spotted hyena—Hyenas have a reputation of being sort of a “funny” animal with their strange, “laughing” vocalizations. In reality, however, hyenas are dangerous predators that will gather in packs and taken on animals as large as lions and will attack people.

Hyenas have extremely powerful jaws that can snap bones in a single bite and will eat every single piece of an animal. When a pack of hyenas gets through with a carcass, there is only some blood left and most of the time they lap that up.

Photo courtesy Wiki Commons
Photo courtesy Wiki Commons

Parts of Africa, particularly Somaliland, are seeing a huge increase in hyena attacks on people according to Softpedia news.

“People have become so afraid of them, that families in Ainabo district, situated 300 kilometers away from the Somaliland capital, Hargesia, have been sleeping with guns near to them in order to protect themselves and their relatives. Officials have added that hyenas live in tremendously large packs in this district and have launched attacks on livestock in the past, but moved to humans, mostly women and children, in the last few years.”

”People from Eritrea, also situated in the Horn of Africa, have also reported the fact that large packs of hyenas have made several attacks within the capital, Asmara, which prompted people to form committees to develop a plan to defend themselves and the city against what seem to be predator hyenas,” they reported.

Tiger shark—Garnering its name from the faint stripes that line its body, the tiger shark has more in common with its namesake than coloration. According to the 1961 book, Dangerous Creatures of the World’s Oceans, tiger sharks like the feared cats of the Asian jungles are actual man-eaters.

“Tiger sharks kill a greater proportion of their human victims than do great whites. Whereas whites often spit out their prey after they realize it’s not a seal or some other natural prey, the tiger shark will be quite happy with eating a person and in fact seem to relish it.”

Tigers are second only to great whites in the size department among predatory sharks. There is great dispute among shark experts about the size potential for the species. Most texts list the species as growing up to 18 feet in length and weighing more than 2,000 pounds. Still, there are figures all over the board for their size, including one I found that said “Tiger sharks range in size from 8.8 to 24 feet long. The largest found weighed 6,800 lb.”

That figure seems a bit high as the International Game Fish Association lists a 1,780-pounder caught by Walter Maxwell off the coast of South Carolina in 1964 as the largest caught by an angler. That far shy of the above estimate, but still massive for an oceanic predator.

Fans of the movie “Jaws” will remember the scene where actors Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider’s characters dissect a big tiger shark caught by angler seeking the reward for the man-eater that had terrorized their community.

They pull out a mackerel, a small tuna and a Louisiana license plate that says “Sportsman’s Paradise”. That was a very accurate portrayal of the tiger shark’s eating habits. They are the garbage collectors of the ocean and will eat anything, including people sometimes. And yes, I do mean eat people. Many shark species attack people but tiger sharks are known for actually eating the humans they occasionally attack.

Saltwater crocodile—These super aggressive reptiles were made famous by “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin who frequently tangled with them in his native land of Australia.

Size alone makes these creatures scary as the largest on record according to National Geographic is 28 feet long and was killed by a schoolteacher in 1958. Specimens over 20 feet long are fairly common among the 200,000-300,000 known to exist in the Pacific region.

According to National Geographic, “Classic opportunistic predators, they lurk patiently beneath the surface near water’s edge waiting for potential prey to stop for a sip of water. They’ll feed on anything they can get their jaws on, including water buffalo, monkeys, wild boar, and even sharks. Without warning, they explode from the water with a thrash of their powerful tails, grasp their victim, and drag it back in, holding it under until the animal drowns.”

Be careful out there tonight and remember Christ doe not give us a spirit of fear.

Creature Feature: Tarantula!

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On this week’s episode of The Creature Feature we profile a chaco golden knee tarantula. Enjoy!

Creature Feature: Hairless Rat from Kingdom Zoo on Vimeo.

World’s Scariest Animals Pt. 1

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This week, I thought it would be fun to check out some of the animals you would least want to encounter on a cool, autumn night when the wind is howling and the moonlight barely illuminates your surroundings.

Polar Bear—Most bear species kill people out of territorial instincts or to protect their young but polar bears often”do so for dining purposes. Yes, polar bears are maneaters. There aren`t many easy meals in their icy habitat so any human showing up is fair game. Arcticwebsite.com has a great article called “How to Survive a Bear Attack” and it does a great job summing up why the polar bear is so scary.

“The polar bear is the most deadly of all. While his normal food is seal, they have been known, for centuries, to attack humans. Until the introduction of firearms, the native people of the north have lived in fear of them. Many early explorers have told horror stories of polar bear attacks. These bears are known to stalk and hunt humans. If you are in polar bear country carry a firearm or avoid the area.”

Cape Buffalo—Any animal that routinely beats down lions and charges vehicles, hunters and anything else it feels like is scary. These truly bad-ass bovines will actually lie in wait for the hunters who have shot them and according to some professional guides, they have an uncanny ability to pick the shooter out of a group. I once had a run-in with a cape at a 40,000-acre game ranch in Central Texas.

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My wife and I were driving out of the ranch and spotted a herd of zebra feeding in a meadow, so I grabbed my camera and tried to sneak up for a closer shot. When I came up to a patch of cedar trees, I heard something moving through the brush toward me. I was hoping it would be a zebra so I could get a point blank shot, but as it turned out, the animal was a Cape Buffalo! I had no idea they had any on the ranch, but I was looking at one at a distance of 10 feet and the car was about 75 yards away. I`m here to tell the story, so I obviously made it out safely but the buffalo followed me toward the car and made me question my mortality. Scary, indeed!

King Cobra—The king cobra is the world`s longest poisonous snake, reaching lengths of up to 18 feet and can inject enough of its deadly venom to kill an elephant within three hours it strikes it in the trunk. On top of that when coiled up in a strike position, a maximum size specimen can look a grown man in the eye. If that`s not enough to scare you, consider that snake experts consider it the most intelligent of snakes that can recognize their caregivers and according to legend send out distress calls for other cobras to help it in moments of danger. True or not, that is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Candiru Fish—Ever heard the stories of the tiny catfish that can swim up a stream of urine into the bladder? Did you think that was a myth? Well, it`s at least partially true. There have been a number of documented cases of this tiny parasitic fish entering both men and women through openings in the body. They can`t swim up a stream of urine but they can and do get into people`s bodies. The good news is they can`t survive long there.

On second thought, that isn`t much of a consolation, is it?

Creature Feature: GIANT toad!

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On this week’s episode of The Creature Feature we profile a giant Suriname marine toad. Enjoy!

Creature Feature: Giant Toad! from Kingdom Zoo on Vimeo.

Lynx in Texas? Pt. 2

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(This is the final installment of a two-part series written by my cat research partner Terri Werner and I.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The first difference between a Canada lynx and a bobcat is size.

Bobcats can vary greatly in size as noted earlier in the story. A hunter for example who shoots a 20-pound bobcat might be shocked to see a 35-pound cat with long legs that looks as if it were a giant in comparison to the animal they took. Some bobcats tend to be very “leggy” while others are long and lean.

Ear tufts also vary greatly among individuals. Most bobcats have short but some are comparable to those of their northern cousins.

Spot patterns also vary wildly with some having virtually no spots on the top half and others possessing well-defined spots. A few individuals have a unique pattern traits of spots within spots that look sort of like the rosettes of a leopard or jaguar. It is not as pronounced as those big cats but it looks shockingly different from other bobcats. “Bob” one of the bobcats at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge has this pattern and we received a photo of wild specimen in Texas while conducting our research.

Bobcat photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bobcat photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

People seeing this “different” looking bobcats sometimes associate them with Canada lynx and at some point a stocking legend began.

In a way that is a shame because, our very own lynx, the bobcat, is an amazing cat.

Here are some facts that will give you a new appreciation for this diminutive but astounding feline.

*A few years back the estimated bobcat population in Texas was around 200,000. That is probably a low number. These cats are all over the place and their range seems to be expanding.

*Our research has documented bobcats in the city limits of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Bobcats are able to live in small woodlots and will do just fine preying on the rodents around garbage dumps and drainage ditches.

*A study conducted in the Florida Everglades in 1992 showed that bobcats are fully capable of killing full grown whitetails although it fairly rare event. Bobcats killed six radio-collared adult deer in the region by administering one bite to the throat.

*According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, bobcats are able to jump up to 12 feet in a single bound.

The bobcat may not be as glamorous as its furrier, snowshoe-footed Canadian cousin may but they are perfectly suited for life in the Lone Star State where they fill an important niche in the environment.