Venomous snakes have a bad reputation but the fact is most have no desire to strike. Check out this video of me testing out a copperhead while wearing snake proof boots.
One of the most persistent has been the stories of mysterious stockings of timber rattlesnake stockings in East Texas.
The story goes something like this.
In a secret effort to replenish diminishing timber rattlesnake stocks, government officials have been stocking captive-bred specimens of the venomous reptiles at various locations within Texas’ National Forest land.
It is unclear as to which government agency is responsible but some reports indicate it could be the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) while another rumor has it linked to a clandestine Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) project.
I say “story” but the truth is I have heard numerous tales of rattlesnake restoration efforts in the Pineywoods of East Texas. One gentleman even told me his uncle’s brother-in-law had some released next to his farm near Crockett. Hundreds of them.
Where did these stories originate?
Well, rattlesnakes have technically been “released” into certain areas in the Pineywoods. However, scientists did not breed them in captivity and they are not part of some secret restoration effort.
These “released” rattlesnakes are simply ones that were captured as part of a radio-telemetry study conducted by officials with the U.S. Forest Service. Timber rattlesnake were captured in the wild, fitted with radio transmitters and released back into the wild so researchers could track their movements.
There never has been a timber rattlesnake stocking program in Texas or anywhere else for that matter.
According to TPWD endangered species specialist, Ricky Maxey, the rumors have been floating around since the 1990s.
“I used to work in the Big Thicket area out of Beaumont and we used to get questions about rattlesnake stockings frequently. And it seems the rumors are still pretty rampant,” Maxey said.
“Someone could have seen Forest Service officials capturing the snakes or releasing the ones fitted with transmitters and the rumor could have started there. Then again, it could be the case of a true story getting less and less truthful as it’s told,” he said.
If these stories persist in my neck of the woods, how many others are floating around the country and even the world that have no bearing on reality?
Maybe we’ll have to research some and bring the true story to light. After all I love solving mysteries.
That’s what I get for watching Scooby Doo every Saturday as a kid.
Chester Moore, Jr.
This is probably the coolest snake video I have seen in years.
Coral snakes regularly eat earth snakes but this is a fairly large copperhead, at least in comparison to the coral snake in the clip and it shows anything can happen in nature.
Thanks to Donna Grundy for sharing this amazing footage.
Chester Moore, Jr.
Someone recently asked me to recount my best ever wildlife encounter. Since I am constantly seeking them out, they are frequent but it did not take long to narrow it down to one.
Here it goes…
While eating lunch at the back of the boat, I kept a watchful eye on the surfboard we were pulling behind the boat. Chumming great whites with blood or fish parts is illegal in California, so the Golden Gate Expeditions crew “trolls” for great whites with a surfboard, which, according to theory, the sharks mistake for seals.
Just as my mind was about to drift elsewhere, the water exploded with great fury. A 16-footer attacked the surfboard and jumped completely out of the water. It spit out the board, then circled and bumped it again.
Then another shark from below rocketed out of the water and slammed the board.
My heart jumped out of my chest as I watched from a distance of 10 yards as both sharks jump clear of the water, all 2,000 or more pounds of them. Until recently, scientists did not consider the great white aerial attackers, but using the surfboard as bait has changed that.
“When they hit the boards they tend to come out of the water, and it’s truly an amazing sight. You have to see it to believe it,” said Lawrence Groth, owner of Golden Gate Expeditions.
On that day, I saw four great whites go airborne while attacking the surfboard.
This made me ponder two things: (1) surfers in California are crazy for surfing anywhere near white shark territory. (2) I was probably just as crazy for getting into a cage amongst them. The largest we saw was probably in the 18-foot category, while the smallest was around 14.
A small school of fish was feeding around the cage, and then they all left in a split second. Something spooked them, and it was probably something weighing a ton and sporting a mouth full of razors. I went to California to cage-dive with sharks, but left more than satisfied and truly in awe of great whites. California wisely prohibits the harvest of this slow-growing species to ensure their future.
Many things about that day will live with me forever, but most vivid is the first time I looked into a great white’s eyes. In the movie Jaws, the late actor Robert Shaw’s character talks about them having dark eyes “like a dolls eyes.” I agree.
With eyes as black and lifeless as a chunk of coal, the monster shark and I seemed to make contact, if only for a brief second. I could see no conscience or thought, just an instinctive drive to kill and survive.
The great white shark is nature at its purest and best, no matter how ugly or cruel it might seem to us.
Living in a world where we buy our meat from a market and live in air-conditioned homes, we humans sometimes lose touch with what true survival is all about. The great white shark embodies that better than any living creature I can think of.
More profoundly, it gives us a sense of humility. Even though mankind has conquered everything from polio to space travel, there are still things to which we are vulnerable; sometimes, we are not at the top of the food chain.
Chester Moore, Jr.
It was a beautiful moment.
A sweet, young girl who had recently lost her father, got the opportunity to pet and interact with her favorite animal-a zebra.
A few months earlier at church, the Holy Spirit put it on my heart to ask her what her favorite animal was and without hesitation she said “zebra”.
I promised her she would meet a zebra and here it was two months later and thanks to Donna McDonald of Jasper that was getting to happen. It was the first of several of what we call “Wild Wishes” that my wife and I through our ministry, Children’s Kingdom Ministries got to give in 2014.
We have dedicated every bit of time, energy and finance outside of our jobs (mine at TFG and hers as a teacher) to working with children on behalf of the Lord. It’s our passion and life’s mission and it started with my grandmother.
The late Ruby Pickard, founded an organization called My Wish Inc. in 1982 to grant wishes to terminally ill children in Southeast Texas. At eight years old, I accompanied her on that first wish where a little boy who simply asked for an American flag to fly over his home in Mauriceville.
That had a huge impact because at the time I would asked for something extravagant like a live elephant or the entire Star Wars merchandise collection but here was a boy my age with leukemia wanting a humble flag. That event and being able to see her give so many children happiness birthed a heart for kids even while I was one.
This year we have opened the Kingdom Zoo: Education Center in West Orange near my home and launched our “Wild Wishes” project to continue making the connection between the Creator and His Creation.
“Wild Wishes” is important to us because it is a means of giving hope and at Christmas this is something I want you to think about.
How much hope is out there in the world?
How much hope is out there in the news, in popular culture and on social media?
If you can find any, please let me know.
We have an opportunity in a season that even the most hardened person realizes is about giving to do something special for others. If you know someone who is hurting or maybe a child who has suffered or loss or is experiencing a sickness, reach out and offer help.
We granted a wolf related wish to a wonderful little boy suffering from a form of cancer (now in remission!) thanks to our friends at Exotic Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo as well as my friend David Cleaver and his wolf dog “Lucy”.
What it about is letting kids have some kind of safe, fun encounter with wildlife that they might not realize is possible. Who would think there are zebras in Jasper, TX for example?
Well, there are and our sweet friend got to meet one of them.
I’m a little uncomfortable writing about the charitable work Lisa and I do because it is certainly not about us. It’s about He who sent us and the wonderful kids we work with whether it be at our Education Center, on a field trip with kids or on a “Wild Wish”. It’s also exciting to honor my grandmother by in a way continuing her work that blessed more than 250 kids in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. A few days before I wrote this, our team had the privilege of ministering to 13 kids from Buckner’s Children’s Home.
They got to see and meet a bunch of reptiles, amphibians, arachnids and mammals and spend a day in a fun, loving, faith-filled environment. It was our fourth event with Buckner for the year and reminded me that even the smallest of things matters to a child.
One little girl couldn’t help but laugh that our rat “Rita” is hairless. I’m used to the fact she was born that way but seeing that beautiful smile at such a simple and admittedly silly-looking creature serves as inspiration to keep doing this and take it to new levels.
If you would like to support us with a tax deductible donation click here.
Everything we do is made possible with donations. We appreciate everyone who makes this work possible.
Chester Moore, Jr.
This video given to us by one of our Kingdom Zoo supporters shows a long-tailed bobcat in Orange County, TX. Most people don’t realize bobcats actually have a tail and some fairly long.
How many bobcats with tails like this have been mistaken for cougars? I have personally had to tell several readers that their game camera had a bobcat on it, not a cougar.
Chester Moore, Jr.
Attention Lake Calcasieu (Big Lake) area fishermen and outdoors lovers.
We are looking for recent (last two weeks) sightings of “Pinky” the pink albino dolphin that has been in that ecosystem since around 2005.
We have been able to photograph and video the mysterious creature on two separate occasions and have a very special need to find it as soon as possible.
E-mail email@example.com with sightings information. Thanks in advance!
Chester Moore, Jr.