Giant hogs-for real? (Pt. 2)

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1hogAs noted in the highly detailed chapter on giant hogs in my book “Hog Wild” there were holes in the story of “Monster Pig” from the beginning.

The scale used to weigh the animal goes in 10-pound increments so a weight of 1,051-pounds would be impossible. The fatal blow to the story came a few days later when an Associated Press story revealed the hog was not only domestic but was named, “Fred”.

“Phil Blissitt said he purchased the 6-week-old pig in December 2004 as a Christmas gift for his wife, Rhonda, and they sold it to the owner of Lost Creek Plantation after deciding to get rid of all the pigs at their farm.”

“He told The Anniston Star in a story Friday that the sale was four days before the hog was killed in a 150-acre fenced area of the plantation.”

That “Monster Pig” was a purely domestic hog was not a surprise to me in any way. I suspected it, Hogzilla and most of the other giant hog photos circulating on the Internet hail from domestic stock. While truly pure wild hogs rarely grow larger than 500 pounds, the domestic ones can get huge if fed constantly and they are put out onto hunting ranches in Texas on occasion.

Tales of Hogzilla and other gigantic hogs are now urban legends here in Texas and beyond.

When you have a situation with giant hogs which look basically the same rather wild or domestic from the general public’s standpoint and create a sensation story to go with it, you have a situation where someone’s pet like “Fred” aka Monster Pig becomes a legend.

Despite the fact this hog was verified to be purely domestic there are still (years later) chain e-mails going around about it touting it as the world’s largest wild hog. Some of this has to do with how urban legends grow which are the source of the stories themselves. Since they typically come in the form of an e-mail from a friend or a conversational anecdote they seem believe. After all, your friend would not lie, would they? Maybe it is not that they are lying but the whole thing was a lie or at least an exaggeration from the beginning.

With that said, there is a chance there are some legitimate, wild monster-sized hogs roaming parts of the country due to what I call the “x-factor”. Put simply it means in nature virtually anything is possible and some hogs of Hogzilla size and larger could spring up from wild stocks.

For years scientists thought that reports of giant peccaries roaming the rainforests of Brazil were bogus but in 2007, researchers confirmed a separate subspecies that grows much larger than the collared and white lipped variety.

Science has been wrong time again about the size, range, life habits and even existence of certain wild creatures. All I have to say is if there is a legitimate, wild successor to Hogzilla in my future, I hope I see it before it sees me.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Giant hogs-for real? (Pt. 1)

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Hogzilla.

That is the name bestowed upon a huge hog killed in 2004 by Chris Griffin on Ken Holyoak’s hunting preserve. As the story goes, the hog was 12 feet long and weighed 1,000 pounds.

This sensational story circulated on the Internet and become a media sensation with about half of the interested parties screaming “hoax” and the others amazed that a “wild” boar would get so big.

As noted in my latest book Hog Wild this story became such a sensation the National Geographic Society filmed an investigative documentary about it and exhumed the body. Their verdict was the hog actually weighed 800 pounds and was between 7.5 and 8 feet long, which is still humongous by wild hog standards. However, they also found through DNA testing the animal was a hybrid of a wild and domestic hogs, most likely a Hampshire.

This got me to thinking about the largest hogs I have seen on open range. The first was a huge sow crossing a dry creek bed in Burnet County between Austin and Llano. My father and I were headed toward our deer lease in Menard and spotted the animal just off Highway 71. We turned around to get a better look and spied the huge pig about 100 yards out climbing the creek banks then disappearing into the brush. We both agreed the hog was in the neighborhood of 500 pounds.

hoggy

The second gigantic hog I saw was many years later on my old deer lease in Newton County down a highline where I had been finding absolutely huge hog tracks. While scouting one day I glassed an acquaintance’s deer feeder on the edge of the highline and saw a bunch of small hogs, which were probably in the 50-pound range that at that range looked like ants. Then came what looked like a jeep only it was a hog. The little ones scattered and this behemoth began feeding which allowed me to watch him for a few minutes. Again, I would say the hog was somewhere in the 500-pound range, which among truly wild hogs is a giant.

But those hogs don’t match up to “Hogzilla” do they?

“Monster Pig” did though. That is the name the media gave to an alleged 1,051-pound hog killed by 11-year-old Jamison Stone at Lost Creek Plantation near Anniston, Alabama. He killed the hog with a .50 caliber handgun shooting the animal eight times causing a Hogzilla-like media sensation.

As noted in the highly detailed chapter on giant hogs in “Hog Wild” there were holes in the story from the beginning. The scale used to weigh the animal goes in 10-pound increments so a weight of 1,051-pounds would be impossible.

Find out more about this mysterious hog in the next edition of our blog.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Ivory & Extinction

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African elephants have been at the forefront of international wildlife conservation efforts for the last 30 years. When ivory poaching was brought to the public’s consciousness in the mid 1980s, the world was rightly appalled and millions of dollars have went toward their cause.

Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African elephants throughout the continent. That’s a huge drop from at least two million in the 1940s but it is large in comparison to the Asian elephant with a best estimate standing at around 35,000 animals scattered throughout Asia.

800px-Elephants_in_Tanzania_Africa

And the giraffe with an estimated 40,000 individuals in Africa.

Or tigers (of all subspecies) standing at around 2,000 animals.

I dare say if any of these species had received 1/10 of the attention that African elephants have gotten, then they might not be in their current state.

Big conservation is like anything else it can become big bureaucracy and the public’s fascination with the African elephant helps generate funding. Lots of it.

I am all for helping this species but shouldn’t a bigger focus be on Asian elephant populations which stand at 1/10 of that in Africa?

Tigers are at an even worse place. A much worse place.

Heading into the new year a good question for those of us who support wildlife conservation is which areas to prioritize and which groups to support. We at Kingdom Zoo are looking at doing something with tigers and are searching out effective, well-managed projects to support with the limit resources we have available.

The clock is ticking and extinction is a real possibility for some of the creatures on this list.

And if we’re honest about it, the African elephant even with increased poaching will likely be the last of these to vanish while it receives the majority of media attention.

Hopefully that will not be at the expense of other species closer to the brink of eradication.

Chester Moore, Jr.

The Search for “Little Foot”

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Kingdom Zoo has partnered with Bear Creek Feline Center in Panama City, Fla. to take their “Search for Little Foot” to Texas.
The “Little Foot” they are referring to is the jaguarundi, a smallish, mysterious cat known to dwell along the Texas-Mexico border but reported as far east as Florida. Do these fascinating cats exist beyond their accepted ranges?
jaguarundi
That is what the Kingdom Zoo crew will help the Bear Creek Feline Center find out. And we will have kids helping us put game cameras into key locations along the Texas-Mexico border and in other areas and they will be involved in monitoring them as well.
Exciting times lie ahead…
Chester Moore, Jr.

Jaguar Truths (Pt. 2)

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Did you know jaguars are native to the United States?

They were once known to range as far north as the Red River region in Texas and extend their territory into Louisiana. After examining the evidence and studying the species for the last couple of decades, I believe there are jaguars in Texas right now or at least they are crossing into the state from New Mexico and Mexico.

Yes, I know that is controversial and the current wildlife guidebooks don’t show that but last time I checked animals don’t read maps and go where the darn well please.

Both New Mexico and Arizona have verified through a focused trail camera program the migration of numerous jaguars into both states. And when you consider how vast and uninhabited the Trans Pecos region is there is no reason for the cats not to exist there. In fact, it wouldn’t make sense if they were not there.

johnaudubon
John James Audubon’s rendering of a jaguar in Texas.

Additionally I have collected very reliable reports of jaguars from hunters in South Texas who were not seeking attention, just asking questions about what they were blown away to have seen. One very experienced hunter who wishes to remain anonymous told me of watching one through his scope for about five minutes walking down a sendero in Webb County.

There are many reports of “black panthers” in Texas annually and while I believe many of these can be attributed to the everything from feral house cats to the jaguarundi, another misunderstood and rarely known native cat, the possibility exists some reports could very well be jaguars.

There is no such species as a “black panther” but both leopards (native to Africa and Asia) produce black or melanistic offspring as do jaguars.

Kingdom Zoo is currently in search of jaguar sighting reports anywhere in the United States (particularly in Texas) as well game camera photos, historical records and newspaper clippings from the past. If you have any of the above, contact me at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Jaguar Truths (Pt. 1)

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A few years back a friend asked me what would be the first thing I would buy if I inherited a vast fortune or otherwise came into being filthy rich.

“A jaguar,” I replied.

The friend looked a bit confused and replied, “A jaguar? I always had pegged as more of a truck guy, not a luxury sports car buff.”

“No I meant, an actual jaguar. You know the kind with the beautiful spotted coat and big, razor sharp claws.”

Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.
Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.

I love big cats and if I had to narrow down a favorite it would be the jaguar. Tigers are a close second but there is something about jaguars that have captivated me in a profound way for the last couple of decades.

A big part of it has to do with having the amazing blessing of getting to work with captive jaguars for a couple of years while I was in college. One cat in particular named “Tasha” stole my heart as we used her as an ambassador animal for the refuge where she resided T&G photographer Gerald Burleigh and I even got to take her to get root canal surgery once.

By being in close contact with these amazing cats, it was evident they are smart.

As detailed in John James Audubon’s book Quadrupeds of North America, the jaguar actually goes fishing. No, not just hunting down fish in shallow streams, but also actually luring them in on purpose.

The melanistic (black) jaguar is one of the world's most mysterious cats.
The melanistic (black) jaguar is one of the world’s most mysterious cats.

“The jaguar is reported to stand in the water out of the stream and drop its saliva, which, floating on the surface, draws the fish after it within reach, when it seizes them with the paw, and throws them ashore for food,” Audubon said.

The Arizona Fish and Game Department’s official profile of the species notes that they are a patient hunter of fish. Jaguars are reported to wait by the edge of the water and hit the surface with their tail to lure fish into range of their paws.

The intelligence of the jaguar is legendary.

Audubon noted that military officials said if jaguars attacked them, they would always take out the leader in the group first as to confuse the rest. While that is a bit of a stretch, it does show the uniqueness of these cats has been evident for many years and even then they were enshrouded in mystery.

And they still are.

Did you know jaguars are native to the United States?

We’ll learn more about that in the second installment coming soon…

Chester Moore, Jr.

Dwarf Whitetails Update

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Last summer Kingdom Zoo started soliciting information about tiny or “dwarf” whitetail deer.

My father and uncle both reported seeing fully developed whitetail bucks that were about 1/3 the size of the average Texas Hill Country buck, putting the animals at about 30 pounds.

I was excited to see how many were interested in the subject and had reports. Here are a few we have received. More to come soon..

Chester Moore, Jr.

From Josh in Alabama…

Just wanted to let you know I believe we have miniature deer in our area of north Alabama. I’ve only seen them twice in my life. The first time was while hunting on Redstone Arsenal with my father 33 years ago. It was a fully formed doe (in November) that was the same size as our miniature poodle (about 16 inches to the top of the shoulders). The second time was yesterday. I saw a very small fully formed doe, about the same size and coloration of the one I had seen 33 years ago. Our regular whitetail in this area are pretty big, and I see them crossing our property all the time. The doe I saw yesterday was no more than 18 inches (estimate) and less than half the size I would expect this years fawns to be by now. I can’t find any info on the internet about miniature deer in our area, Gurley, Alabama.

From Ron in Michigan…

I saw a post of yours online asking for photos of dwarfism in whitetail deer (Jan ’14) .  I took this pic of a deer I believe is a dwarf at our local buck pole on Nov. 15th 2014. dwarfdeer (2)It was half the size of other bucks in his age class, with a small body , short legs, but a normal size head and neck. I believe he is 3 or 4 years old. – Ron Randle  Hudson, Michigan