Monday, October 13, 2014

Ellis County Camera Maintenance Trip

I made a trip out to check on one of my game cameras yesterday. The camera is located on private property in Ellis County, Texas where some odd goings on have been reported. The property owners have spotted two large cats, one tawny-colored and one black, on their land and have had several of their horses suffer injuries that they suspect were caused by run ins with a predator of some kind. The family has also found scat that looks suspiciously like that of a black bear and heard some odd clicking, moaning and growling from wooded areas adjacent to their home. Possibly the strangest thing to have gone on at this location is the disappearance of peaches from trees on the property. In two of the last three years, last year being the exception as a terrible drought prevented the trees from blooming, the trees have been quite prodigious. In fact, the trees have produced at such a rate that the property owners could not keep up. Peaches littered the ground and the branches were heavy with them. Each of these good years, the property owners returned from work one day to find the peaches gone. Not only were the peaches on the ground gone but the trees were completely stripped of fruit as well. For all of these reasons, the spot is an area of interest to me.

I was anxious to check the camera, as it is a brand new Cuddeback Ambush IR model on its maiden voyage. I have owned several older Cuddeback models in the past and they have been workhorses for me, providing years of service. They would likely still be working for me except I deployed them in a dry creek bed in Central Texas a while back and they fell victim to a flash flood event. The creek bed was a virtual wildlife highway and I got hundreds of great photos from the spot but a rain event in August of last year, pretty unusual in these parts, took them out. I’ve been attempting to rebuild my camera arsenal ever since but progress has been slow. In any event, I was anxious to see how the new Cuddeback performed.

I was a bit disappointed in the lack of events recorded by the camera. I got only a handful of shots/video of feral hogs and a coyote. The quality of the images was fine, however, and left me encouraged for the future. I downloaded the images on my laptop, refreshed the batteries and redeployed the camera in the same spot thinking that six weeks was not a fair enough sample size to determine whether it was going to be productive. After redeploying the camera, the property owner and I stared making our way back toward the house so we could take a look at what kind of images we had. That is when things got interesting.

We had walked approximately 150 yards back to the north of the camera location when I stopped to examine a game trail cutting back to the west. While I was looking for sign, I heard what sounded like a very large animal crashing through the brush back close to the location of the camera. I turned to look but saw nothing. The property owner had lingered behind me as I checked the trail and did report seeing something. She reported seeing something large and gray fly or drop out of a tree back in the spot from where we had just been moments before. She could not give many details as it happened quite fast but said the object was substantial. We immediately returned to the spot but could find nothing on the ground in the spot or surrounding area matching the description of what she says she saw. She was adamant that she saw something gray and big come from the tree or out of the tree line and land on the ground. She did not see any sort of movement after the event that would indicate an animal of some kind came out of the tree and then moved away. It should be noted at this time, however, that the grass is quite high in the spot and something low to the ground likely could escape detection quite easily by hugging the ground. I really do not know what else to say about the incident. It occurred exactly as recounted. As I said, I did not see the object but clearly heard something large. Other than that, I cannot really speak to what it might have been. After looking around for another 30-45 minutes, we made our way back to the house.

As I mentioned previously, I did not capture very many images on this set. While this was disappointing, I was pleased with the image quality of the photos and the video that was captured. Even though nothing unusual was photographed or captured on video, I have included the images here for your inspection.

I will continue to monitor the situation in Ellis County. I have two Reconyx cameras currently in the shop and hope to have them back by the time I refresh the Cuddeback in 4-6 weeks.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dallas Man Hospitalized After Bee Attack

KWTX, a CBS affiliate in Central Texas is reporting that a Dallas area man has been hospitalized as the result of an attack by bees. The story is brief so I will post it in its entirety below.

Bee Attack Sends Central Texas Man To The Hospital

DALLAS (October 8, 2014) A man who was attacked by a swarm of bees while mowing near a self-storage facility in Hearne was flown to a hospital in Bryan.
The bees attacked the man late Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Firefighters were able to get the bees away by hosing the man down with soap and water.
Authorities diverted traffic away from the area for about an hour-and-a-half.
The self-storage facility and a nearby abandoned hotel were roped off until beekeepers were called in.
As a precaution, school officials kept students indoors for the rest of the day.

Obviously, the report is short on details and there is no mention of the condition of the victim. There is no word yet on whether the bees involved in the attack were of the Africanized variety, commonly referred to as killer bees, but it seems a safe bet.

The theme of someone out mowing and being attacked is a common one when it comes to bee attacks. On August 26, 2013, a Waco man was taken to a local hospital after being stung dozens of times by bees that he accidentally disturbed while mowing his lawn. The bees responsible for this attack were identified as normal honey bees initially, but other officials felt that designation was premature. To my knowledge, though some officials felt the bees were of the Africanized variety, the label was never changed.

In June of 2013, a Moody, Texas man was attacked and killed by a swarm of Africanized bees as he drove his tractor by an abandoned chicken coop on his property. Larry Goodwin was stung more than 1,000 times and died at the scene. His wife and daughter witnessed the attack and rushed to try and help. They were each stung more than 100 times but survived the onslaught.

In July of 2012, a swarm of killer bees attacked and killed two horses and seriously injured two adults near Pantego, Texas. According to the owner, her two horses were “so covered in bees that they shimmered,” before they were overcome and collapsed. The owner and her boyfriend were stung upwards of 200 times while trying to save the horses.

There are other incidents involving Africanized bees ranging from the Rio Grande Valley to north of the Red River but you get the idea.

As dangerous as Africanized bees can be, it is important for us not to overreact to their growing presence. Bee populations all over the world have dropped dramatically over the last two decades. Nobody seems quite sure why. Bees perform critical pollination, without which, agriculture would suffer terribly. As a result, we can’t go around and simply wipe out every beehive we come across. As always, use good sense and caution when out and about and realize that bees could be on or near your property. Pay attention and be aware of your surroundings. When a hive is located be sure to call in an expert to examine it. If it is a common honeybee hive it can likely be relocated and won’t need to be destroyed. If it is determined that the hive houses Africanized bees then it will be dealt with by the pros and, hopefully, nobody will get hurt.

Be careful out there.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Could a Cryptid Discovery Save the Earth's Wildlife?

I started this blog with the idea of discussing cryptozoologically related topics such as bigfoot, black panthers and chupacabras in a reasonable and level-headed manner. I wanted it to be more than that, however, and over the years have added posts on out of place animals and the status of creatures large and small from all over the U.S. and the world. My theory on some of the large cryptid questions out there is that there is a biological entity responsible for many of the sightings and accounts given by witnesses. If my theory is correct, creatures like wood apes and melanistic mystery cats are flesh and blood and subject to the same environmental pressures as known species. I would ask that you keep that in mind as you read this post. I think you will agree the statistics discussed below are quite sobering.

The Earth has lost half of its wildlife population over the last 40 years.

That is the conclusion reached by scientists from the WWF and the Zoological Society of London according to an article by Damian Carrington published on The Guardian website. WWF and ZSL researchers found that animals across the spectrum, river dwellers, sea creatures and land animals, are being decimated as humans harvest them for food in unsustainable numbers while simultaneously polluting and destroying their habitats.

Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science is quoted as saying, “If half the animals died in the London zoo next week it would be front page news but that is what is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” Professor Norris stressed that nature, which provides food, water and air to humanity was essential for the survival of the planet.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. Barratt went on to stress that more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation and that we must find a way to produce food and energy in a sustainable manner.

Researchers calculated the drastic decline in wildlife populations by analyzing 10,000 different populations, covering 3,000 species in total. The data was then used to create a “Living Planet Index” (LPI), which reflected the state of 45,000 known vertebrates. The LPI is considered to be a robust indicator and has been adopted by the UN’s Convention of Biological Diversity as a key insight into biodiversity.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL’s director of conservation, said, “We have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world.” He added, “If we get our response right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future.”

Another index cited in the study is the Living Planet Report that calculates mankind’s “ecological footprint.” Loosely, an ecological footprint is the scale at which man is using up natural resources. The report states that, currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, is catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, is pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than the rainfall can replenish them and is emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb. The report concludes that the current global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it.

The most serious declines in population is occurring among animal populations that live in freshwater ecosystems. Populations have plummeted 75% since 1970. “Rivers are at the bottom of the system,” said Dave Tickner, the WWF’s chief freshwater adviser. “Whatever happens on the land, it all ends up in the rivers.” Pollution is not the only factor in the decline of wildlife populations in freshwater ecosystems. Dams and the increasing abstraction of water damage these systems. Tickner is quoted as saying, “There are more than 45,000 major dams – 15m or higher – around the world. These slice rivers up into a thousand pieces.” The dams prevent a healthy flow of water. In addition, more and more water is being pumped out of river systems. The world population has increased fourfold in the last 100 years but the world’s water useage has increased sevenfold. “We are living thirstier and thirstier lives,” Tickner said.

The picture for land-based wildlife is not much better. According to the study, the Earth has lost 40% of its land animals since 1970. Poaching and habitat destruction are the two main culprits here. Marine animal populations have also fallen 40% during the same time period. Factors in these losses are pollution, global warming and unsustainable harvesting practices.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK said, “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all. We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest and a responsibility to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”

The findings discussed above are startling and sobering. While most people, I believe, are in support of measures to save wilderness areas and wildlife, I fear the latest findings may fall on deaf ears. Of course, that assumes the message reaches the ears of the public at all. I saw nothing on the CNN, Fox News, CNBC or any other news network discussing this study and its findings. Additionally, I sense that the general public has been deluged with so many doomsday messages regarding pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, etc. that a point of over saturation has been reached. The WWF/ZSL report is just one more such story. It is white noise to many. Those who do consider such matters seriously likely have no idea what, if anything, they can do to help. There is a real sense of it being too late and that the train has already left the station. Another factor in all of this is that developing nations, where most of the habitat and wildlife is declining most severely, balk at the efforts of developed nations who “already have theirs” to limit their industrial practices. We must somehow make it worthwhile for these nations to preserve the few wild places we still have on this planet.

I do not feel it is too late. It might be the fourth quarter, but the game is not over. This is where those with an interest in unknown/undiscovered animals might be able to make a difference. If a new species, previously believed to have been a myth, can be proven real, the interest generated might just be the impetus needed to get politicians and governments from around the world moving on environmental issues. Just imagine if one of the cryptid “big three,” bigfoot, yeti or Loch Ness monster, was scientifically documented. The public cry to protect these species and their habitats would be deafening. Those in power, at least in most nations, would have little choice but to listen. The act of saving habitat for these species would directly, and positively, impact the ability of other known species to survive as well. By saving vast tracts of forested land in North America and Canada in order to preserve and study the sasquatch, we would also be helping countless other species survive. Animals ranging from the smallest insect to largest of mammals would benefit. This alone makes the work of those seriously working to document unrecognized species vital. We need a new “poster child” for a worldwide movement to save the last wild places on this Earth.

Those who are going about the business of documenting unknown species in a professional and scientific manner need our support. The clowns and charlatans who are making a mockery of cryptozoological research are hurting such legitimate efforts. These people should be shunned and ignored. We simply cannot afford to tolerate such shenanigans anymore; the time is growing short.


Carrington, D. (2014, September 29). Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF. Retrieved October 6, 2014, from

Yeti Print Photo Credit: Mike Rees

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where Have You Been, Texas Cryptid Hunter?

I have received several emails over the last couple of weeks that have all asked basically the same question, “Where have you been?”

It seems that I write some version of this post every year as I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve abandoned the blog and stopped my TCH related activities. The problem is simply that life has intervened and I have had little to no time to dedicate to the site. As most of you know, I’m a football coach in the state of Texas. This is absolutely the craziest and busiest time of the year for me. From August to late November, I am chasing my tail like you wouldn’t believe. In addition, my wife has taken a new, and much more demanding, job which has made it necessary for us to reshuffle some family duties. It has all been good but it is a struggle when it comes to time management.

Several things are on the horizon that I’ll be sharing about soon. The annual NAWAC retreat is coming up and I’ll likely tweet live and post photos from that event. Also, I have two game cameras in the shop that I hope to have back soon so that I can begin a new field study. I currently have one camera deployed that is due to be checked. Actually, it is well past the time it should have been refreshed but I have been trying to wait for the other two cameras to arrive so that I could deploy them in the area and just make the one trip.

Things should slow down some soon and I’ll get back to doing the things I enjoy like writing the blog and chasing down any and all leads on the mysterious and undocumented animals that may or may not roam the Lone Star State. Hang in there with me. I appreciate each and every one of you that stop by to read about my thoughts and activities. In the meantime, be sure to check out my Facebook page and Twitter accounts (hit the links in the right margin). While I have not had time to write much on the blog, I have continued to post links of interest and news items I come across related to the natural and cryptozoological world.

More soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Wisdom of Henry David Thoreau

"It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see.”

- Henry David Thoreau

Monday, September 8, 2014

On the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

During a recent interview I was asked why the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, among all the species driven to extinction by human behavior, has remained so much in the consciousness of the American public? To answer the question I referred back to something I wrote several years ago in a review for the movie Ghost Bird.

Certainly, it is a striking and beautiful creature but I think it is more than that. The Ivory-Bill offers hope of redemption for we Americans who, while we loved the forests and wild places of our continent, failed to be good stewards of the incredible resources with which we were blessed. True, our failures are magnified by the extinction of such a magnificent bird. But if, somehow, the Ivory-Bill has survived then we would have an opportunity to make things right. We would have a second chance. Until, and unless, we get that chance we will be forever haunted by this ghost bird.

I continue to pray that the Ivory-billed woodpecker survives somewhere in the bottom-lands of the Deep South and that we will get that second chance.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Real Texas Sea Monster

Below is a photo of a 2000 lb. manta ray (Manta birostris) that was caught off the jetties in Galveston sometime in the early 1900's. This brute was caught by a 75-year old man. I can only imagine the fight he had on his hands prior to landing this fish.

Big rays like this were once commonly referred to as devil fish or sea devils and can reach widths of more than 20 feet. It is likely a safe assumption that some sea monster reports from years past were actually sightings of huge manta rays.

Source: Traces of Texas