Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to pause and wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas. I pray it is a blessed and peaceful time for you and your family.

Recent events involving some friends of mine have driven home just how important it is to keep proper perspective on life and to remember all that is truly important. Hold your loved ones tight this Christmas and thank God for every day you have them.

My very best to you all...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Camera Trapping Report

I've had one game camera out for the last month in what I call "Location 1." This is the area where a woman told me she witnessed a large cat, matching the description of a cougar, crossing the road. This incident allegedly took place over a year ago now. I've had a camera in the woods adjacent to this spot off and on since that time.

I had the camera in a slightly different location this time around. The camera was mounted to a tree looking over a flat open spot that has a game trail running through it. The dry creek bed that runs through the area is at the back of the open area from the point of view of the camera. You can't really see the creek, as it drops away to a depth of about three feet, but you can see in several shots animals coming up and out of the creek or eye-shine just above the edge of the bank.

I managed to capture a ton of photos of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). The number of deer in the area, according to this photo census, seems to have increased greatly. This could be due to hunting pressure the deer are experiencing now. This area is within the city limits where hunting is not allowed. One thing that makes me think this could be true is the presence of a couple of nice bucks. In the past, I've only managed to get shots of doe in this area. It could also be that the number of deer in the area has remained constant and I only got more photos due to the camera being in a better location. Whatever the case, I got lots of great shots of deer.

I got one great shot of a pair of coyotes (Canis latrans) on the run as they come up out of the creek toward the general location of the camera. This is the first time I've managed to get a shot of both of these coyotes. The last time around I got two different shots of coyotes. I thought they were of two different individuals but could not be sure. This shot confirms there are at least two coyotes roaming this area. Last year I got a shot of a coyote sniffing a tree on which I had applied scent-bait that was more brownish-red in color than either of these two. I have not seen him for quite a while now.

I also got an interesting shot of a glowing white object close to the camera. It is sort of flower-shaped and appears bright white as the flash of the camera washed out whatever natural color it is. Is this one of those mysterious glowing orbs I've heard so much about? Nah, I'm guessing it is some sort of insect, a moth perhaps, that fluttered too close to the camera. It is kind of cool looking though.

So, to wrap up, I got some nice shots but didn't get anything unusual. That is not unexpected. I'm sort of biding my time until hunting season is over here in Texas and then plan on deploying at least four cameras in heavily wooded areas of SE Texas in the hopes of capturing a wider variety of animals. I will fill you in on those details soon.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy camera-trapping. I find myself sitting in my house at night thinking about the cameras out in the field. I wonder what has walked by them as they have kept their vigil 24/7. I get genuinely excited when I go to pull the memory cards from these cameras. I imagine that anticipation will only grow as I place the cameras in locations where creatures like black panthers and sasquatches have been reported.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Ghost Bird" Now Available On DVD

Ghost Bird, the documentary about the search for the Ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas, is now available on DVD.

I had the privilege of screening the film last May and found it to be very well done. You can read my review of the movie here. The film does not try to convince anyone that the Ivory-billed woodpecker does or does not exist; rather, it is about hope. The hopes of the people of Brinkley, Arkansas that the rediscovery of this species will help revive their dying town, the hopes of the Cornell researchers that they will soon be able to confirm the wildlife discovery of the century, and the hope of redemption for all of us 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.

I doubt you will be able to pick up a copy of this film at your local video store but you can order it here. If you have a birder in your family it would make a fantastic Christmas present. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Texas Cryptid Hunter Site Turns Two

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Texas Cryptid Hunter site. It is hard for me to believe that two years have passed since I started writing the blog. It is just one more reminder of how quickly time slips by all of us. I continue to enjoy the blog and the freedom it gives me to express my thoughts on various cryptozoological topics. It started on, more or less, a whim. I knew there was great interest among the general public about bigfoot and other crypids even if that interest was not openly discussed. I hoped to fill a niche by providing news on such topics as well as level-headed analysis of evidence and reports. I hope that is what this blog provides.

The site has experienced quite a bit of growth for which I am very grateful. At this time last year three people had signed up as followers of the blog. The number has fluctuated a bit over the last year but the blog is now followed by nine people. I was up to eleven followers at one point but a couple have disappeared. Despite the relatively low number of official followers a lot more people seem to have found and are reading the blog regularly. Overall readership has really jumped as illustrated by the numbers below as of this writing:

2008-2009 Totals
Total visits: 9,962
Avg. Per Day: 61
Avg. Visit Length: 2:31
Total Page Views: 18,845

2008-2010 Totals
Total visits: 54,024
Avg. Per Day: 277
Avg. Visit Length: 1:08
Total Page Views: 90,218

As you can see the growth has been substantial. The one negative is that the average visit length has dropped. This, I'm told, is to be expected to some degree with more people finding the site by accident as the result of searches on various topics. It is exciting and humbling to see the growth. I even had my first hoaxer attempt to trick me with some bogus photos. I guess that is a sign I've made it when I have my very own hoaxer.

In the past year I've added a Texas Cryptid Hunter Facebook page. At the time of this writing, the page had 139 people who "liked" it and check it out on a regular basis. I will continue to post updates there as well as photo albums from some of my outings.

So, thanks to all of you who stop by from time to time. I hope you will continue to do so. Please feel free to leave comments about the posts or email me with anything that is on your mind. I always enjoy hearing from readers.

My best...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Word From Charles Darwin

This one is one of my favorites:

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

- Charles Darwin

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Resilience of Primates

A new study, published in the Nov. 30 issue of American Naturalist, shows that primates are less susceptible to environmental ups and downs, particularly changes in rainfall, than other animals.

Researchers from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, North Carolina looked at, literally, decades of data on birth and death rates for seven different primate species. The species examined were muriqui monkeys and capuchin monkeys in Central and South America, yellow baboons, blue monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas from the African Continent, and sifakas, a type of lemur, in Madagascar.

The collection of this much data was a monumental effort. Seven different research teams working around the world monitored the births, lives, and deaths of thousands of individual daily for more than 25 years. The researchers used a new database developed by the NESCent, to compile and cross-reference the data in an effort to find similarities between the species.

"Wild animals deal with a world that is unpredictable from year to year," said the lead author of the study, Bill Morris. The Duke biologist added, "The weather can change a lot; there can be years with plenty of food and years of famine."

The 25 years of data covered both good years and bad and seems to have run long enough to make the data scientifically valid. What the researchers found was interesting. Year to year survival rates of primates proved to be more stable than survival rates of other animals. The primate data was compared to that of two-dozen species of birds, reptiles, and mammals.

The co-author of the study Karen Strier , an anthropologist as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that primates possess some key traits that enable them to make seasonal adjustments to their diets.

"For one thing, they're social," said Strier. The fact that primates live in groups allows them to share information with each other. This shared information allows them to be more effective in locating sources of food and water during lean times.

Another, and perhaps even more important, trait that allows primates to survive better than other species during times when food-stuff is scarce is the ability to eat a wide variety of food items. Monkeys and apes will eat leaves, grasses, fruits, flowers, bark, and seeds. In short, unlike many other animals, they are generalists when it comes to their diet. This is a huge advantage over species that have specialized diets. When their favorite foods are in short supply, primates can adapt and eat something else. The article then goes on to hypothesize that similar traits may have helped early humans survive environmental ups and downs.

Could the study have any relevance to the sasquatch? Possibly. The fact is that nobody really knows how sasquatches live, socialize, or eat; however, we do have some anecdotal witness reports that could allow for educated guesses.

The first trait mentioned that the study points to as having given primates an advantage in surviving environmental ups and downs is their social nature. Multiple animals working cooperatively to spread out, scout, and forage over a large area makes finding suitable food and water much easier. I will be the first to admit that most sasquatch sightings are of a single individual. There are; however, sightings of multiple animals reported. Pairs, family units, and even twenty plus individuals (see "The Tale of Muchalat Harry" in the "Sasquatch Classics" archive) have been reported. The fact is we just don't know how sasquatches interact. Do they spread out during the day and "go home" at night? Do the females and/or young stay in one general area while males hunt/forage? We just don't know. The fact that the number of sightings of single animals dwarfs the number of reports featuring multiple animals would point to the sasquatch being a mostly solitary animal. But who is to say that when an individual animal is sighted it isn't out scouting or foraging for it's family unit?

Honestly, I was more interested in reading about how the broad diet of primates helped them survive tough times. It makes sense if you think about it. The more varied the diet of a given animal the better the chances said animal will find something to sustain itself. Specialization in diet is one reason species like the giant panda of China and the koala of Australia find themselves in trouble. It has even worked against humans in the past. For a prime example of how a specialized way of life, including diet, negatively impacted a people one need look no farther than the strategy used by the military during the Indian wars fought between the U.S. Government and the Native Americans that inhabited the Great Plains of North America in the mid to late 1800s. These tribes were expert horsemen and warriors. They were highly mobile, intelligent, and fierce. They proved to be more than a match for the U.S. Army. They had one weakness, however. That weakness was their near total dependence on their horses and the buffalo (American bison to be truly accurate). U.S. military strategists, after suffering several humiliating defeats, like the Battle of Little Big Horn, decided to do more than just engage the tribes directly. They would remove the very things these tribes needed for survival; their horses and the buffalo. Army scouts began swooping down on Indian encampments and, instead of engaging the braves, shot all the horses. Meanwhile, buffalo hunters were hired to kill as many buffalo as possible. An all out slaughter ensued. It wasn't long before fierce tribes like the Kiowa, Comanche, and Sioux were brought to the point of starvation. In a shockingly short amount of time the great horse culture of the plains was gone and the American bison was on the brink of extinction. Specialization helped the Native Americans of the Great Plains become very successful for hundreds of years but it proved to be their undoing in the end. Such is the possible fate of species that are overly dependent on one food source. If the food source disappears, for whatever reason, the species is likely to disappear as well.

It is encouraging that this study shows most primates are not overly dependent on one food source. It has long been theorized that the sasquatch is omnivorous and has a diet similar to that of bears. If so, they may be doing just fine as the river bottoms, forests, and swamps of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma are incredibly rich in food sources. Populations of black bear have exploded in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The bears are beginning to make significant headway in East Texas as well. If the sasquatch does have a highly varied diet like that of black bears then the chances of the species surviving increase dramatically.

Primates continue to surprise us with their intelligence and resilience. Each study that comes out seems to reveal something remarkable or validates claims about primates, particularly great apes, that were once deemed outlandish. If the sasquatch is indeed real then it is undoubtedly a primate (the debate over whether it is human or ape is one for another day). As such, it is among the most intelligent and resourceful creatures on the planet. This is good news if we are talking about the survival of the species. It is; however, going to make it that much tougher on the few who seek to document them.

Sources: National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) (2010, December 2). Primates are more resilient than other animals to environmental ups and downs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 13, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/12/101201124347.htm

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Alabama Man Attacked By (Black?) Panther - Addendum

The more I look at this the more something just doesn't feel right. I'm having a hard time figuring how two such different accounts could be circulating regarding what type of cat was involved in this incident.

Where did the claim of a black panther come from? I've seen it in print but all the actual video I've seen of Frank Harmes giving his account refer to a tawny Florida panther. The print articles infer that Harmes said he saw a black panther but I notice he is not directly quoted as saying this.

Watching that video where Mr. Harmes shows the holes the big cat's claws allegedly made in his pants leg makes me a bit uneasy as well. Do the holes seem just a bit too perfect to anyone else?

I hope I'm off base here and it is only my gut feeling but something feels fishy about this one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Alabama Man Attacked By A (Black?) Panther

By now many of you may have heard that an Alabama man was attacked by a black panther in rural Marshall County. If true, this would be a monumental story in wildlife circles. As you all know, wildlife officials flatly deny the existence of any sort of native melanistic big cats. But is this story true? Was this man attacked by a black panther?


The Times-Daily, published in Florence, Alabama printed the following Associated Press report of the incident:

UNION GROVE, Ala. - An Alabama man says he's recovering after being attacked by a panther near his Marshall County home.

Frank Harmes says he was walking his dog in a cove behind his home near Morgan City when he heard something behind him and turned to see a black panther.

Harmes says he moved to try to scare the panther away, but instead it attacked and clawed his leg. He says he stabbed the animal twice with a knife and it ran away.

Residents of the area have reported seeing panthers in the past, saying they sometimes come out looking for food.

Harmes says he will undergo a series of rabies shots because of the attack.

In the article it is clearly stated that Frank Harmes saw, and was attacked by, a black panther. The AP article shows Alabama television station WHNT as its source. A quick check of the WHNT site does say a black panther was the attacker.

The story doesn't end there, however, as there are conflicting reports out there as to the color of the big cat in question. Television station WSFA covered the story and reports a tawny colored panther was the culprit. In fact, they quote the victim, Frank Harmes directly. According to WSFA, Harmes said, "It was a Florida panther. The tan ones that have white spots around the whiskers."

The WSFA article said that neighbors backed up the claim that there are cougars in the area. Douglas Mason, who lives in the area said he saw a tan cougar on his back porch a year ago. Interestingly, Mason added, "There was a black one with it and it was eating cat food, too."

A third Alabama television station , WKRG, documents the incident briefly with a short article that says Harmes "turned to see a black panther."

So what is the deal here? Was it a black panther or a tawny colored cat? How can Frank Harmes be quoted as saying the animal that attacked him was a tawny colored Florida panther and also be quoted as saying it was a black panther? I located a video at, of all places, the Weather Channel website. It features Frank Harmes telling his story. At no point does he mention the cat that attacked him being black. It seems odd to me that he would not mention that detail. The video report does feature a grayish looking cougar caught on a game camera. According to the date visible on the picture it was taken back in 2006. The narrator says the photo was taken in the same area where Mr. Harmes had his confrontation.

This is an interesting story regardless of the color of the cat involved for various reasons. A Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) in Alabama would be big news in wildlife circles as these cats are critically endangered. Even if it was the more commonly distributed North American mountain lion (Puma concolor couguar) it would be news. Like Texas officials, Alabama wildlife personnel are commonly quoted as saying these big cats are not present in their state. I can hear the "it's an escaped pet" line being spoken already. If it turns out to be a wild cougar it could point to a breeding population in the state. Again, that would be big news. If it truly was a large melanistic cat then the story is huge for obvious reasons.

One of the more interesting aspects of this story actually deals with a response to it by a reader of the Cryptomundo website. Loren Coleman posted the AP story at the site. A reader replied with the following:

# ***** responds: December 5th, 2010 at 10:21 am

David-Australia questions “what is meant by the term “Black Panther” in North America”??

In reality, Black Panthers continue to be a mystery to both veteran field researchers as well as state & federal wildlife officials who have been & are in constant denial of their presence for decades.

Yet Black Panther sightings continue to generate intense interest with the American Public as well as the 40% of wildlife sceintists who actually believe “large black cats exceeding 50 pounds or more ARE definitely roaming various regions of the U.S”.
A few BLACK cougars (pumas) have been caught on film in Central & South America.
1 Black adult Jaguar was caught on a trail camera in northern Mexico in October, 45 miles south of the Rio Grande River & the Texas Border. This was the 1st time a Black Jaguar was filmed so close to any U.S. Border…resulting in this question: Have Black jaguars moved into the U.S.?? and 2) Could black jaguars be mistaken for black cougar & be a “Black Panther”??

Since I am the Director of the Eastern Puma Research Network in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, here are some statistics people should be made aware of:
23% of all big cat sightings reported to us in states east of the Mississippi River are of large BLACK CATS with estimated weights exceeding 65 pounds.
12-15% of witnesses are professionals with college/university backgrounds as teachers, while another 20% are trained observers with wildlife, forestry management or law enforcement backgrounds, meaning they are witnesses who know what animal they are seeing.

Documented reports from the files of the Eastern Puma Research Network were featured on History Channel’s MonsterQuest Documentary Series in 2007. 1 primary report showed a large BLACK CAT, we referred to as a Black Panther, seen & filmed by a Pennsylvania deputy law enforcement officer in November 1978. The set of 3 pictures were filmed from a distance of 1,000 feet, making it vitually impossible to see a ordinary housecat from such a great distance, as several skeptics & the PGC critics claimed.
If you have a black housecat, try it for yourself with a camera…see if you can locate your cat at such a great distance..

If you want seek more facts on large BLACK cats & ordinary cougars/mountain lions inhabiting the eastern U.S., go to our NEW website at

I find this very interesting. I don't know where he gets his statistics or how accurate they may be but his organization is legitimate.

Alabama wildlife officials are going to have to look for this cat. Frank Harmes claims to have stabbed it twice during the attack. If the animal was not mortally wounded it is going to be in a nasty state of mind and a danger to anyone that crosses it's path. If it is injured to the degree it cannot hunt effectively then the danger to humans increases exponentially.

It seems to be a safe assumption that Frank Harmes had a run-in with a big cat of some kind. Was it black? According to Harmes on two different pieces of video that answer is no. Did he initially say the cat was black and change his mind? I don't know.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

TBRC Report #01100065

I just finished looking into an old sasquatch sighting that allegedly occurred in the winter of 1979 in Angelina County, Texas.

Check out the witness's original statements and my report by visiting the TBRC website here.