PORT ARTHUR — “Predators reported not likely red wolves”
That was the headline of my first-ever published story that appeared in the Opportunity Valley News 20 years ago this week.
I was only 19 years old and began a journey in the outdoors communication field that has been rewarding, challenging and always interesting.
It has taken me everywhere from the swamps of Southeast Texas to the jungle of South America and from Toledo Bend reservoir to the Segra River in Spain.
Looking back, one thing is clear.
When it comes to my interest in wildlife, not much has changed. If anything it has only gotten deeper as encounter after encounter and investigation after investigation continually spark my endless curiosity and ignites inspiration.
That first story dealt with reports of wolves attacking livestock in Orange County and the stance from state officials was the animals in question were either coyotes or descendants of red wolf/coyote hybrids.
After two decades research shows there may be more wolf in some of these animals was previously thought while other studies suggest red wolves were fertile hybrids of wolves and coyotes to begin with.
Science rarely concludes when it comes to wildlife so I will let them debate that subject. As I have written before, if it looks like a wolf and (literally) howls like a wolf well it is wolf enough for me.
While filming my new project “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore”, a web-based TV series, I found myself amongst wolves several types working with and photographing captive adults and pups.
In fact, while conducting an interview with local wolf expert Jerry Mills I heard a statement that was simple but profound when it comes to these great animals.
“There is nothing wilder than a wolf,” he said.
There would be no way to accurately measure the wildness of an animal, however there is something in wolves that is just different.
Even captive animals have moments where you look them in the eyes and see something that embodies wildness in a unique way.
Mills related the story of wolf researcher David Mech who stayed for an extended period on an island with wolves and never saw the first one. He found tracks and scat and heard them on a routine basis but never made eye contact.
Wolves also keep things wild.
In Yellowstone National Park where gray wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, elk had become so accustomed to no predation they ended their annual migration and were eating the aspen in the park to shreds.
When wolves were added to the equation that ended as they trimmed the elk herd, restored some balance and made things wild again. Wolves have a tendency to do that.
Critics slam the wolf reintroduction saying the animals are causing too much harm to elk and livestock in the region.
Something they do not mention is that pronghorn numbers have gone up there.
The Yellowstone region had sparse coyote populations when wolves were in great numbers there but once they were wiped out by government predator control programs their numbers skyrocketed and pronghorns plummeted. Coyotes fed on the young and vulnerable.
Gray wolves have pushed out many of the coyotes (and probably killed a few as well) and now pronghorns are on the rise.
A balanced ecosystem is always a healthy one, which is why deer hunting for example is so important to a state with as many deer as we have in Texas. There must be balance for optimal health.
I greatly appreciate the support of this paper and most importantly all of you over the years. Your thousands of letters, emails, phone calls and now texts and Facebook messages keep me in tune with what is going on and push me to do my absolute best to bring you a unique look at the outdoors.
The first 20 years in this business were great but the next will be even better. Always look to the future and remember things are better in the wild.
(To contact Chester Moore, email him at email@example.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI and watch his new series “Gods Outdoors with Chester Moore” online at www.godsoutdoors.com.)