AUSTRAILIA’S OUTBACK IS ONE OF THE WILDEST and biologically diverse chunks of habitat left on the planet. It is also a place where tracts of ground exist that have felt no human footprints at least in the modern era.
Texas has its own outback. It’s the Trans-Pecos region of Texas—the far western region of the state.
The Trans-Pecos is part of the Chihuauan Desert and features several small mountain ranges. It has a county (Brewster) that is larger than the entire state of Connecticut.
It is home to some of the rarest and most elusive reptiles in North America and has the largest black bear population in Texas. Scattered bears also roam the eastern third of the state.
An interesting report I am investigating is about a Mexican gray wolf sighted in a remote area near Alpine.
The person who gave me the report is a fur trapper with more than 50 years experience in killing coyotes for cattle and sheep operations. In other words, he knows the difference between coyotes and wolves.
When I interviewed him, the animal he described sounded strikingly like a Mexican gray wolf and was in an area far away from any major human population.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the wild population of Mexican gray wolves in 2015 was 48 animals. It is not much of a leap of faith to see one or more of these animals wandering into Texas.
In October 2000, a radio-collared gray wolf was shot and killed near Kirksville, Missouri nearly 600 miles away. A Mexican gray would not have to travel that far to end up near Alpine.
This region in my opinion is the most likely place to discover new wildlife in the United States and is also very likely to be home to a small population of jaguars.
A concerted game camera study in New Mexico and Arizona has proved that jaguars cross frequently into both states. No such study exists in Texas.
Only three jaguars have been verified to live within the United States, according to the latest scientific research. One of those three, a male jaguar named Yo’oko, was just verified killed by a poacher.
According to an article at LiveScience.com the rosette patterns on a jaguar’s pelt are unique to each individual. This trait allowed officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to identify Yo’oko’s pelt in a photo sent to them from the Tucson-based Northern Jaguar Project.
It’s unclear when Yo’oko died or who killed him, but the Arizona Daily Star reported he might have been killed by a mountain lion hunter. A local rancher, Carlos Robles Elias, told the Arizona Daily Star that he heard from a friend that the jaguar was trapped and killed six months ago somewhere in Sonora, Mexico, near the U.S. border.
Although this jaguar and two others have been known to move into and out of the United States, no one knows where the other two are and how much time they actually spend on the US side of the border.
Virtually all of the jaguars verified in the United States in the last decade are believed to move in and out of Mexico. This could literally mean the last jaguar in America is dead.
Unlike Arizona and New Mexico most of Trans-Pecos Texas is privately owned. That means any large-scale study would have to be given the green light by landowners there. That could happen.
Two years ago I spoke with a research group that focuses on the great cats, and they expressed interest in the topic but so far nothing is happening.
The truth is unless landowners themselves make reports almost no news gets out of the region.
The Trans-Pecos is in many ways a mystery.
It’s the area of the state (along with parts of the Panhandle) where viable mule deer and pronghorn hunts take place. Even free-ranging elk are occasionally taken by hunters.
I would love to expand coverage of this region, so if you have information about what’s going on out there with hunting and wildlife message me at [email protected]
We would like to let the Texas Outdoor Nation know what is happening in our very own outback.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its draft federal Southwestern Gray Wolf Management Plan for review and comment on Dec. 17, 2012. This plan does not outline reintroduction or release of Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), but rather provides management guidance related to existing populations.
There have not been any wolves released or reintroduced in Texas, and there are no plans to reintroduce wolves in Texas. State law prohibits the release of wolves in Texas.
Among other things, the plan provides for ways to relocate or otherwise manage wolves that may naturally disperse or wander into Texas from neighboring areas where wolves have been released, including New Mexico and Mexico.
At this time, we have no reason to believe that wolves may recolonize Texas from neighboring states or countries in the near future.
The draft plan outlines options for dealing with nuisance wolves that might naturally disperse into Texas. TPWD is currently reviewing the draft plan to determine if it provides acceptable management alternatives in the unlikely event that wolves naturally disperse into the state.
In the unlikely scenario that wolves stray into Texas, the draft federal plan calls for people to immediately communicate any report of possible wolf depredation on domestic livestock or pets to the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project Interagency Field Team field office in Arizona at (928) 339-4329.
Landowners or others with general questions can contact the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program Coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service southwest regional office in Albuquerque at (505) 761-4748.
Texas landowners or others who wish to contact TPWD may contact the Wildlife Division regional office in Alpine, Texas, (432) 837-2051.
Email Chester Moore at [email protected]