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Chicken turtle supporters aren't afraid to get involved

Membership in the St. Louis Herpetological Society may not be for everyone. Brought together by a common interest in creatures that crawl, creep, hop, slither or wiggle their way around, members are advocates for those often-maligned, sometimes-loathed group of animals: amphibians and reptiles.

Last fall, the Society came to the aid of one of Missouri's most imperiled species of turtles. The western chicken turtle is barely hanging on in Missouri-living in just one small wetland in the Bootheel. There is a great shortage of habitat for this slender, dark green, aquatic turtle. If it is going to stand a chance in Missouri, it needs more shallow but large pools of clean, fairly clear water.

"The timing was right. We knew where and how we could build some new wetland pools for them, and it was just a matter of all the pieces falling together," explains Tom Johnson, Conservation Department herpetologist. Johnson took his plan for building new habitat on Conservation Department land to the

Society, and they voted to donate $2,000 to the project. The Society made its donation directly to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation and earmarked it for renting a crawler tractor and scraper-specialized equipment crucial for building the wetlands.

Construction was completed last fall. Now Johnson and members of the Society must sit back and wait.

"The existing population is pretty close to the new wetland areas," explains Johnson. "The turtles are known to travel, and once the new wetlands fill and plants and other aquatic species establish themselves,

I feel pretty confident that the western chicken turtle will move in-expanding its range and growing in numbers." In two years, turtle traps will be set in the new pools to see if they have migrated.

Missourians benefit from an abundance and diversity of plants and wildlife-even those that crawl and creep. In this case, a group of amphibian and reptile aficionados anted up and made a big difference for an endangered species. The transaction was aided by the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping fund conservation projects around the state.

People who contribute to the Foundation may earmark their funds for a certain project. To learn more, write Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation,

P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0366;

e-mail <MCHF@mdc.mo.gov>.

To contact the Herpetological Society, write St. Louis

Herpetological Society,

P.O. Box 410346,

St. Louis, MO 63141-0346, or call Society President Chris Himstedt at (314) 677-6652.

Charlotte Overby

Expiration information

Pretend it's March 1 and you're fishing for crappie or hunting snow geese when a conservation agent appears. Did you remember to bring your hunting or fishing permit? More important, did you remember that Missouri hunting and fishing permits expire the last day of February?

Until 1995, hunting and fishing permits were issued for a calendar year. Even though March 1 has been the first day of the permit year for four years, a few of us still haven't developed the habit of buying permits in February. A chance meeting with a conservation agent is no way to remember that you're carrying expired paper. Replace your permits now and avoid expiration perspiration later.

February events feature wild eagles

Want an eagle-eye view of Missouri's wintering bald eagles? Attend an Eagle Days event where you can see eagles in their natural habitat. Events are scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 6 and 7 at Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, and at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge and Duck Creek Conservation Area near Poplar Bluff. Much of the action takes place outside, so dress warmly. For a brochure with directions, call (573) 751-4115.

Mountain lions, bears and birds of prey featured in nature center programs

This month's offerings at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City will include live birds of prey flying through the auditorium in a program by the World Bird Sanctuary. Families who attend "Traveling Talons" at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 will get to see vultures, hawks, owls, and eagles. At 6 p.m. Feb. 16, Runge will host "Fireside Fables" for kids 6 to 10 years old. Gather around the flickering fireplace to listen to cozy nature stories and warm up with a sing-a-long and warm cocoa. At 7 p.m. Feb. 18, furbearer biologist Dave Hamilton will present a program about bears and mountain lions. For reservations to attend these programs, call (573) 522-4312.

White-tailed deer fanciers can bring antlers to Runge for evaluation by expert Boone and Crockett scorers from 8 a.m. until noon Feb. 20. Reservations are not needed.

Springfield Conservation Nature Center will celebrate Family Month in February with a wide range of programs suited for families. There will be a nature games extravaganza from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 5, a nature journaling workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 6 and a bird-banding program from 2 to 5 p.m. Feb. 12. They will have a puppet show from 1 to 2 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. Feb. 20, a musical program from 7 to 8 p.m. Feb. 26 and wildlife painting on rocks from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 27. To get more information or to register for programs, call (417) 888-4237.

Calling aspiring outdoorswomen

Women who want to learn outdoor skills ranging from gathering edible plants to hunting big game can sign up now for 1999 Becoming an Outdoorswoman classes. The first event of the year will be May 14-16 at YMCA of the Ozarks near Potosi. The second will be Sept. 17-19 at

H. Roe Bartle Scout Camp near Osceola.

To learn more about BOW course offerings, cost and scholarships, contact Mariah Hughes at Missouri Department of Conservation,

P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Phone (573) 751-4115,

ext. 189. E-mail <Mariah.Hughes@mdc.mo.gov>.

Marvelous March madness returns to trout parks

Mardi Gras belongs to New Orleans, but Missouri has its own winter event where common sense takes a holiday and people can experience something completely out of the ordinary.

Each March 1, tens of thousands of Missourians disregard sometimes frightful weather to enjoy the catch-and-keep season opener at the state's four trout parks. Some come to fish, others to watch the spectacle. All share the opportunity to shake off cabin fever and enjoy the outdoors in some of the Show-Me State's most scenic settings.

The Conservation Department provides fish for trout parks, but the parks themselves are owned and operated by other agencies. For information about Bennett Spring State Park, Montauk State Park and Roaring River State Park, call the Missouri Department of Natural Resources toll-free information line, (800) 334-6946. For information about Maramec Spring Park, call the James Foundation at (573) 265-7387.

Habitat Hints

It may seem too early to think about birds nesting, but bluebirds will be here in a few weeks. Now is the time to build or refurbish home quarters for your feathered guests. You should have bird houses up by March 1.

If you already have nest boxes out, remove old nesting material, which can harbor harmful parasites. Replace cracked or warped wood. You don't have to paint nest boxes, but if you do, use a light color. Dark houses absorb solar energy, turning them into ovens on sunny spring days.

If you don't have any houses, get a copy of "Woodworking for Wildlife." This free booklet has detailed plans for bird houses for everything from purple martins to barn owls.

For a copy, write to Woodworking for Wildlife, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Mount bluebird boxes on posts 4 to 6 feet high, with entrances facing the nearest large trees or shrubs. Bluebirds are territorial, so space the boxes at least 100 yards apart. Clean out the box as soon as the young leave, and chances are good that the adults will use the box to raise a second, or even a third, brood.

Martin houses should be placed 12 to 20 feet off the ground and at least 40 feet from the nearest building or tree. Cleanup can be delayed until next year, since martins raise only one brood per year.

Good news for turkey hunters...

Hunters bagged 15,253 wild turkeys during Missouri's fall firearms turkey hunting season Oct. 12 through 25. Surprisingly, the large fall take is good news for those who plan to hunt in Missouri's 1999 spring turkey season.

The 1998 fall turkey harvest topped last year's figure by 3,461 birds. Hunters enjoyed a success rate of 47 percent. Even more significant than the number of turkeys harvested is the large proportion of young birds in the harvest. The proportion of juvenile turkeys in this year's fall harvest (60 percent) means that 1998 was a good year for turkey reproduction.

Abundant food last winter brought birds into the 1998 nesting season in excellent condition. One radio-marked hen astonished Conservation Department researchers by making four nesting attempts, and turkeys were found starting new nests as late as July. That kind of nesting persistence is certain to increase production.

As a result, jakes (year-old male turkeys) could make up 35 percent of this spring's turkey harvest. Birds from this last spring's strong hatch will provide mature gobblers for several years to come.

Spring turkey season this year will last 21 days, from April 19 through May 9. As last year, hunters will be allowed to take one bearded bird during the first seven days of the season. After that they will be allowed to take one bearded turkey per day up to the season limit of two.

Mountain lion history a mystery

Do you know where this cat came from?

Conservation Department officials are using the latest technology to learn the origins of a mountain lion skin that turned up in south-central Missouri last November. But where the cat came from could remain a mystery without the help of alert citizens.

A deer hunter reported finding the pelt beside a road in southern Texas County. The skin, which had head and feet attached, appears to be that of a young female mountain lion. It had been carefully prepared as if for a full body mount. Whoever killed the big cat may have discarded the pelt after learning that no taxidermist would touch it without proof of its legal possession.

Mountain lions have been considered extirpated in Missouri since the 1920s, but the Conservation Department has recently received reports of several sightings. On Jan. 10, a rabbit hunter had a close encounter with a mountain lion when his dogs briefly treed a large adult lion in the central Ozarks. Biologists confirmed the sighting after finding footprints and examining two deer the mountain lion had killed. The Conservation Department plans to keep a close eye on the situation and work with landowners to minimize the potential for human conflicts with the big cat.

Only two mountain lion bodies have been recovered in Missouri in recent history. One-a skinned carcass-turned out to be an animal that had died in captivity and been discarded. In the other case, an investigation revealed that the mountain lion had been shot in Colorado and dropped beside a road in Missouri.

The Conservation Department has responded to recent reports by forming an interagency Mountain Lion Response Team to methodically check all mountain lion reports. Team members from the Conservation Department and the University of Missouri-Columbia examined the skin from Texas County carefully and took tissue samples for DNA testing. They hope to find out if DNA from the pelt matches the DNA of mountain lions from any other area.

Team members also collected ticks and weed seeds found on the hide in hopes of finding clues about where the animal came from. "We aren't ruling anything out," says Conservation Department furbearer biologist and Mountain Lion Response Team member Dave Hamilton. "We are relying on hard evidence to learn as much as we can about mountain lions in Missouri."

Hamilton says he hopes alert citizens will help the investigation with tips about how the pelt ended up beside a road in Texas County. "Folks in rural communities generally know what goes on in their own back yards," says Hamilton. "We are hoping that someone might be able to shed light on how this mountain lion pelt got there. We will pursue any useful leads people can give us."

Anyone who has information about the mountain lion remains can call the Conservation Department's toll-free Operation Game Thief hot line, (800) 392-1111. Callers can remain anonymous.

What's good for the goose?

With a long season and liberal bag limits this year, waterfowl hunters are likely to be looking for new ways to prepare snow goose. Here are three suggestions.

Marinated wild goose

1 snow goose 12 cup Italian dressing

crushed red pepper 12 cup white wine

crushed black pepper 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

onion salt 2 large onions

lemon pepper 1 can mushroom soup

2 tsp. poultry seasoning 1 can chicken broth

12 cup teriyaki sauce 8 strips bacon

Rub inside of goose with peppers and onion salt. Rub outside with lemon pepper. Combine teriyaki, dressing, wine, Worcestershire and poultry seasoning and pour over goose in a heavy plastic bag. Seal and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning several times.

Remove goose from bag. Place onions and soup in body cavity. Cover breast with bacon. Place in oven baking bag with marinade and chicken broth, seal bag and bake at 325 degrees for two hours. Open top of bag and cook until tender, basting every 10 minutes with marinade. Serve with marinade as sauce.

Snow goose kabobs

4 snow goose breasts 4-inch fresh ginger root,

12 cup soy sauce peeled and minced

1 tsp. monosodium glutamate 12 cup rice wine

1 medium zucchini squash 14 cup fresh lime juice

1 large red pepper 4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large green pepper 12 tsp. black pepper

3 medium, firm tomatoes

Bone breasts and cut lengthwise in 12-inch strips. Cut peppers into 2 inch squares. Slice zucchini one-half inch thick. Quarter tomatoes. Place meat and vegetables in a bowl with seasonings. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Alternate marinated items on skewers and cook over charcoal until meat is cooked through. Simmer marinade 15 minutes and use as sauce. Serve with rice.

Smoked snow goose salami

12 pounds ground snow goose breast meat

6 tsp. Liquid Smoke 3 pounds pork sausage

5 tsp. garlic powder 34 cup curing salt

6 tsp. black pepper 6 tsp. whole mustard seed

Mix ingredients and refrigerate overnight in a covered container. Divide into fourths and roll into 8-inch logs. Wrap each log in cheesecloth and tie ends. Cook on a wire rack at 225 degrees for four hours. Freeze or refrigerate until used.

Hickory-unmatched for heat

A cord of hickory wood contains about twice as much energy (measured in British thermal units, or BTU) as soft woods. A cord of high-quality firewood contains about 25 million BTU. Preferred firewood species, in order of decreasing energy content, are hickory, locust, oak, hard maple, ash, basswood, cottonwood, cedar, pine, silver maple, elm and sycamore. Osage orange burns hotter and longer than hickory, but there aren't many places where you can buy a cord of Osage orange.

A cord of cured hickory has the heating value of a ton of coal or 200 gallons of fuel oil. Unlike coal and oil, however, wood is a renewable resource. With prudent management, we will still be burning wood long after all the world's fossil fuel reserves have disappeared.

Work progressing at Lost Valley Hatchery

Construction continues to move ahead at Lost Valley Hatchery, the Conservation Department's new, state-of-the-art fish production facility in Benton County.

Most of the facility's 11 buildings are 80 to 90 percent complete. Seven of the 78 fish-rearing and holding ponds planned for the hatchery have liners installed. Four out of five water towers are up, and roads and parking lots are 80 to 90 percent complete.

Fisheries Division workers expect to move into the completed facility this fall or early in 2000. Fish rearing is expected to begin in the spring next year.

Help available to soil & water scholars

High school seniors and undergraduate college students interested in careers in soil and water conservation may qualify for scholarships from the Show-Me Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

The Society awards scholarships of up to $500 on the basis of academic grades and essays by applicants. Students majoring in forestry, geography, education, journalism, fisheries or wildlife management may qualify, if their specific career interest is related to soil and water conservation.

For more information, contact Clark Gantzer, School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, 330 A.B. Natural Resources Building, Columbia MO 65211-7250. Phone (573) 882-6301. E-mail <GantzerC@missouri.edu>.

Out of Africa . . . and into Missouri

The saying "If you build it, they will come" has special significance for the Conservation Department's savanna restoration work at Bunch Hollow Conservation Area in Carroll County. When the Conservation Department set out to restore part of the area to a mixture of trees and grassland, it had no idea how much drawing power the newly created savanna habitat would have.

Wildlife Resource Assistant Darrell Johnson was driving one of the area's back roads late last October when he noticed a big lizard in the grass. The creature's 3-foot, 12-pound bulk didn't look like anything Johnson had seen before, so he and Wildlife Resource Technician Jane Cotton caught the wayward reptile and took it back to their office.

The interloper turned out to be a savanna monitor lizard. That's a remarkable coincidence, since Bunch Hollow has an ongoing savanna monitoring project.

A farmer reported having seen the lizard on private land about a mile away earlier in the year, indicating that the tropical lizard instinctively sought out surroundings similar to its native habitat.

Wildlife management biologist Dennis Browning, who runs the savanna monitoring project at Bunch Hollow Conservation Area, observed, "This is proof that 'If you build it, they will come.'"

The savanna monitor lizard is a carnivorous species that resembles the famous Komodo dragon of Indonesia. In spite of its name, the savanna monitor lizard doesn't belong in Missouri; it is indigenous to Africa.

Browning knew the tropical lizard couldn't survive Missouri's winter. Even if it could, introducing exotic species upsets ecological checks and balances. He arranged a new home for the lizard at the St. Louis Zoo.

Shore adoptions growing at Lake Ozark

Lake of the Ozarks has 60 adoptive families and is looking for more. AmerenUE, which owns the lake, says its Adopt-the-Shoreline program now has 60 participating groups that keep litter picked up along 411 miles of shoreline.

However, 739 miles of scenic, wave-washed beach still are available for adoption. In return for adopting at least five miles of beach for two years, participating groups get help from AmerenUE and a sign on their stretch of beach recognizing the group's contribution to keeping the lake beautiful.

For information, call Colleen Jarvis at (573) 365-9310.

E-mail <http://www.lake@ameren.com>.

The gift of safe hunting

Did a youngster you know get a rifle, shotgun or air gun for Christmas? If so, consider following up that gift with one that will help ensure years of safe shooting. The Missouri Department of Conservation offers hundreds of hunter education courses statewide each year to help young gun owners learn to be safe, ethical hunters.

Hunter education classes provide excellent opportunities for youngsters to spend time with fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles or other mentors. They provide formal initiation into a fellowship that binds generations together with tradition. Besides that, they're fun.

While firearms safety is among the most important lessons taught in hunter education classes, it's not the only item on the curriculum. Instruction also aims at improving knowledge of hunting equipment and game animals and increasing awareness of hunting ethics.

People born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, must successfully complete a hunter education course certified by the Conservation Department in order to buy hunting permits. To learn about hunter education courses in your area,

call (573) 751-4115 or check the Conservation Department's web page <http://www.mdc.mo.gov>.

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