News and Almanac

Big cat makes a big splash

A sighting of a free-ranging mountain lion in January-confirmed by Conservation Department biologists-sent ripples of excitement throughout the state and continues to raise questions about where Missouri mountain lions come from and what to do about them.

Three men discovered the adult mountain lion while rabbit hunting in the central Ozarks Jan. 10. Nearby they found two deer that the big cat had killed. It is the most tangible proof yet that at least one mountain lion is living wild in the Show-Me State.

Many puzzles remain, however. Foremost is the question of where the big cat came from. The most likely theory is that it adapted to the wild after having been in captivity. Another possibility is that it migrated here from Colorado or Texas, the nearest states with mountain lion populations.

Equally uncertain is the animal's fate. Conservation Department biologists who returned to the scene after the initial sighting repeatedly found groups of hunters with hounds in the area. All said they were after coyotes, which is legal. But those who are excited to think that Missouri may have a free ranging mountain lion population worry that hysteria could lead to the killing of an animal that, in the words of Conservation Department furbearer biologist David Hamilton," is doing what mountain lions are supposed to-preying on deer. It's not bothering people or livestock."

The presence of a free-ranging mountain lion in Missouri raises practical questions about how to minimize the potential for conflicts with human activities. One of those questions is easily answered; Missouri's Wildlife Code allows citizens to defend themselves and their property against depredation by wildlife, including mountain lions.

Until more is known about the origins, number and habits of Missouri mountain lions, there is little basis for sound decisions about management. The Conservation Department is working to get answers to these questions. It will keep a watchful eye on the Ozark hills where this particular mountain lion was seen and will continue gathering information to accurately evaluate the situation and take action when necessary.

Anyone who sees a mountain lion is encouraged to report the sighting to the nearest conservation agent or Conservation Department office.

Spring marches north with giant steps

The events by which we measure spring-trees leafing out, morels popping up, migrant birds arriving-happen earlier in southern Missouri than they do in the northern part of the state. On average, the progression of spring is about 15 miles per day, so spring "arrives" in Hermondale, near the Arkansas border in Pemiscot County in the Bootheel, about 21 days before it does at Coatsville, on the Iowa border in Schuyler County.

FLORA OF MISSOURI

Professional botanists and serious amateurs who have relied on Flora of Missouri to identify plants are in for a treat. An updated version of the Show Me State's botanical bible is being reissued by the Conservation Department.

Flora of Missouri, by the late Julian Steyermark, has been the principal reference on plant life in the state since its first printing in 1963. The Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Botanical Garden have cosponsored a thorough revision of the material. The first of two volumes of the revised manual is now available. The volumes are the work of Conservation Department botanist George Yatskievych, who works at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

Flora of Missouri, Volume I contains treatments of 801 species of ferns, fern allies, conifers and monocots and introductory chapters that summarize the state's climate, geology, vegetation and flora, plus a glossary and a "how to" section.

Single copies of Flora of Missouri, Volume I, are available for $38 plus $2.37 tax and $5 shipping from The Nature Shop, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Orders also can be sent by e-mail to <hudsok@mdc.mo.gov> or faxed to (573)522-2020. For more information, call (573) 751-4115, ext. 325.

Biologists Organize For Conservation

Missourians who work in the field of conservation or who have a strong interest in conservation can join others with similar interests in a new organization, the Missouri Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology (MoSCB).

Working biologists formed the group last year to increase communication among people interested in conservation. Membership is open to Missouri residents and is free. To join, send your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to <moscb@showme.missouri.edu&gt; or write to MoSCB, c/o Mark Mackay, 302 Natural Resources Building, University of Missouri Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211-7240.

MoSCB needs members willing to serve on committees, including membership and publicity, fundraising, career development, human dimensions of conservation biology and local issues. For more information about MoSCB, visit the group's web site. To join or form a committee, e-mail Gerardo Camilo at <camilogr@SLU.EDU>.

RV show is "Going Places" in St. Louis

"Going Places...Having Fun!" is the theme for the 1999 St. Louis RV Camping and Travel show at the TWA Dome and adjoining America's Center March 4 through 7. Included in the show are more than 400 recreational vehicles, plus exhibits of accessories, campgrounds, resorts and destinations.

Those who visit the show will be able to register to win trips and will be entertained by birds of prey from the Treehouse Wildlife Center of Brighton, Ill. Live bluegrass, Dixieland and south-of-the-border music will contribute to the festive atmosphere.

The show will be open from noon until 10 p.m. March 4, from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. March 5, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. March 6 and from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. March 7. Admission is $7 for adults, $2 for children 6 to 12 and free for those under 6. For more information, call (314) 355-1236.

Snowy extension sets a record

Despite of brutally cold weather, hunters bagged a record 8,094 antlerless deer during the January Extension of firearms deer season.

Bitter cold may have discouraged many hunters from going afield Jan. 2 through 5, but the strong harvest is evidence that others were encouraged by the rare opportunity to hunt deer in snow. Allowing hunters with unused Any-Deer and Antlerless-Only Deer Permits from anywhere in the state to take part in the north Missouri hunt probably bolstered the harvest, too.

The January kill brings the firearms hunting season total to 202,764. That is 8,504 more than last year's figure.

Airing and sharing conservation questions

Join Conservation Department Director Jerry Conley for an inside look at the outdoor world by tuning in to the weekly radio show, Conservation On Call. You'll get the latest on conservation issues and tips to help you enjoy the outdoors. Conservation On Call airs on:

WXTM, 104.1 FM, in St. Louis at 5 a.m. Sundays.

KSHE, 94.7 FM, and WKKX, 106.5 FM, in St. Louis at 6 a.m. Sundays.

KPCR, 1530 AM, in Bowling Green at 8:30 p.m. Mondays.

KLRQ, 96.1 FM, in Clinton at 7 a.m. Saturdays.

KAYO, 97.7 FM, in Warsaw at 7:15 a.m. Saturdays.

KTUI, 1560 AM, in Sullivan at 7:30 a.m. Saturdays.

KTTR, 1490 AM/99.7 FM, in Rolla. Check local listings for air time.

You can call in questions, comments and suggestions to the Conservation On Call comment line, (573) 751-4115, ext. 671, weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. You can also write to Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO. 65102-0180 or e-mail your question to <coc@mdc.mo.gov>.

Director Conley responds to questions on air each week. If radio stations in your area don't carry the show, you will receive a reply by phone or mail.

Habitat Hints

Ice and wind storms tear limbs from trees, reducing their value and health. Pruning can help if it is done now, before trees come out of winter dormancy.

A tree that has lost 75 percent of its limbs is unlikely to survive. Cut it down and replace it. Even trees with half their branches remaining may die. Try to save only those that have special value to you.

Remove damaged limbs at their bases rather than leaving stubs. Resist the temptation to cut off all the top branches, which eliminates almost all of a tree's food-making area.

Make an initial cut on the bottom of the limb just above its junction with the main stem. This will prevent the bark from tearing when the limb falls. Now cut the limb off above the first cut. Finish the job by cutting the remaining stub parallel to the main stem just above the ridge of bark where it joins the rest of the tree.

Be careful. Pruning that requires climbing should be left to tree-care experts. Likewise, situations where trees or large limbs are near electrical wires, leaning on buildings or hung in other trees are best left to professionals.

Two birds, three weeks for turkey hunters

Spring turkey season will run from April 19 through May 9 this year, giving hunters a wealth of hunting opportunity. This is the second year hunters have had a 21-day spring turkey season. Hunters set a record last spring, killing more than 48,000 turkeys. That was partly the result of good weather and the longer season.

A change in the bag limit played a role, too. In previous years, hunters could take one bearded bird during each of the spring turkey season's two weeks. If they failed to kill a bird during the first week, there was no way to bag the full season limit of two birds.

Population data indicated the state's turkey flock could sustain a larger harvest, so last year the Conservation Commission decided to keep the first-week limit at one gobbler but allow hunters to kill one bird per day during the final two weeks of spring turkey season, up to the season limit of two. Turkey numbers showed no ill effects from the more liberal bag regulations last year, so those regulations will remain in effect this spring.

Hunters reported seeing many "jakes" (one-year-old male turkeys) last spring. Since two-year-old birds make up the bulk of the spring turkey harvest, there should be plenty of adult gobblers this year.

Anyone who kills a turkey must immediately validate the harvest log portion of their permit by notching the edge of the permit. They must also attach the transportation tag (either homemade or provided by permit vendors) to the turkey. The transportation tag must remain on the turkey until it has been submitted with the permit by the hunter at an established checking station.

What's the buzz?

Artist spins tales, plugs fishing

Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center in Blue Springs will be abuzz with fishing lore from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. March 6 and from noon until 3 p.m. March 7. Fishing lure maker Dick Hertzel fills the Artist in Residence chair this month, spinning fishing yarns as he demonstrates the art of tying flies and talks about spinners, buzzbaits and plugs.

As a child, Hertzel supplemented his family's income by selling his catch. He went on to win the World Flycasting Championship five times. For more information about this and other programs at the Kansas City area's conservation nature center, call (816) 228-3766.

Conservation Federation meets March 26-28

Managing the Missouri River and river otters will be among program highlights of the Conservation Federation of Missouri's annual convention March 26 through 28.

The convention will take place at the Country Club Hotel at Lake of the Ozarks.

In addition to electing officers and adopting policy statements on a wide range of conservation issues, Federation members will hear informational presentations.

Representatives of the National Wildlife Federation and American Rivers will speak on management problems facing the Missouri River. Also on the program is a discussion of "Missouri's Too (?) Successful Otter Restoration Program" and a video about the growing problem of snow-goose overpopulation. Other convention events will include entertainment by the Fishin' Magicians, silent and conventional auctions of outdoor goods and the Federation's conservation awards banquet.

Basic registration costs $25. Add $40 for the Saturday luncheon and the awards banquet. Advance registration can be made by check to Conservation Federation of Missouri, 728 W. Main St., Jefferson City, MO 65101. Phone registration is available at (800)574-2322. Registration at the door will cost $10 more.

Lodging reservations are available by calling (800)964-6698. The Country Club Hotel has special rates for convention participants.

MDC seeks a run in its stocking The Conservation Department is accepting applications for fish stocking at qualifying private ponds. Fingerling bluegill, channel catfish and bass are available.

To qualify, you must have your pond inspected by Conservation Department personnel to ensure that fish can survive there. Pond owners don't have to open their ponds to the public in return for fish from the Conservation Department. They do have to agree to permit a reasonable amount of access for anglers, but who fishes in stocked ponds is up to the owner.

Applications for pond stocking are available from conservation agents or regional conservation offices. Applications must be submitted by July 15.

It's not too late to dig in

It's time to plant trees and shrubs. If you forgot to place an advance order for seedlings from George O. White State Forest Nursery, don't panic. The nursery near Licking, Mo., still has a wide assortment of trees ready for immediate shipping.

At press time, the nursery still had hardwood seedlings, including black walnut, pecan, Osage orange, green ash, hackberry, cottonwood, willows, sweet gum, bald cypress, silver maple, shellbark hickory, several kinds of oak and a variety of pines.

Shrubs still in stock at this writing included flowering dogwood, deciduous holly, hazelnut, aromatic sumac, Washington hawthorn, ninebark, witch hazel, shining sumac and lespedezas.

There also were a limited number of "Conservation Bundles" containing five each of white pine, flowering dogwood, black gum, scarlet oak, bald cypress and redbud and "Wildlife Cover Bundles" containing 10 each of jack pine, pin oak, wild plum, hazelnut and persimmon.

To learn what items still are available, call toll-free (800) 392-3111 or check the Conservation Department's Internet home page. Order forms are available at Conservation Department and University of Missouri Extension Service offices or by calling (573)674-3229.

Deer Classic to visit KC

Kansas City area residents who long for deer season will want to visit the Midwest Deer Classic at Market Center March 26 through 28.

In addition to the latest in camouflage, muzzleloaders, bows, tree stands and scents, you'll find displays of trophy white-tailed deer mounts and exhibitors offering hunting properties, shotguns, handguns, knives and more.

Show hours are 5 to 9 p.m. March 26, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. March 27 and 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. March 28. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $3.50 for children age 5 through 12 and free for those under 5. For more information, call (800)756-4788, e-mail <rjpromo@rjpro motions.com> or visit the RJ Promotions web site.

Venison conversion is a best-case scenario

Meat packers around the state say the venison conversion figures recently listed in this space were a little too optimistic.

An item in the November News & Almanac said that about 65 percent of a deer's field-dressed weight is meat. That means that a 100-pound carcass would yield about 65 pounds of meat. Locker plant operators say that seldom happens.

Trimming away bruised meat around bullet entrance and exit wounds eliminates substantial poundage, even when a deer is shot cleanly through the lungs. Shots that hit anywhere else cut deeply into meat yield.

Subtract meat tainted by paunch contents, contaminated by soil and leaf litter while being dragged from the woods and parts damaged by careless field dressing, and the yield drops even farther below the ideal 65 percent.

You can increase the amount of freezer meat you obtain from a deer by making clean shots, giving carcasses tender loving care in the field and taking your deer to an experienced, reputable meat processor. If you're curious about their methods, ask to watch them at work. You'll see how efficient they are and see firsthand what causes some meat to end up in the garbage.

Conservation Honors program offers college credit

Do you know a teacher or a high school junior who would like to earn credit toward a college degree while learning about conservation? Tell them about the Conservation Honors program offered by the Conservation Department in cooperation with the University of Missouri.

Conservation Honors is a six-day summer course that gives participants academic training and field experience in forest and wildlife management, nature interpretation, outdoor skills and public speaking.

Participants stay in dormitories at the University of Missouri-Columbia campus and conduct field work at Prairie Forks Conservation Area. The course allows students to explore career possibilities while earning two hours of college credit. It looks good on a scholarship or job application, too. Teachers who volunteer to help with the course also gain valuable knowledge and earn free graduate credit.

This year's Conservation Honors program is scheduled for June 13 through 18. Students will be selected on the basis of scholastic achievement and interest in conservation. Student applicants must be high school juniors, Missouri residents and must have taken the PACT or equivalent college entrance exam. Applications must be turned in to high school guidance counselors by April 5. Students and teachers can obtain applications by writing to Director, School of Natural Resources, 103 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211-7220.

Feds Approve New Rules to Deal with Snow Goose Crisis

Responding to an unprecedented environmental crisis, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has approved changes in the current goose hunting season and also allowed additional hunting for snow geese.

North American snow goose numbers have grown so large in recent years that their nesting habitat around Hudson Bay no longer can support them.

Federal, state, provincial and private conservation groups agree that severe-possibly permanent-habitat damage already is occurring and will grow worse until snow goose numbers decrease. All agree that waiting for this reduction to occur naturally runs the risk of massive environmental damage that will affect many other wildlife species.

In response to what is seen as an ecological emergency, the FWS is allowing hunters to use electronic calls and unplugged shotguns during the part of the regular hunting season when only "light geese" (blue, snow and Ross' geese) are hunted. It also has approved a "conservation order" that will allow the harvest of light geese beyond the end of the regular snow goose hunting season March 10.

Liberalized hunting regulations have failed to bring about the needed reduction in snow goose numbers, so federal officials issued the conservation order that goes beyond traditional hunting seasons and methods to encourage hunters to take more of the overpopulated geese. The Conservation Department, acting within the guidelines of the federal conservation order, has approved the following regulation changes for hunting light geese to encourage maximum harvest of snow geese in Missouri.

From now through March 10, but only when the regular season is open, snow goose hunters may use electronic calling devices and unplugged shotguns capable of holding more than three shells. Snow goose season dates, bag limits, shooting hours and other regulations published in the 1998-1999 Migratory Bird Hunting Digest still apply.

From March 11 through April 30, hunters may use unplugged shotguns and electronic calling devices. Shooting hours will be from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset, and there will be no daily bag limit. A Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit will be the only license requirement from March 11 through April 30.

Hunters should remember that the regular season in the North Zone opened Feb 19, and it closes in the Swan Lake Zone on March 7 and stays closed for three days before reopening again March 11.

Challenge young hunters now

Now is the time to prepare for the annual Missouri Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC). The event, scheduled for June 26 and 27 in Jefferson City, will give youths 11 to 19 an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and skills in marksmanship, shotgunning, archery, orienteering, animal identification, hunter safety and hunter responsibility.

Entry forms are available from Jan Morris, Missouri YHEC, P.O. Box 38, Imperial, MO 63052. Phone 341/464-6214. To learn more, visit the Missouri YHEC web site.

Dog-gone mistake hounds regulation summary

The 1999 Summary of Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations entry concerning the use of hunting dogs contains three extra-and incorrect-words.

The words "squirrels and rabbits" should not appear in the sentence on page 9 of the summary, which reads, "The hunting of furbearers, squirrels and rabbits with dogs during daylight hours is prohibited statewide from Nov. 1 through the close of the November portion of the firearms deer season..."

The prohibition applies only to the use of dogs for hunting furbearers-not squirrels and rabbits-during daylight statewide. In a previous sentence, the regulation summary correctly says that dogs may be used to hunt squirrels and rabbits during the daylight hours of firearms deer season except in Bollinger, Butler, Carter, Dent, Iron, Madison, Oregon, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon and Wayne counties.