News and Almanac

Changes made to protect green-tree reservoir at Duck Creek

Hunters who have come to rely on Pool 3 at Duck Creek Conservation Area (CA) for good waterfowl hunting each year will be sorry to learn that the pool will be closed to waterfowl hunting this year. The good news is that the change in management will help maintain hunting there for years to come.

Pool 3--part of the "green-tree reservoir" at Duck Creek--will be kept dry this year. Water-control structures built at Duck Creek CA in the 1950s preserve remnants of the wetlands that once covered virtually all of southeastern Missouri. Reliable flooding has made Duck Creek a popular place for waterfowl and hunters, but over the years the trees in Pool 3 have suffered from lack of natural fluctuations in flooding. Early, prolonged flooding each year is taking a toll on the health of the bottomland forest that makes hunting in a green-tree reservoir so magical.

The Conservation Department plans to vary water levels in Pools 2 and 3 to ensure tree survival and allow seedlings to sprout and replace older trees.

While Pool 3 is dry, the Conservation Department will repair and replace aging water-control structures. It also will dredge accumulated mud from boat lanes and drainage ditches. This will improve accessibility for users and allow better control of water levels.

The sounds of music come to nature center

You are invited to hear the music of Bradford Smith as he plays a Native American flute. Smith's music will take you on a meditative journey as he explores the sounds of a summer forest, streams and thunderstorms through his music. He will perform at Missouri's four conservation nature centers this month. For dates, times and reservation information call:

Runge Conservation Nature Center, 7 p.m. Nov. 3, (573) 526-4312

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, 7 p.m. Nov. 5, (314) 301-1500

Springfield Conservation Nature Center, 7 p.m. Nov. 6, (417) 888-4237

Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center, 2 p.m. Nov. 7, (816) 228-3766

Endangered species myths abound

The Endangered Species Act has been in effect for 25 years. But despite notable successes, the "ESA" remains one of the most widely misunderstood environmental laws.

The ESA protects habitat for 1,200 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, snails, clams, crustaceans, insects, arachnids and plants on the brink of extinction. It also protects endangered species from development that destroys their homes.

The No. 1 myth about the ESA is that the discovery of an endangered species on a private landowner's property precludes all economic development. In fact, private property rights are unaffected unless the landowner wants federal funding for a project or needs a permit for something, such as altering a wetland or diverting a stream. Furthermore, the ESA requires federal officials to offer "reasonable and prudent" alternatives to protect the habitat while permitting projects to proceed.

Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) give flexibility to private landowners, allowing "incidental take" of listed species if the landowner takes other action to offset the damage. A company that owns forest land inhabited by endangered woodpeckers might operate under an HCP that allows it to cut trees in one area in return for doing habitat improvement work in another area.

Most people are proud to learn that their stewardship has kept the land healthy enough that endangered species are thriving there. More often than not, landowners with endangered plants or animals are interested in conserving and protecting them.

Another myth suggests that government workers are looking for endangered species so they can take away people's property rights. Amy Salveter, endangered species coordinator for the Conservation Department, says that's not true.

"Missouri landowners have a tremendous track record of voluntarily doing right by endangered species," she says. "The Department works side by side with landowners to keep their trust. We ask permission before going on your property, and we don't share information on your investment in endangered species without your permission. If your property has an endangered plant or animal on it, we want to help you keep it there. We have many endangered species partners in Missouri, you just never hear about them."

Lost Valley Update

With the main hatchery facility 97 percent complete and two-thirds of the rearing ponds ready to fill, the Conservation Department's new, state-of-the-art fish hatchery near Warsaw is on track to begin stocking waters statewide next summer.

Dave Waller is the manager of Lost Valley Hatchery. At the moment he's also half the staff. Between now and the facility's expected completion in March, he will hire another 12 fisheries workers to operate the 970-acre, $18.6 million facility.

When complete, the Lost Valley Hatchery will produce as many as 15 million fish a year. Bass, walleye, muskellunge, channel catfish, bluegill sunfish and hybrid striped bass will begin their lives with human-assisted spawning in the main fish production building and continue their growth in 78 ponds with a total surface area of 68.3 acres. This process is scheduled to begin in March next year. The first fish--2-inch walleye fingerlings--are expected to roll out of Lost Valley in hatchery trucks next June, headed for some of Missouri's large reservoirs.

Thinking about all the equipment he still has to purchase, all the materials and fish food he has to get in place and all he has to learn about operating the complex facility, Waller says, "March seems really soon!"

Show your support for the Ozark Trail

Are you a backpacker, trail rider or mountain biker? Do you just enjoy an afternoon hike once in a while? If so, the Ozark Trail needs your support.

The Ozark Highlands Trail Association is asking people across the Midwest to show their support for extending the Ozark Highlands Trail across Missouri and into Arkansas. Many sections of the trail already are established. When complete, this trail will extend almost 1,000 miles from St. Louis to Lake Fort Smith State Park in northwest Arkansas, creating one of the longest trail systems in the Midwest.

Volunteers will do much of the actual trail construction. To register support for completion of the trail, write to Supervisor, Ozark National Forest, 605 W. Main Street, Russellville, AR 72801-3614, or Superintendent, Buffalo National River, P.O. Box 1173, Harrison, AR 72602-1173.

Audubon Missouri is on the map

The National Audubon Society has hired Russell W. Sewell to be the director of the state Audubon office. Sewell will oversee the newly created Audubon Missouri office, which is located in Jefferson City.

Since 1991, Sewell has worked for Pheasants Forever as vice president of Program Development and Education. He has also served as director of the Leopold Education Project, which seeks to teach conservation principles to educators across the country.

As director of Audubon Missouri, he will help guide efforts to protect migratory bird habitat, preserve prairies and protect Missouri's water resources and will help with other conservation issues relating to habitat and birds in the state.

The new Audubon Missouri office is the culmination of three years of fundraising and planning by the Missouri Audubon Council, Society members and the National Audubon Society staff.

Habitat Hints

X Commandments for good Hunter/Landowner Relations

When Moses led his people into the wilderness, they got a set of rules to govern their behavior so as to guarantee their entry into the promised land. Wouldn't it be great if hunters and landowners had a similar set of rules to live by? Here is a modest suggestion.

  1. Thou shalt have no other concerns above the safety of human life and thy host's property.
  2. Thou shalt treat thy host as thy neighbor, taking time to get to know him, visiting him oft at his habitation, sharing thy game with him and showing concern for his wants and needs, yea, even so far as performing manual labor as may ease his lot in life.
  3. Thou shalt not hunt upon land whose owner thou knowest not and whose blessing thou hast not obtained.
  4.  Thou shalt not suffer thy redbone, nor they beagle, nor thy pointer, nor thy horse, nor any beast that is thy hunting companion to stray onto any land upon which thou hast not firs obtained permission to trespass. If such unauthorized trespass should occur, thou shalt remove thy beat as expeditiously as possible. Should thy beast cause property damage, thou shalt own up to it voluntarily and offer to make appropriate amends.
  5. Thou shalt honor thy hosts' rules by closing gates, avoiding forbidden areas and eschewing proscribed dates and times, that thy days of hunting may be long upon the land to which they thee access.
  6.  Thou shalt not invite others to hunt on property which thou ownest not.
  7.  Thou shalt not assume that all hunters are ill-mannered louts, nor that all landowners are selfish curmudgeons, lest thou shouldst deny thyself the aid and companionship of some of the finest folk on earth.
  8. Thou shalt know and obey the laws, rules and regulations pertaining to trespass, your sport and/or your land.
  9. Thou shalt not complain that deer or other wildlife vexes thee while denying courteous, careful hunters access to thine land to reduce wildlife-caused travail.
  10. Thou shalt obey The Golden Rule, treating others as you would like to be treated. If thou shouldst meet another who ignoreth The Golden Rule, thou shalt conduct thyself in such a manner as to reflect credit on thy hunting and landowning brethren and maintain cordial relations in their community.

Policy promotes urban deer management partnerships

The Conservation Department is responsible for deer management in Missouri. But in urban areas it relies on partnerships with private landowners and governments to develop effective management strategies that meet individual communities' needs. A formal urban deer management policy adopted by the Conservation Commission at its August meeting provides guidelines for such cooperative efforts.

The policy calls for Conservation Department biologists to give officials in the St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Joseph, Columbia/ Jefferson City and Springfield/Joplin areas the tools they need to meet their management goals and keep deer numbers in balance with available habitat and citizens' needs. Implementing such management plans on land not owned by the Conservation Department is the responsibility of local organizations.

Conservation Department wildlife research biologists are to lend their expertise in deer population assessment, removal methods and assessing the success of those methods. In areas where the Conservation Department has urban wildlife biologists, their role is to help with resolving conflicts, applying for necessary permits and other administrative needs. Conservation Department regional information specialists are to generate news releases and promote public understanding of deer management problems and solutions.

Potential solutions include non-lethal measures, such as using repellents, fencing, trapping and relocation, reproductive control and modifying habitat. Lethal measures include managed hunting, sharpshooting and trapping and euthanasia.

Reproductive control by use of contraceptives is strictly regulated under federal law and is not legal in most situations. Methods currently available are neither cost effective nor biologically feasible but may hold promise for urban deer population control in the future.

The only other method of reproductive control currently available is live trapping and surgical sterilization, which is costly and ineffective. Besides these flaws, this method also exposes treated deer to death from "capture myopathy," a condition that arises from the stress of being trapped and handled.

Town and Country is one community with which the Conservation Department is working on deer population control. The St. Louis County municipality began last year experimenting with trapping and relocation as a way of thinning its deer population without killing deer.

The first year's work produced mixed results. After almost two months of work, a private wildlife damage control company had captured 51 female deer, considerably short of the 122 does that biologists calculate must be removed for two or three years in a row to get local deer numbers under control. The removal of 51 does seems to have approximately offset this year's fawn production in the area. Town and Country plans to use the same private contractor to trap and relocate more deer this year.

Unfortunately, the relocation effort also turned out not to be entirely non-lethal. Twenty percent of the deer trapped and moved to a conservation area died within weeks of relocation. The primary cause of death was capture myopathy.

Other Missouri towns are grappling with similar deer population problems. The Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department has been using a special, managed muzzleloader hunt to control deer numbers in 7,800-acre Fleming Park. This differs significantly from Town and Country, where the deer must be removed from private residential neighborhoods.

The City of Columbia allows archery deer hunting within the city limits, so individual landowners who obtain permits can reduce local deer numbers this way. Boonville has assembled a task force to study possible solutions to deer overpopulation in their community, but have not decided on a method yet. Many communities in the eastern United States now employ paid sharpshooters to thin deer numbers. This method is effective and economical. It also is relatively humane, resulting in quick death, rather than subjecting deer to the extended stress of capture and resulting illness.

No Room for Violators

Would-be vandals beware: conservation agents around the state are focusing on reducing vandalism, littering, fighting, drug use and other abuses taking place on Conservation Department lands.

Four people who destroyed property at Limpp Community Lake pleaded guilty to Class D felonies and paid $5,500 in restitution and $2,658 in court fees. In other counties, late-night group patrols enabled agents to write violations for offenses ranging from poaching to illegal drug possession. One offender who had an outstanding warrant tried to flee on foot but was captured.

Conservation agents continuously work to catch violators and deter others from ruining public land and resources. The goal is to make sure Conservation Department areas remain safe and pleasant for outdoors people to use.

Another Zebra Mussel Beachhead Discovered

The latest sighting of a zebra mussel in Missouri comes from a small private pond in St. Charles County. Conservation Department fisheries biologists checking fish populations there checked the undersides of rocks on the pond's riprapped banks and discovered the fingernail-sized exotic mollusks beneath every rock.

How did the alien mussels get into the pond? It lies in the Mississippi River floodplain and was inundated in the Great Flood of 1993. Fisheries biologists suspect the mussel's larvae, called veligers, washed in then.

Millenium Trees

Order tree seedlings from the Conservation Department's George O. White Nursery now, and your great-great-grand children could enjoy the fruits of your foresight.

Trees ordered now will be delivered and planted in the year 2000, making it easy for future generations to remember when they were planted. This year, the nursery near Licking is offering a Forest Legacy Bundle that includes tree species with lifespans of more than 100 years. These include shortleaf pine, white oak, bald cypress, flowering dogwood, American hornbeam, Ohio buckeye, black cherry, sugar maple, blackgum and yellow wood.

Each Forest Legacy Bundle will contain 20 seedlings with two each of 10 species. The price is $15.

The nursery also offers dozens of other tree and shrub species with applications for reforestation, wildlife habitat improvement, windbreaks and erosion control. Species offered for the first time this year include smoke tree, paw paw, and arrowwood viburnum.

Missourians can order seedlings now through May 1. Most are sold in bundles of 25. Seedling order forms with price and other information will be available about Nov. 20 from Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Orders are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so it's best to order early. In addition to spelling out which plants you want, the order form allows you to specify when you want the plants delivered by mail. You may prefer to pick them up at the nursery from February through May.

Picking "dekes" to draw ducks

The prediction of a record-setting fall flight of ducks this year has many Missouri hunters excited. Here are some tips to help first-time duck hunters choose their most important tools--decoys.

Decoys come in a dizzying array of types and sizes, but the duck hunter's mainstay is the standard-sized plastic mallard. Many hunters buy a few pintail decoys to make their spreads more attractive to this highly esteemed species. You can add further variety with a sprinkling of scaup, teal, wigeon, gadwall and other species. Specialty decoys that simulate sleeping ducks with heads tucked under wings or feeding birds with only their rear halves above water also add realism.

Wealthy or obsessed hunters can buy decoys with legs that churn the water, motorized models that wobble on the water even on windless days or ones whose heads bob up and down as they feed. These may actually work. On the other hand, generations of successful duck hunters got along fine without them.

Decoys come with weighted keels or water keels. The water keel is a hollow chamber beneath the body that steadies the decoy in rough water or wind. These work as well as weighted keels and are lighter to carry.

You will need weights to hold your decoys in place and bags to carry them. Flexible, 8-ounce lead strap weights will stop decoys from drifting with the wind, and they are easy to secure when not in use by wrapping the weight around the decoy's keel.

Use braided nylon cord to tie weights to decoys, and make sure knots can't pull loose. Avoid bright colors that might be spied by wary ducks.

Nylon mesh bags are indispensable for carrying decoys. Models with shoulder straps make carrying easier.

How many decoys are enough? That depends on the type of ducks you are hunting and where you will hunt. Six teal or wood duck decoys are enough to lure those species into a woodland pond or a small stream. Teal also can be decoyed with mallard hen decoys, whose brown coloring is very similar to the fall plumage of most teal.

Puddle ducks, like mallards and pintails, require more decoys, but they can be enticed with modest spreads of about four dozen "blocks" in small lakes or wetland pools. However, you will have to increase this to six or seven dozen when hunting mallards in large, open water, especially if neighboring hunters' spreads are larger than yours.

Diving ducks, like canvasbacks, scaup (commonly called "bluebills") and redheads require larger decoy spreads. Some hunters consider 100 decoys a bare minimum for these gregarious ducks.

Penny-pinching hunters use tricks to reduce the cost of making a large spread of duck decoys. Some buy unpainted generic decoys and paint them in their basements. They may prop up birds shot in the course of the hunt to increase the size of their spread or make duck-sized mounds of mud and poke crooked pieces of corn stalk in one end to make free, functional decoys.

Those are the basics of decoy selection. Watch next month's News & Almanac for tips on how to create a decoy spread that will make passing ducks look twice.

Director receives conservation awards

Jerry Conley, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, is the recipient of the 1999 Seth Gordon Award from the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA). The award is the association's highest honor.

Conley, a native of Cape Girardeau, received the award at the IAFWA's annual meeting Sept. 21 in Killington, Vt. The award is reserved for fish and wildlife agency administrators "who have worked steadfastly and effectively for fish and wildlife resources." Conley has worked on behalf of conservation for 33 years.

Conley also recently received the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Conservation Medal. Nominations for that award mentioned Conley's skill in building teamwork that has facilitated the achievements of conservation agencies where he has worked.

Conley began his conservation career in 1966 as a regional fisheries biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. He subsequently served as superintendent of fisheries with the Iowa Fish and Wildlife Division. From 1977 to 1980 he was director of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. He served as director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department from 1980 through 1996, and has been director of the Missouri Department of Conservation since then.

During his career he has been active in regional and national conservation efforts. He has served as president of the IAFWA and has chaired several committees for that group, including the Executive Committee and the Nongame and Endangered Species Committee. He has served as president of the Western and Midwestern associations of fish and wildlife agencies and has chaired the Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

Other honors Conley has received include the Idaho Forest Supervisor's Centennial Conservation Award, the Kansas Governor's Distinguished Service Award and the IAFWA's Ernest Thompson Seton Award.

In conferring its award, the IAFWA noted that Conley "is a skilled communicator who insists on effective teamwork as the way to achieve success. He recognizes the importance of cooperation and coordination between the state fish and wildlife agencies and, while administering some of our largest and most demanding state wildlife programs, he managed to remain an engaged and productive member of the International Association."

Nesting News

Bald eagles are nesting in Missouri and continue to have more and more success raising their young. Fifty-three nesting territories in the state were active this year, and 11 of those were new or newly reported. This year, 80 to 90 young eagles fledged from 47 of these nesting territories. In 1998, 65 to 70 young fledged. Only six nests were monitored where no young fledged. Two of these nests collapsed or fell from the trees, and the others were abandoned. Stoddard, Wayne and Maries counties are among the most productive counties where eagles nest.