News and Almanac

"Gentleman Jim" Keefe leaves information legacy

James F. Keefe, who edited Missouri Conservationist magazine from 1955 to 1985, died Sept. 11 after a brief illness. He was 75.

During a 34-year career with the Conservation Department, Keefe penned hundreds of articles and monthly editorials in which he articulated the Conservation Department's philosophy and explained its policies to millions of readers. He also wrote "The First 50 Years," a history of the Conservation Department's first five decades. Conservation Commissioner Ron Stites once called Keefe "Missouri's conservation conscience."

Keefe served as president of the Association for Conservation Information and the Missouri Outdoor Communicators and was active in the Outdoor Writers Association of America, earning that group's highest conservation honor, The Jade of Chiefs Award, in 1980. The Conservation Commission named him a Master Conservationist in 1998, and the Conservation Federation of Missouri honored Keefe with its Conservation Communicator of the Year Award in 1970.

Missouri's Newest Species is New to Science

Biologists looking for rare cave critters found something even rarer than expected: a species new to science.

Conservation Department biologists Bill Elliott, Melissa Shiver and Ken Lister were looking for Cambarus aculabrum, a blind crayfish, when they visited a cave at Caney Mountain Conservation Area in Ozark County last August. Biologists from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago had reported seeing more than several 3.5-inch white crayfish when they visited the cave a few years earlier. Elliott, the Conservation Department's first cave biologist, thought there was a good chance it was either a new species or an endangered crayfish that inhabits caves in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.

But on close examination, he and Lister realized that the crustaceans were different from those south of the state line, and they collected two of the animals under a special permit for scientific purposes. They sent the specimens to a leading expert in crayfish, Professor Horton H. Hobbs III at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Hobbs confirmed that the Missouri crayfish wasn't Cambarus aculabrum, but he couldn't tell them the creature's name, because it doesn't have one yet. Lister says he thinks " Caney Mountain crayfish" has a nice ring to it.

The future of the world's newest species of crayfish seems secure, since the cave where it lives is in a natural area within a conservation area.

Quail Scholars & Teachers Needed

The Conservation Department, the University of Missouri-Columbia and Quail Unlimited are looking for 25 high-school students and six teachers interested in hands-on training in wildlife management for the 2000 MO Quail Academy June 11-16 at Central Methodist College in Fayette.

Students work alongside biologists conducting quail management and research. They also explore career opportunities. Participating teachers learn with the students while serving as chaperones and earning free college graduate credit.

High school freshmen and sophomores are eligible. They must have grade-point averages of 2.5 or higher and complete a hunter education course before attending the academy.

Applications must be returned by March 15. They are available from 4-H youth specialists, high school principals, counselors and biology or agriculture teachers. Conservation Department or soil and water conservation district offices also have applications, or write to Quail Unlimited, 382 NW Highway 18, Clinton, MO 64735.

Zebra Mussel Continues March on Missouri

Exotic zebra mussels from Europe continue to expand the beachhead established in Missouri earlier this year. Conservation Department fisheries biologists recently found hundreds of zebra mussels in a pond near St. Charles. The pond, which is on private land, was flooded by the Missouri River in 1993.

In August, researchers from Southwest Missouri State University also reported finding zebra mussels attached to native mussels in the Meramec River at the I-55 bridge near St. Louis.

A possible second sighting of zebra mussels in the Meramec River came from near the Highway 30 bridge at Fenton, several miles upstream from the I-55 bridge. This indicates that the exotic pests are hitching rides upstream on boats and boat trailers and in bait buckets. Anglers are asked to wash equipment with hot water or let it dry for several days between outings on different bodies of water. Never take bait or water in bait buckets or live wells from one location to another.

Seeking Common Ground on Watershed Conservation

Urban expansion and redevelopment projects affect more than a city's boundaries. Progress also can displace wildlife and reduce wildlife habitat and opportunities for outdoor recreation. But careful planning can allow cities to meet their development needs with minimal loss of natural amenities. To help the St. Louis area achieve that goal, the Conservation Department will host a series of Common Ground Forums to raise awareness of development issues.

The Common Ground Forum on watershed conservation planning will begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 14 at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood. The event will draw on the expertise of panelists who will examine critical issues in watershed planning, agency roles in the planning process and more.

Public participation is encouraged during an afternoon open discussion. Speakers will be available to answer questions, and participants will have the opportunity to raise issues of concern to them.

Reservations are required for the forum. To make reservations or for more information about the program, call (314) 301-1500.

Cosponsors of the Common Ground Forum are the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Conservation Federation of Missouri, Home Builders of St. Louis, American Rivers, Greenway Network, International Center for Tropical Ecology, St. Louis County Economic Council, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Metropolitan Sewer District, and Missouri Department of Transportation.

Habitat Hints

Give Wildlife an Edge

One of the best-documented facts about wildlife management is that places where different kinds of cover meet are the most beneficial for wildlife. A 200-acre farm will support many more songbirds, rabbits, quail, deer, turkeys, hawks, owls and bobcats if it is a patchwork of small wooded areas, pastures and crop fields rather than a 100-acre field and a 100-acre wood lot.

You can give wildlife an edge around the perimeter of large forested tracts by felling low-value trees just inside the woods and stacking them loosely to create brush piles. Cut only partway through the trunks of cedar trees and push them over to create long-lasting "living" brush piles. Clear all the woody cover within 10 feet of the field. Leave low-growing shrubs in the next 10 feet, and keep small trees and medium-sized bushes in the 10 feet nearest the woods. The resulting 30 feet of progressively taller grasses, blackberry thickets, vines and small trees will provide many times more wildlife benefit than an abrupt change from field to trees.

Creating 1- to 3-acre openings within large stands of timber also benefits wildlife. For best results, limit openings to a total of 10 acres for every 100 acres of unbroken forest. Add woodland ponds near the openings to multiply benefits.

Forest openings can be maintained by discing, burning or mowing every three to five years, or you can allow the forest to regenerate and create new openings in other areas as old openings disappear.

Missouri Outdoors Wins Two Emmys

The Conservation Department's television show, Missouri Outdoors, recently won two Emmys. One of the award-winning shows was about the natural and cultural treasures of Shannon County. The other, "Just Kiddin' Around," focused on young viewers' interests.

The St. Louis Mid-America Emmy Awards also honored Missouri Outdoors for technical achievement in editing and videography.

Decoy Deployment is Duck Soup

Novice duck hunters can invest tidy sums in decoys but fail to attract birds because they don't know how to arrange those "blocks." Remember these tips when setting out decoys.

Numbers matter. When hunting streams, small marshes or green-tree reservoirs, six to 12 decoys often are enough. On big water, though, four to six dozen are needed. Ducks grow more cautious as the season progresses and require more decoys to reassure them. Competition with other hunters can up the ante, too. A spread of 100 decoys may remain deserted if nearby spreads have 200.

Birds of a feather. Most common duck species will land among mallard decoys. But for the best chance of attracting teal, pintails and other "puddle ducks," include a few decoys of these species in your spread.

Make little families. Ducks tend to cluster in groups of three to 10 when resting on the water. Imitate this "family" grouping habit in your decoy spread, keeping decoys of the same species together. Keep individual decoys at least three or four feet apart, though. Real ducks don't huddle up unless they are scared and ready to fly.

Leave a hole. Duck etiquette doesn't permit an incoming flock to land in the middle of an existing "raft." Leave an opening in the middle of your spread big enough to accommodate new arrivals.

Check the wind. Ducks always make their final approach to a new landing area with the wind in their faces. Use this habit to your advantage by leaving a gap in the downwind side of your decoy spread. The resulting C pattern will funnel ducks into the center of your spread.

Make sure the opening of the C is within shotgun range, so any duck settling into your spread is in shooting distance. Locate your blind on the edge of the C opposite and a little to one side of the opening. That way, incoming ducks will come toward you without looking straight at you.

Keep decoys moving. Real ducks paddle around, dive and preen; a motionless spread is a dead giveaway. If no wind stirs your spread, kick up some waves with your feet to make the decoys bob. Another trick is to tie several decoys to a long rope and tug on the end occasionally. Make one decoy "dive" by tying a rope to the front of its keel and running the rope through a heavy weight below it. Pull the rope and the fake duck will tip tail up.

Sweat the details. Make sure anchor lines don't show. Reposition decoys that drift together. If several flocks buzz your spread but don't land, try to figure out what scared them off. Is something unnatural in your spread? Is your dog fidgety? Is your boat and all other equipment well camouflaged?

Adjust to changes. Adjust the orientation of your spread for wind shifts. Move a few decoys onto shore after 10 a.m. to mimic puddle ducks' habit of hauling out to rest on dry land at midday.

Picture a Fish, Win a Prize

Aspiring wildlife artists can get national exposure for their work through the State-Fish Art Contest sponsored by Wildlife Forever.

Contestants in grades four through 12 enter by submitting artwork of their state fish. Missouri's state fish is the channel catfish. Winning entries appear for one year on America Online.

Entries must be accompanied by official entry forms and must be postmarked by March 31. For contest rules and entry forms, call toll-free (877) 347-4278 or

e-mail <StFishArt@aol.com>.

Two Whitewater Events Planned for March

The Missouri Whitewater Association (MWA) will host two events at Millstream Gardens Conservation Area in March. Regional qualifying competitions for the 2000 Olympic Team Trials will take place March 18 in conjunction with the

Missouri State Whitewater Canoeing and Kayaking Championships March 18 and 19. These events will take place March 25 and 26 if water levels prevent them from being held on the primary dates.

For more information about the qualifiers and state championships, contact Dave Kovar, 5245 Lindenwood Ave., St. Louis, MO 63109. Phone (314) 752-4028. E-mail <wahookovar@aol.com>.

Fall Turkey Harvest Down Slightly

Missouri hunters killed 14,651 turkeys during the two-week fall firearms turkey hunting season. That's 602 fewer than were taken in 1998, but still a strong harvest for the fall season.

Top fall turkey harvest counties were Macon (484), Adair (477) and DeKalb (360). Northeastern Missouri led regional harvest totals with 3,397 birds checked, and northwestern Missouri was second with 3,264.

Two fall turkey hunting accidents were reported. Neither was fatal.

$2 Million Set Aside for Conservation on Private Land

The Conservation Department is moving ahead with plans for a major reallocation of resources to help private landowners make their property as productive as possible for wildlife.

In September, the Conservation Commission created a new Private Land Services Section staffed by 60 Conservation Department employees. Each private land conservationist will work with landowners in an area of two to four counties. They will offer one-on-one advice and will be able to draw on cost-sharing programs and technical assistance from foresters, fish and wildlife biologists, wildlife damage biologists and other specialists. Private land conservationists also will be deployed in urban areas to address the unique habitat problems posed by heavily populated areas.

To make sure the program addresses landowners' concerns and needs, the Conservation Department plans to meet 48,000 landowners in the next three years and survey another 250,000 to learn what services will help them realize their vision for fish, wildlife and forest on their land.

The Conservation Department will launch the Private Land Services Program with approximately $2 million in funds freed up by the Missouri Supreme Court's recent decision on the Hancock Amendment. Director Jerry Conley says he hopes to have the program operational by July 2000.

Conley says the Private Land Services Section is needed because Missouri's conservation needs can't be met on public land alone. "Every acre of land that the Conservation Department owns would fit in an area roughly the size of Texas County," he says. "Clearly, if we hope to meet the state's needs for forest, fish and wildlife resources in the future, our programs have to work where most of those resources are on private land. We are determined to meet that need."

Treescape Awards Honor Tree Planting Communities

The Conservation Department recently honored 16 public and private institutions for tree plantings that make their communities better places to live.

Missouri First Lady Jean Carnahan and Conservation Department Deputy Director John Smith presented Treescape Awards and Citations of Merit to groups whose tree-planting efforts were judged best in the annual Missouri Treescape Awards Competition. This year, Treescape Awards went to Baxter Pointe Villas of Chesterfield, David Barton Elementary School of Boonville, Liberty Junior High School of Liberty, Ashland Avenue Neighborhood Association of St. Joseph, Forsyth Beautification and Betterment Projects of Forsyth, the City of Brentwood, the City of Richmond Heights, the City of Chesterfield and Hoechst Marion Roussel Inc. of Kansas City.

Citation of Merit recipients were Russell Boulevard Elementary School of Columbia, Novinger Renewal of Piedmont, the City of Trenton, the City of Lebanon, the City of Springfield and the City of St. Louis Forestry Division.

Entry forms for 2000 Missouri Treescape Awards are available from Conservation Department offices statewide.

Experts Watching Gypsy Moth Hot Spots

Missouri officials found only 12 gypsy moths in traps this past summer, but the pattern of captures points up the need for careful monitoring in some areas.

By mid-August, traps in the St. Louis area had captured six of the destructive forest pests. Another four turned up in traps in St. Charles County, and one each was caught in Taney and Laclede counties.

One of the St. Louis captures came from Laumeier Park, where eight were trapped last year. Others were within a mile or two of sites where gypsy moths were captured in the St. Louis area in 1998. The Taney County capture site came from an area where gypsy moths were caught in 1997 and 1998.

Trapping gypsy moths is a monitoring tool, not a control method. The traps are baited with female moth pheromones that attract males from miles away. Repeated sightings can provide early warnings of building infestations, making it possible to eradicate them before they grow out of control.

Missourians who travel to infested areas in the eastern United States and the upper Midwest are urged to inspect their vehicles and outdoor equipment for velvety, tan-colored egg masses. If you think you may have found gypsy moth eggs, contact the nearest Conservation Department office or call the Missouri Department of Agriculture Plant Industries Division at (573) 751-5505.

Walk/run Proceeds Benefit Endagered Species

Missouri endangered species benefited to the tune of $7,000 from the Endangered Species Walk/Run Oct. 9 on the Katy Trail at Jefferson City. More than 300 people accepted the challenge to "Run, walk, hop or fly, whatever it takes," to help endangered species. Events included a 10 kilometer run, a 5 kilometer walk/run and a half-mile kids fun run. Money raised went to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. Organizers say they will sponsor the event again in 2000.

Missouri Landscapes Featured at Powder Valley

Shutterbugs won't want to miss a slide program by Missouri landscape photographer Kevin Sink at 1 p.m. Dec. 11 at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood.

Well-known Missouri scenes and fabulous, remote places will be included in the hour-long slide program. Sink also will provide insights about the natural history of the landscapes and outline 10 tips for better travel photos and 10 places to take pictures in Missouri.

Sink will introduce his new book, "Missouri Landscapes, Designs from Nature," at the event. A book signing will follow the slide program. For reservations, call (314) 301-1500.