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The Arm of Conservation Law Gets Longer

Would you shoot a deer out of season if you knew you could be fined $500? Some poachers consider this nothing more than the cost of doing business. But what if you knew that violating game laws here could cost you your Colorado elk hunt? That's exactly the choice now facing hunters in Missouri and 11 other states.

Missouri recently joined the Interstate Wildlife Violator's Compact, an agreement that allows participating states to track poachers' activities throughout the compact area. In the past, a poacher whose hunting, fishing or trapping privileges were suspended in one state could simply cross a state line and be back in business. Now, if your privileges are revoked in Missouri they can and almost certainly will be revoked in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The Conservation Department already has a long list of violators whose privileges have been revoked in other compact states. Following action by the Missouri Conservation Commission to revoke their privileges here, their names will be flagged in Missouri's automated permit issuing system, making it impossible for them to purchase permits anywhere in the state. Similarly, several Missourians who have lost their hunting, fishing or trapping privileges here may find themselves shut out of the other 11 compact states.

Each state retains its own criteria and procedures for privilege suspension. In Missouri, violators receive notice that the Conservation Commission is considering revoking their privileges and can request hearings to contest the action.

Ironically, some violators will benefit from the compact. Instead of requiring all out-of-state violators to post bonds, conservation agents will have the option of issuing citations and releasing them.

Conservation Federation of Missouri Confers Conservation kudos

The late Ford Hughes, who became one of Missouri's best-loved conservation figures through decades of professional and citizen service, posthumously received the Conservation Federation of Missouri's (CFM) highest honor. His widow, Betty Lu Hughes, accepted the award at the annual CFM convention March 25 at Lake of the Ozarks.

Hughes died Nov. 23 at age 77. His professional career included 32 years with the James Foundation, where he supervised the planting of 35,000 trees. He also served in many offices and on committees with the CFM and the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association.

Other winners of CFM awards include:

  • Air Conservationist of the Year, John A. Young, director of the Div. of Environmental Quality for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
  • Water Conservationist of the Year, Ben Knox, chief naturalist and environ mental services officer for the St. Louis County Department of Parks.
  • Conservation Communicator of the Year, Gene Fox, Kansas City metro media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
  • Conservation Educator of the Year, the Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District.
  • Professional Conservationist of the Year, Ken McCarty, chief of natural resources management for the DNR's Division of Parks.
  • Forest Conservationist of the Year, Jim Drew of Caldwell County.
  • Wildlife Conservationist of the Year, Continental Cement Company of Hannibal.
  • Hunter Education Instructor of the Year, James A. Ragland of Florissant.

Centennial Forests: The Beginning of Fire Prevention (1940s)

In 1938, the newly appointed Conservation Commission hired former Forest Service employee George O. White as state forester. His first big job was fire control. Before deer and turkey could be restocked, and before the Ozark streams could run clear, the wildfires had to be stopped.

Money was tight, and equipment was scarce. Each district forester was issued a pickup truck, an ax, a one-man crosscut saw, a long-handled shovel, a dozen council rakes and a couple of backpack water pumps. Fire detection depended on a few scattered lookout towers, word of mouth and a sense of smell.

Education was the key. White borrowed an earlier idea and put the Conservation Department "showboat" back in operation. This was a truck with a generator, movie screen and projector that took forestry movies into the Ozark hills where there was no electricity. Foresters showed the movies in schools, general stores and churches-anywhere they could get a group of people together.

White also encouraged tree planting on private land. He believed that if someone invested time and sweat in planting seedlings, they weren't going to let their trees burn.

In 1944, a black bear cub was found in the aftermath of a forest fire in New Mexico. His rescuers decided to name the cub Smokey and make him a symbol of forest fire prevention. Thus began one of the most successful public awareness campaigns ever launched.

The education efforts paid off; the once impossible task of fire control in the Ozarks now is a reality. Today less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Missouri burns each year, wildlife abounds, and the streams run clear again.-Bruce Palmer

Monster Prairie Chicken Accompanies Lek Trekkers

Planning continues for the 565-mile "Lek Trek" across western Missouri. The event now has a larger-than-life mascot-Boomer the prairie chicken-and more communities and conservation groups are getting involved to improve Missouri's grassland resources.

The greater prairie chicken is one of hundreds of unusual and beautiful plants and animals that depend on prairie habitat. Boomer, the prairie equivalent of Smokey Bear, will appear at most Lek Trek events.

Lek Trekkers will kick off the event July 21, heading south from the Missouri-Iowa border near Hatfield. A second group will begin a northward trek from the Arkansas border near Southwest City Sept. 23. The two groups will rendezvous Oct. 14 at Prairie State Park near Lamar.

In between, participants will tour unspoiled prairie, learn about prairie ecology and take part in a variety of natural- and cultural-history events. They also will raise money pledged in return for completing trek segments.

To learn more, visit the event's Web site at www.lektrek.org, or contact the Lek Trek office, 315 Lawrence St., Kansas City, MO 64111, phone (816) 561-8735. You can send questions or comments by e-mail to: Sharron.Gough@mdc.mo.gov or Lintecum.michael@worldnet.att.net.

Deer Trapping Effort Still Short of Goal

An effort to control deer numbers in a St. Louis suburb by non-lethal means fell short of its goal for the second year.

Town and Country received permission from the Conservation Commission to live-trap and relocate deer to a rural area, to reduce deer-related automobile accidents and property damage.

Using mathematical population models, Conservation Department biologists estimated that Town and Country would need to remove 122 female deer per year two or three years in a row to reduce the deer population to the desired size. After that, city officials would have to remove a smaller number each year to maintain an acceptable deer population.

The first year of the program, a contract trapper removed 51 does. This year the trapper removed 44 does. No effort was made to track the survival of relocated deer this year. Of the deer trapped the first year, one in five died within a few months of relocation. The primary factor in these fatalities was capture myopathy, a neural condition resulting from the stress of trapping and relocation. A significant number of relocated deer were taken by hunters.

Best Turkey Season Ever

No matter how you measure it, the 2000 spring turkey season was the best on record. Hunters bagged a record 30,440 gobblers during the first week of the season, topping the previous first-week record by 7,785. They ran the total up to 46,659 during the second week of spring turkey hunting, and by the end of the third week they had checked 65,841 turkeys. That's 6,503 more than the previous record, which was set last year.

Missouri turkey hunters also continued to improve their safety record. Only four accidents marred the three-week season, and all the injuries were minor. Missouri has averaged nearly 14 spring turkey hunting accidents per year since 1985. While four injuries is four too many, the improvement is a good sign.

Fine weather played an important role in this year's record spring turkey kill. Rainy weather keeps hunters out of the woods, and windy conditions make the birds spooky, but there was little of either during the April 24 through May 14 season. The continued growth of the state's turkey flock also contributed to the record harvest. Wild turkey nest success was 37 percent above average in 1998, providing lots of mature gobblers for hunters to pursue this year.

The top counties were Franklin with 1,236 turkeys checked, Macon with 1,100 birds killed and Texas with 1,086 harvested. Northeastern Missouri posted the largest regional turkey harvest, with 9,944 turkeys checked, followed by northwestern Missouri with 8,722 and the west-central region with 8,331 birds bagged.

Although last year's turkey nest success was above average, only about one in five turkeys killed this spring were yearlings. That bodes well for the 2001 spring turkey season. It promises a continued plentiful supply of 2-year-old birds, which account for the majority of each year's harvest.

The number of spring turkey hunting accidents peaked in 1986, when two hunters died and 29 others were injured during the two-week season. That prompted the Conservation Department to launch an intensive turkey hunting safety campaign that included news releases, magazine articles, a hunter safety video and a "Be Safe" sticker for hunters to put on their guns to remind them of safety. The number of spring turkey hunting accidents began its rapid decline in 1988, when it became mandatory for persons born after Dec. 31, 1966 to pass a hunter education course.

Feast Your Eyes & Save Your Screens

Conservation screen savers are a sight for sore eyes

Tired of looking at bouncing balls or a blank screen when your computer times out? Download screen savers from the Conservation Department, and you can feast your eyes on nature scenes instead.

The screen savers come in basic and deluxe versions. The basic package includes four photographs and daily nature notes from the 2000 Natural Events Calendar. The deluxe version takes longer to download, but it includes nature notes and six calendar photos that change each month.

Download the screen savers at www.conservation.state.mo.us/software/screensavers/. There's no charge. However, if these images inspire you to contribute to conservation, you can send a donation to the nonprofit Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, MO 65109. Phone (573) 634-2080.

Conservation Trails to You!

Can a confirmed nature lover get bored with walking in the woods? Not according to Jerry Reeves, and he should know. His job is to walk every trail on conservation areas (CAs) statewide. So far he has covered about half of the 500-plus miles of trails and says boredom is nowhere in sight.

Reeves, a natural history biologist for the Conservation Department, is gathering trail information for use in future editions of Missouri's Conservation Atlas and to help with trail signing, maintenance and development. The inventory won't be finished until some time in 2001, but it's already clear that no Missourian lives more than 45 minutes from a nature walk. That's nice to know, since June is National Trails Month.

In the St. Louis area, you can celebrate the event at Rockwoods Reservation. This area near Glenco has 10 miles of trails. Kansas City area residents might want to visit James A. Reed Memorial CA during National Trails Month. This 2,456-acre area near Lee's Summit has 18 miles of trails. In the Springfield area, try Little Sac Woods CA near Willard, which boasts six miles of trails. Conservation Nature Centers in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Jefferson City all offer extensive networks of developed trails, many of them accessible to people with mobility impairments.

To learn more about hiking trails on CAs, check out Conservation Trails: A Guide to Missouri Department of Conservation Hiking Trails. The 91-page booklet easily fits into a day pack and contains maps of hundreds of miles of trails at 40 CAs. It's available for $5.25 plus $2 shipping and handling from The Nature Shop, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Missouri's Conservation Atlas lists every CA in the state. It's available for $15.93 plus $5 shipping and handling from the same address.

Big Cat's Origin Remains a Mystery

Genetic testing failed to reveal the origin of mountain lion remains found in Texas County. The mystery of how it how it came to rest alongside a gravel road may have been solved, though.

A deer hunter discovered the pelt of the mountain lion, with head and paws attached, beside a road in southern Texas County in November1998. Given occasional sightings of mountain lions in Missouri, the Conservation Department wanted to know if the animal was native and if it was wild or an escaped pet or zoo specimen.

Conservation Department officials had hoped a DNA test would show whether the cat was closely related to those living in other states. However, researchers concluded that the various North American mountain lion populations are too closely related to be distinguished by such genetic testing.

The question of how the cat died is less difficult. X-rays showed its skull contained a spent .22 caliber bullet. This matches the cause of death of a mountain lion that two men admitted killing several years ago. That animal's carcass was never recovered. Furthermore, the pelt found along the road showed signs of having been frozen for several years.

Apply Now For Managed Deer Hunts

Paper forms and stamps disappear from the managed deer hunt application process this year. This year's applications will be handled through the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system inaugurated last year for waterfowl reservations. Beginning July 1, hunters can apply for Missouri's 53 managed deer hunts by calling (800) 829-2956 between 4 a.m. and midnight seven days a week or by visiting the Conservation Department's web page, www.conservation.state.mo.us.

You will need a 2000 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information booklet, available July 1 wherever hunting permits are sold. It contains application instructions and a complete list of managed deer hunts. You must use a touch-tone telephone to apply by phone.

At the conclusion of the process, applicants will receive confirmation numbers. Successful hunters will be notified of their selection by mail. Most will receive this notification by Sept. 10. After that date, applicants can check the status of their applications on the IVR system or the Conservation Department Web page using their confirmation numbers.

Only Resident Managed Deer Hunt Permits ($15) and Nonresident Managed Deer Hunt Permits ($125) are valid for managed deer hunts. These permits were not required at Fort Leonard Wood in 1999, but they are this year. The number of deer that may be taken with a single permit depends on the hunt for which they are issued. In some hunts, up to three deer may be taken. Youth deer hunt applications will be handled on paper, as in the past. You can't apply for a youth deer hunt via internet or the IVR system. See the 2000 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information booklet for details.

HABITAT HINTS

The Benefits of a Slow Burn

Carefully controlled burning can rejuvenate forests, prairies and glades by mimicking the effects of fires that have been part of natural systems in Missouri for thousands of years. "Prescribed" burning isn't done randomly but at carefully chosen times and places with specific goals.

Most common are spring burns, usually conducted in February or March, before plants green up. These help control woody plants that otherwise can take over prairies and glades. But late-summer burns offer advantages and can help meet certain management goals. Whereas spring burns strongly favor warm-season grasses, a prescribed burn in August encourages wildflowers and other non-woody plants that enhance the variety of food and cover available to wildlife.

Summer fires move slower and produce less heat than spring burns, but they control smooth sumac, sericea lespedeza and other plants better than spring burning. Two or three burns over the course of five or six years may be necessary to control undesirable plants.

Never conduct a burn without proper training and equipment, and always alert fire officials in your area first. For information about prescribed burning, contact your nearest Conservation Department office and talk to a private land conservationist.

Knowledge is Power . . . and Safety

Accidental firearms fatalities in Missouri have decreased 22 percent since 1987, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). The state's improved firearms safety record contributed to a nationwide decrease in accidental firearms deaths, which are at their lowest level since record keeping began in 1903.

In 1987, the NSC recorded 37 fatal firearms accidents in Missouri, 12 of which were hunting accidents. In 1996, the most recent year for which state-by-state statistics are available, Missouri had 29 fatal firearms accidents, including one hunting fatality. Nationwide, 33 states recorded declines in accidental firearms fatalities during the 10-year period.

State and national officials attribute the long-term improvement in firearms safety-despite increasing gun ownership-to firearms training and hunter education programs. The number of fatal firearms accidents nationwide reached an all-time low of 900 in 1998. By comparison, 2,513 Americans died in firearms accidents in 1974.

NSC figures for 1998 showed the accidental firearms death rate was lower than the death rate from falls (16,600), poisoning (9,000), drowning (4,100) or choking (3,200). Of the 900 accidental deaths due to firearms in 1998, 700 occurred in the home.

Big River Fishing Boom

East Central Missouri's Big River should offer good angling for rock bass and smallmouth bass this spring and early summer, according to the Conservation Department's Fishing Prospects at Selected Missouri Lakes and Streams 2000.

Fisheries biologists found an abundance of 7- to 9-inch rock bass when they sampled the river last fall. The report also cited good fishing for smallmouth bass, especially in Big River's special management area (SMA). "Good numbers of 12- to 17-inch smallmouth exist," the report notes. "Fall 1999 electrofishing surveys showed smallmouth up to 20 inches."

The Big River's black bass SMA now extends from the Highway 21 bridge near Washington State Park, southwest of De Soto, downstream to the Meramec River confluence. The daily limit is six black bass, only one of which can be a smallmouth. Minimum length limits are 15 inches for smallmouth and 12 inches for largemouth. There is no length limit for spotted (Kentucky) bass.

For a copy of the report, write to "Fishing Prospects" Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Your Direct Line To St. Louis Fish Stocking Info

The St. Louis area's popular Fish Stocking Hotline is back in business, but this time it's a direct line. Just dial (636) 441-8014 and up-to-date fish stocking information for the St. Louis Urban Fishing Program (UFP) is yours 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The hotline tells callers when the last UFP stocking took place and the size, number, kind and locations of fish stocked.

The St. Louis Urban Fishing Program is the oldest and largest urban fishing program in the nation. The Conservation Department-run UFP, which began in 1969, stocks more than 20 St. Louis City and County park lakes each year with carp (March), channel catfish (April through October) and, for some lakes, trout (November through February). - Kevin J. Meneau

States Share Hunting Information On Web Site

Finding a new hunting spot anywhere in the United States just got easier. Missouri is among the states whose Web sites are linked to the national clearinghouse at www.huntinfo.org. An easy- to-use search feature provides links to Web sites with information on prime hunting locations based on the game or the state where you want to hunt.

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