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Pond dragons

That was an excellent article on dragonflies. Because of their compound eyes, dragonflies are difficult to catch by hand, but I learned how to do it at the age of 7 or so.

Approach them with one hand making erratic circles in front of the insect. A few failures will indicate how close you can get. Slowly move the other hand in from the rear and pick the dragonfly up by its tail. Then switch your hold to its thorax. When calmed down, they will accept and eat offered insects, such as mosquitoes.

If you bend the tail under and offer the tip of it, they will eat that also. I found that repugnant, though, and would release them.

L.P. Pushkarsky, Trenton

When I was growing up near Steelville, my dad used to call dragonflies snake doctors. Do you know if that’s a common name for them?

Rose Sieckmann, Florissant

Editor’s note: I’d heard them called snake doctors in Michigan, too. Other common names listed for dragonflies include snake-tails, biddies, mosquito hawks and devil’s darning needles.

If when fishing a Missouri pond you haven’t noticed a dragonfly land on your fishing rod, then either you were fast asleep or were dreaming of the trophy fish you were going to catch.

I find dragonflies to be interesting and welcome fishing companions.

Fred Boeneker, Glendale

No whips

For the past 14 years my family has lived in the same wooded country home, and each spring we have enjoyed the arrival of the whip-poor-wills. That is until the spring of 1999, when they did not come. Nor did they return this past spring. We sorely miss sitting on our deck at dusk and listening to the beautiful call of these amazing birds, not to mention their contributions to reducing the mosquito population! Do you have an explanation for their disappearance?

Jacqueline Walsh, Hannibal

Editor’s note: For the past 30 years, whippoorwills have been declining in Missouri at an average of about 6 percent a year. Forest fragmentation, woodland grazing, an increasing number of rural homes with their associated clearings, free-roaming pets and general disturbance are contributing to their decline.

Groundbreaking

Plant poaching may damage natural landscapes, but you did not mention what I believe to have the most devastating impact upon state and public land. The careless operators of all-terrain vehicles destroy not only wild herbs, but all plant life in their path.

We have noticed 6- to 8-inch ruts cut into the shoulders of our highways and over the bank. On State Highway 106 between Summersville and Eminence, we saw a well-traveled ATV path three miles long. These culprits are creating an eyesore in the heart of our beautiful Ozark landscape. A few well-placed tickets might discourage them, as it has those who dig herbs on rights-of-way.

Rev. Max Courtney, Licking

Editor’s note: The Conservation Department does not have the authority to regulate use of ATVs on or alongside public roads. We do, however, prohibit indiscriminate use of ATVs on Conservation Department lands, and violations often result in tickets being issued.

Armadillos live

On a trip from Patton to Cape Girardeau one day I thought I saw a dead armadillo on the road. Have they migrated this far and, if so, how come we don’t see more of them?

Jewell Dawalt, Patton

Editor’s note: Armadillos have been moving northward and now occupy southern Missouri. Armadillos likely will not spread much further north because frozen ground prevents them from digging for insects in winter.

Camouflage thyself

You really dropped the ball on an otherwise fine article on hunter education. Do you really want hunters to hide the fact that they hunt? Wearing camouflage in public should be much less offensive than some of the explicit messages posted on T-shirts or nose rings or some other odd body piercing. We should be proud to be hunters, not ashamed.

John Markway, Tebbets

Good delivery

I’m glad my copy of the August issue arrived on Saturday because I found it so interesting, I read it cover to cover before putting it down. I thoroughly enjoyed the articles about savannas and woodlands and silphium.

Wilfred. J. Carrow, Pueblo, Colo.

Chigger chorus

My daughter learned the chigger song that accompanied your article when she was in the 4-H Club in the late 1960s. It’s sung to the tune of "Polly Wolly Doodle," and the chorus is

Comes in! Comes in!

Oh, that’s where the rub comes in.

Cuz the bump that he raises,

Just itches like the blazes,

And that’s where the rub comes in.

Geraldine Ellerbrake, Gerald

Labeling snakes

The "black snake" shown eating a garter snake was mislabeled. Black snakes are not cannibalistic on other snakes.

Sylvester E. Dietrich, New Haven

Editor’s note: Our mistake. The larger snake in the picture on page 2 of July issue was misidentified as a black snake. In fact, it is an eastern yellowbelly racer.

The letters printed here reflect readers' opinions about the Conservationist and its contents. Space limitations prevent us from printing all letters, but we welcome signed comments from our readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Ask the Ombudsman

Q.Several times I’ve noticed eels hooked onto the sides and bellies of fish I have caught. Should I be concerned?

A: Eels are present in Missouri waters, but it’s more likely you are seeing lampreys. The chestnut lamprey is the most common species and, according to Dr. William Pflieger’s The Fishes of Missouri, any lamprey attached to a fish (except in the Mississippi River) is almost certainly a chestnut lamprey. Pflieger also states that while some host fish may die from secondary infections after a lamprey has attached itself, the parasitic lampreys are not common enough in Missouri to threaten fish stocks. Not all lampreys are parasitic.

For more information about lampreys and fishes, order The Fishes of Missouri by sending $17, plus $5 shipping and handling to Nature Shop, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Missouri residents please add $1.06 tax. Heritage Card holders get a 15 percent discount when they include their 16-digit Heritage Card number, making the price $14.45, plus $5 shipping and handling and, for Missouri residents, 90 cents tax.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 751-4115, ext. 848 or e-mail him at Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov.

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