News and Almanac

13,554 Turkeys Headed for Thanksgiving Tables

Missourians bagged 13,554 wild turkeys during the fall firearms turkey hunting season, providing the main course for many Thanksgiving feasts.

The 2001 fall turkey harvest fell well short of a record but topped last year's figure by 324. Leading county harvest figures was Laclede, with 351 birds checked. Macon County placed second with 339, and Wright County was third with 311.

The number of birds killed during the two-week fall season is modest compared to the harvest during the three-week spring season. This year's spring total was more than 55,000. Two hunters were injured in fall turkey hunting accidents, half as many as last year.

Nursery Hopes Quail Will Like New Seedlings

Missourians who want to provide habitat for quail will be particularly pleased with seedlings offered by the Conservation Department's George O. White Nursery. So will people who want to plant evergreens without creating a buffet for white-tailed deer.

The nursery, located near Licking, is offering a Quail Cover Bundle for the first time this year. Included in each bundle are 10 wild plum seedlings, 10 fragrant sumac seedlings, 10 silky dogwood seedlings, 10 rough-leaf dogwood seedlings and 10 false indigo seedlings. Quail Cover Bundles come with planting tips for maximum benefit to quail.

Another new offering this year is the Norway spruce, an evergreen that makes great windbreaks and shelter belts for wildlife. One of the Norway spruce's most attractive features is that it is less attractive than other evergreens to hungry deer.

Missourians can order seedlings through April 15. Most are sold in bundles of 25 that cost $3 to $10. Order forms, including lists of available seedlings and bundles, are available from Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, or online.

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

Deer Hunters Help Fund a Peek Into the Private Lives of Deer

Hunters were America's first conservationists. Following the tradition of hunter conservationists, the Missouri Deer Hunter's Club recently donated $2,500 to underwrite a landmark white-tailed deer research project conducted by the Conservation Department.

The money came from the group's first social and fund-raising event. More than 300 club members attended. It will help pay costs associated with a study that uses video cameras to monitor deer habits.

"We are very proud to help fund this pilot study," said the Club's founder, Tony Kalna Jr. "We hope that our Club's donation will go a long way in learning more about the white-tailed deer's habits in Missouri and hope to continue funding such projects in the future."

For information about the Missouri Deer Hunter's Club, contact Tony Kalna Jr., (636) 285-0893, <deerhunt@brick.net>, or visit them online.

Curious About a Conservation Area? Look It Up Online

Missouri's Conservation Atlas, a compendium of maps and detailed information about more than 900 conservation areas statewide, is now available online.

The Conservation Atlas is the definitive source of information about hundreds of Missouri's public hunting, fishing and hiking areas, birdwatching spots, natural areas, nature centers, shooting ranges and lake and river accesses. The database is searchable by area name, or you can search by region for areas with certain desired facilities or natural features. Once you find a place you want to visit, you can download or print out maps and detailed information about the area.

The Conservation Atlas is still available in the form of a rugged coffee-table sized book for $16 plus sales tax and, when necessary, shipping. To get a copy, visit one of the conservation nature centers or Conservation Department regional service centers statewide. You also can order by calling toll free (877) 521-8632 or online.

Hunting Opportunities Restricted at Some Areas

Hunters planning trips to Fort Leonard Wood or Duck Creek or Nodaway Valley conservation areas might not be able to use these areas as they hoped.

Construction and maintenance at Duck Creek, near Puxico, forced cancellation of September teal hunting on the area. Late-season duck hunting in wooded parts of the area shouldn't be affected. However, the water level in Pool 1 could be disappointingly low.

Completion of the new East Unit wetland at Nodaway Valley originally was scheduled for late October, but was pushed back to Dec. 1. To ensure that hunters who got reservations at Nodaway Valley aren't unfairly penalized, nearby Bob Brown Conservation Area will honor reservations for Nodaway Valley. Reservation holders can just show up at Bob Brown Conservation Area for the morning drawing on the date of your reservation at Nodaway Valley. If Nodaway Valley is ready for hunting, reservations there will be good at either area.

The West Unit at Nodaway Valley won't be finished until mid 2002.

U.S. Army officials have canceled all firearms hunting at Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County in response to the threat of terrorism. Fishing and archery hunting will continue under stricter conditions. To use areas of the army post that are open to the public for any purpose, visitors must register in person, daily, at Fort Leonard Wood's Outdoor Recreation Center, Building 1614.

The office is open from 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m daily. At the end of each trip, users must visit or call the center to check out. Visitors must have a Fort Leonard Wood Sportsman's Permit and any applicable state and federal permits. For more information, call (573) 596-4223.

Michigan Wolf Killed in Missouri

The list of animals you can see in Missouri continues to grow. A Grundy County man, returning from bowhunting for deer Oct. 23, spied what he thought was a coyote peering into his sheep pen. Fearing for the safety of his livestock, he shot and killed the animal. Then he discovered the "coyote" was wearing an ear tag and a radio collar. Realizing he had killed a wolf, he did the right thing and brought the carcass to a conservation agent.

Conservation Department. Furbearer Biologist Dave Hamilton later verified that it was a gray wolf and traced it back to Michigan, where it had been marked and its movements tracked as part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' wolf management program.

Also known as timber wolves, gray wolves once lived in Missouri. They were extirpated here and elsewhere in the eastern United States by the end of the 19th century. Timber wolves persisted in Minnesota. From there, they dispersed back into Wisconsin and Michigan, which now have wolf populations of their own.

The wolf killed here was a 2 1/2-year-old male weighing 80 pounds. Michigan biologists tracked it for nine months after capturing and tagging it in July 1999. After that, biologists lost track of the animal. Now they know why. It was on a 600-mile road trip.

The gray wolf is classified as federally endangered in Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri. However, the species has grown numerous enough in Minnesota that it is considered threatened there, and federal officials are considering downgrading its status to threatened in other states. This would allow more flexibility in managing gray wolves when they cause problems for people. The man who shot the wolf here will not be prosecuted because he was protecting his livestock and reasonably assumed the animal was a coyote.

"For years, we have believed and told people that there were no wild wolves in Missouri," said Hamilton. "We can't say that anymore, though the likelihood of seeing a wolf here still is extremely small."

Hamilton said the Conservation Department has never stocked wolves and has no plans to restore them to Missouri. He said the state lacks wilderness areas large enough to sustain wolves without unacceptable human conflicts.

Teens Sought for MO Quail Academy

If you are a teenager with a keen interest in wildlife, you might want to look into the 2002 MO Quail Academy. The Academy is now taking applications for the intensive, week-long course, which teaches participants about the biology, management and hunting of bobwhite quail.

The program is larger than ever this year, with two events planned. One will take place at Flat Creek Ranch, between Springfield and Joplin, June 9-14. The other will be at Malinmor, near Bowling Green, June 16-21.

The course combines education in quail biology, habitat management and wildlife conservation with exercises in recreational shooting sports. In addition, cadets learn about outdoor ethics, firearm safety, photography, entomology, bird dogs, botany and leadership skills. The academy is a joint effort of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Quail Unlimited and the University Extension and Outreach.

The program is open to high school students who will be sophomores or juniors the during the 2002-2003 school year and who have a minimum 2.5 grade point average. Each selected student must first complete a state-approved hunter education course. The academy, including food and lodging, is free to participants.

For more information about MO Quail Academies write to: MO Quail Academy, Roxanne L. Hoover, 2500 S. Halliburton, Kirksville, MO 73501, <Roxanne.Hoover@mdc.mo.gov&gt;.

Missouri River Cleanup Draws 500 Participants

More than 550 people turned out Oct. 6 for the inaugural Missouri River Cleanup. That more than doubled the ambitious goal set by organizers. These friends of the much-abused Missouri River scoured a 34-mile stretch from Rocheport to Hartsburg, fishing man-made objects large and small from the river and its banks. They accumulated enough trash to cover a barge.

The haul included 173 rubber tires, 11 refrigerators, 11 washing machines, 10 kitchen ranges, four truck bodies, three microwave ovens, three water heaters, two freezers, a pool table and more than 200 55-gallon trash bags full of miscellaneous litter. Eighty-five percent of the material went to recycling centers. Material that wasn't suitable for recycling went to landfills. Toxic items were taken to approved disposal facilities.

River cleaners also retrieved two messages in bottles. One was a note from a Kansas City resident about the I-70 World Series in 1985, no doubt intended for a reader in the St. Louis area. The other was from a 92-year-old Iowa correspondent interested in learning who found his note. It was "mailed" in 1997.

Following the morning's labors, the cleanup crew held a party at Easley, enjoying live music, food and exhibits, ranging from maps of abandoned steamboat wrecks to bicycles.

Participants and organizers alike expressed satisfaction with the results. They say they intend to organize similar events at new locations along the river in the future.

Wildlife Diseases Concern State Officials

Missouri public health officials are looking for signs of a disease that affects birds and humans. Meanwhile, agriculture officials are on the trail of elk that could be carrying a brain wasting disease, and hunters can help.

The Missouri Department of Health is monitoring mosquito-borne diseases, including the West Nile virus. The virus is most often seen in crows and can cause potentially fatal infections in humans. It was first seen on the East Coast. Health officials recently found the virus in crows in the St. Louis area, but have not found any human cases. People who find dead birds, especially crows, blue jays or hawks, should report them to the nearest city or county health department.

Also of concern is chronic wasting disease (CWD), which affects elk and deer. CWD has never been found to infect humans, cattle or other traditional livestock. However, it could be a threat to white-tailed deer. The disease causes degeneration of infected animals' brains. There is no treatment, and it is always fatal.

The Conservation Department also is monitoring for CWD. Some deer taken by hunters are being tested for CWD. Hunters who turn over sick or emaciated deer for testing can get replacement permits that allow them to take another deer.

CWD has existed in wild elk and deer in Colorado for at least 30 years. More recently, it has spread to Wyoming and Nebraska. The disease also has spread to herds of captive elk, which are raised for their antlers and meat. Sales of live elk across state and national boundaries have allowed the disease to spread among ranched elk in the United States and Canada.

In October, Colorado officials announced that elk at the Elk Echo Ranch in Stoneham, Colo., were infected with CWD and made plans to destroy the entire herd. They also learned that hundreds of elk from the CWD-infected herd had been shipped to dozens of locations in 15 states, including Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is tracking down the elk shipped to Missouri from the Colorado ranch and will destroy those that still are here. Some have been sold to third parties out of state.

CWD is caused by protein fragments known as prions. They can withstand strong disinfectants, freezing and even burning. Efforts to clean up elk farms after CWD outbreaks have failed.

CWD is not related to epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which kills some deer in Missouri each year. Every eight to 10 years Missouri experiences a serious outbreak of EHD, which is closely related to a livestock disease known as bluetongue. These outbreaks can kill 20 to 50 percent of the deer locally, but have not affected the overall health of the state's deer herd.

EHD does not infect humans. However, the Conservation Department tracks the incidence of the disease. People who find dead or sick deer should report the sightings to the nearest conservation agent or Conservation Department office.

Create a Songbird Station

Create a songbird station to attract birds to your yard. Be sure to include fruiting native shrubs, such as the sumacs, serviceberry, American beautyberry and viburnums. Birds also appreciate fruiting native trees like flowering dogwood, roughleaf dogwood, wild plum and black cherry.

A recent decline of songbirds is partly linked to the increased use of non-native shrubs that do not offer the protection of dense branches and thorns for successful nesting. Also, these exotic landscape plants often do not provide the natural foods produced by native species.

Cultivated varieties of native plants can also disappoint hungry birds. The Magnus cultivated variety of native purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) produces beautiful blossoms late in the season, but finches have no use for pretty flowers. They need the nutritious seeds of the native variety.

Songbird stations can be designed for sun or shade. A sunny area encourages the profuse and colorful blossoms of wildflowers with abundant and delectable seeds. Examples include lance-leaf coreopsis, Western sunflower, yellow or purple coneflower and prairie blazing star. These attract finches, mockingbirds and wrens. Native grasses, such as split beard grass, big and little bluestem or prairie dropseed, also benefit wildlife and make a dramatic addition to any landscape.

Shady sites, such as natural woodlands, will be dominated by shrubs and trees and will attract woodpeckers, thrushes and cardinals.

Birds need food, cover and water. Additions like birdbaths or small pools, birdhouses and supplemental feeders will enhance the quality of your yard's habitat and help ensure birdwatching success. Remember that birds need water in winter, too. Consider adding a heating element to your water source to ensure a dependable supply.

Eagle Days Set for December Through February

For an eagle-eye view of our national bird in its natural habitat, attend one or all of the Missouri Department of Conservation's six Eagle Days events.

Eagle Days include live eagle programs, videos documenting the biology and recovery of eagles in Missouri, displays and activities for children. Conservation Department staff and volunteers will be on hand with telescopes to help visitors view eagles. Bringing a pair of binoculars is a good idea, too. At some locations, the Conservation Department has mapped out auto-tour routes for viewing eagles.

Eagle Days events are scheduled December through February at locations throughout the state. Unless otherwise noted, each event begins at 9 a.m. and is free of charge. These events take place outside or in unheated buildings, so wear warm clothing.

Missouri has many locations where you can enjoy viewing eagles on your own in winter. Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Sumner, Table Rock Lake near Branson, Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area south of Columbia and Mingo National Wildlife Refuge near Puxico are among the sites where large numbers of eagles winter. Plan a visit to one, or all, of these locations and watch for eagles perched in large trees along the edges of rivers or lakes.

For more information about Eagle Days, visit the Conservation Department website, keyword: "eagledays". To receive a brochure with directions to all Eagle Days events by mail, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, (573) 751-4115, ext. 3289.

Ducks to Reap Benefits of Private/Public Partnership

The dedication of the August A. Busch Jr. Memorial Wetlands at Four Rivers Conservation Area Oct. 18 highlighted an unusual partnership that will benefit wildlife and wildlife lovers for generations to come.

The event near Rich Hill in Bates County culminated the cooperative effort of government conservation agencies, private conservation groups and dedicated citizen conservationists in creating a 13,732-acre wetland area. Involved in the effort were Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wetland Conservation Council, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Conservation Department.

A group of corporations and individuals was pivotal to the success of the effort. Their goal was to honor the memory of August A. Busch Jr. on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Busch was an avid waterfowl hunter and former Missouri conservation commissioner. Because of his lifelong interest in wildlife conservation, Busch's admirers chose to honor him by underwriting waterfowl conservation. After a nationwide search for deserving projects, they settled on the development at Four Rivers Conservation Area.

More than 450 people gathered at the conservation area near Rich Hill to applaud the partnership's accomplishment. Gov. Bob Holden, Conservation Commission Vice Chairman Howard L. Wood and a bevy of Ducks Unlimited's national staff were on hand, along with Anheuser-Busch President August A. Busch III, to dedicate a life-size statue of the elder Busch.

Gov. Holden called the accomplishments of the partnership "an inspiration."

The Busch family, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and a group of St. Louis area Ducks Unlimited members raised more than $1.5 million for the Four Rivers project. The other partners contributed $8 million. Besides purchasing land for the wetland, the money allowed development, including construction of levees, installation of water control structures and development of marshes. As a result, the area will have as much as 3,000 additional wetland acres to host waterfowl on their spring and fall migrations. The project effectively doubled the size of the area.

Hunters won't have to participate in daily drawings for limited hunting opportunities at the Busch Memorial Wetlands as they do at some other state-owned wetland areas.