News and Almanac

Regulation changes target CWD

Regulations recently approved by the Missouri Conservation Commission aim at preventing chronic wasting disease (CWD) from entering Missouri but, should it appear, the new rules ensure that authorities will detect the presence of the disease.

Some of the new regulations approved by the Conservation Commission took effect Sept. 1, when the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s current moratorium on deer and elk importation expired. The new regulations apply to Class I wildlife breeders and hunting preserves that operate under Conservation Department permits. The regulations require:

  • Tagging of all deer and elk imported into wildlife breeding or licensed hunting preserves to allow individual animal identification.
  • CWD testing of all deer and elk over 12 months of age that die of any cause in wildlife breeding facilities or breeding pens of licensed hunting preserves.
  • Enrollment of wildlife breeder operations and breeding pens of licensed hunting preserves in Missouri’s chronic wasting disease monitoring program by March 31, 2003.
  • Maintaining records on deer and elk importation and CWD tests at breeding facilities and hunting preserves.
  • Immediate reporting of any positive CWD test results.

The Conservation Commission’s action capped a year-long review of the rapidly changing CWD issue. The review included options to minimize risk of the disease for Missouri’s deer herd, and deer and elk held in captivity. CWD has not been detected in Missouri, but discoveries of CWD among wild or captive deer and elk in other states lent urgency to the process.

Besides tightening regulations on captive deer and elk, Conservation officials also are implementing a three-year program of aggressive CWD monitoring for the state’s wild deer herd. The plan calls for testing more than 6,000 hunter-killed deer from about 30 counties annually, beginning this fall. Deer from all 114 of Missouri’s counties will be tested within three years.

Hunters’ participation in the testing program will be voluntary. The Conservation Department will collect deer heads at check stations and send tissue samples to a federally approved lab in Wyoming. The Conservation Department will make results public when they become available.

In addition, the Conservation Department will continue following up on reports of sick deer and testing them as it did during the 2001-2002 hunting season. None of the deer tested last year had CWD.

The Conservation Department has regulatory authority over free-ranging and captive deer and over captive elk at license hunting preserves. The state Agriculture Department is responsible for regulating farmed elk. In the past, the two agencies have worked together to control tuberculosis and brucellosis in wild and domestic animals.

To replace the lapsed moratorium, the Agriculture Department will require anyone who wants to bring deer or elk into Missouri to get an entry permit from the state veterinarian. These animals must be tagged.

Effective Oct. 1, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer brought into Missouri, regardless of their origin, must come from herds that are documented to be CWD free for the past three years. These efforts are similar to with CWD control plans being developed by federal officials.

To date, CWD is known to affect only elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. No link has been found between CWD and other similar diseases.

Roundups relieve geese nuisance

In mid-June, Conservation Department workers removed 481 geese from a country club and two neighborhoods in Columbia, a residential area in St. Louis, Kansas City’s zoo and Lake Tapawingo.

Landowners requested the removal of the geese to get relief from problems associated with large numbers of geese. Those problems include water quality degradation caused by goose droppings, tens of thousands of dollars of damage from the grass-eating birds destroying lawns, and injuries to humans caused by aggressive male geese protecting their territories during nesting season.

Before approving the trapping and removal of geese, the Conservation Department requires landowners to try measures that will encourage the geese to leave on their own. Landowners tried using trained dogs to harass the geese, pyrotechnic scare tactics, sterilizing goose eggs and fencing. When these measures failed, more drastic steps were required.

The roundups netted 68 juvenile and 413 adult geese. The younger birds were moved to rural areas. Adult geese can’t be relocated because they have imprinted on their home area and would only return. The older birds were processed at a USDA-approved packing house and donated to food banks in the areas where they were captured. Laboratory testing before the roundup showed the birds were safe for human consumption.

The property owners who asked that the geese be removed paid a fee to offset the cost of the service. Eventually, the Conservation Department expects to train commercial nuisance animal services to perform the service and turn the job over to them.

Donors assist prairie chickens

Prairie chickens and other grassland wildlife will benefit from three substantial donations to pay for restoration work at seven Missouri grassland focus areas. The money is dedicated to restoring native vegetation on western Missouri grasslands where remaining greater prairie chickens and other grassland birds are concentrated.

FMC Corporation, a major manufacturer of agricultural supplies headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., provided $100,000 for greater prairie chicken restoration. This money will fund prairie-chicken habitat improvements on Shawnee Trails Conservation Area, Prairie State Park and private land connecting the two public areas west of Lamar.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service provided $150,000 for native prairie management and restoration on private land in six grassland focus areas between Clinton and Nevada.

The Plant Conservation Alliance, a consortium of federal agencies dedicated to the preservation of native plants, provided $25,000 for the management and expansion of a native plant nursery at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy.

The Grassland Coalition is coordinating intensive native prairie restoration efforts in western Missouri. The coalition includes state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals dedicated to Missouri’s native prairies.

About a third of Missouri was prairie before settlement. Now, nearly all the prairie has been converted to farmland, highways or other developments. The Grassland Coalition partnership has funneled grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other sources into Missouri prairie restoration work and has spurred interest in saving and restoring Missouri’s prairie resources.

Commissioner Gorman wins prestigious national conservation award

Anita Gorman, a two term Missouri Conservation Commissioner and long time civic leader, has received the prestigious ChevronTexaco Conservation Award.

Mrs. Gorman received the award in a ceremony Sept. 26 in Houston, Texas. In addition to the honor of receiving one of the nation’s most prestigious conservation honors, recipients receive a $10,000 award.

Among the accomplishments and contributions that earned Mrs. Gorman the award are:

  • Raised nearly $4 million for construction of the Discovery Center in downtown Kansas City.
  • Helped to negotiate the purchase of 4,468 acre Columbia Bottom Conservation Area at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
  • Promoted efforts to set aside flood damaged land in the Missouri River flood plain for fish, wildlife and recreation.
  • Helped found the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, adding a critical element to financial support of conservation work in the state.
  • Numerous successes bringing diverse and often divided partners together in conservation projects.
  • Visionary support of education programs to ensure the future of conservation.
  • Preservation of a historic Indian site from proposed development.
  • Preservation of urban green space.

Joining in Mrs. Gorman’s nomination were Gov. Bob Holden, U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, U.S. Rep. Karen McCarthy, Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Steve Mahfood, then Conservation Department Director Jerry Conley, Former Conservation Department Director Jerry J. Presley, and R. Max Peterson, Executive Vice President of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Ms. McCarthy said Mrs. Gorman’s “tireless passion to preserve our precious wildlife and natural resources for our future generations is unsurpassed in the state of Missouri.”

Gov. Holden said Mrs. Gorman “is a determined individual who has spent her time and energy raising awareness of conservation issues among the public. She has directly influenced the conservation of Missouri’s invaluable fish, forest and wildlife resources. And, she has elevated conservation education to a level that sets the standard for the nation.”

“Perhaps Anita Gorman’s greatest contribution to conservation is her ability to project enthusiasm that inspires others to achieve remarkable goals,” said Conley. “As a devoted mother and grandmother, she may not fit the image of a cheerleader, but I consider Anita Gorman to be just that. She is Missouri’s conservation cheerleader, whipping up enthusiasm in the fans and players, leading her team on to victory for the people of Missouri.”

Lewis & Clark missed this one!

Lewis and Clark described 122 animals new to science during their 28-month excursion, but they can be forgiven for missing one critter dwelling in Missouri. In 1991, a group of cave explorers who call themselves the Little Egypt Grotto found a small fish, now known as the grotto sculpin, in one of Perry County’s more than 650 caves. Genetic testing still is ongoing, but scientists believe the nearly blind fish may be an entirely new species, closely related to the surface-dwelling banded sculpin. The grotto sculpin is important because it is sensitive to water pollution, so its presence or absence in an area is an excellent indicator of underground water quality.

Native plants give gardens autumn glow

Some sport flowers in spring, and others bear pretty fruit in summer, but many of Missouri’s native plants wait until fall to really strut their stuff.

A walk through a prairie in autumn reveals a glorious bounty of orange, yellow and red grasses, as well as some show-topping asters and goldenrods. Drive along a wooded road when the trees are backlit, and you’ll be awed by the luminous beauty of our native woodlands.

To enjoy such color displays closer to home, plant the landscape-worthy natives listed here.

Grasses

  • Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

Flowers

  • Aromatic Aster (Aster oblongifolius)
  • Blue Star (Amsonia illustris)
  • Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
  • Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

Trees and Shrubs

  • Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
  • Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus)
  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)
  • Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra)

To learn more about native plants and to receive a list of participating Grow Native! nurseries and garden centers, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Grow Native! P.O. Box 104671, Jefferson City, MO 65110.

— Natalia Hamill

$3 million in fish lost at Bagnell Dam

The loss of more than 43,000 fish, valued at $3.2 million, makes the month long fish kill at Bagnell Dam on the Lake of the Ozarks one of the most damaging in Missouri history.

Large numbers of dead fish began surfacing in the lake and in the Osage River on May 23. Some were killed when they were trapped against steel bars designed to keep debris out of the power generation turbines. Those that passed through the steel bars and entered the turbines were chopped up. Fish also died in the spillway below the dam, where the release of excess water created violent current.

The fish kill included 23 fish species in the lake and river, but its greatest impact was on paddlefish. More than 4,300 paddlefish, many between 4 and 5 feet long, died in the month-long event.

Paddlefish are found in only two river systems worldwide, the Mississippi in North America and the Yangtze in China. Dams on the Osage River prevent them from spawning, so Missouri’s paddlefish population depends on artificial stocking for its survival.

Restoring the large number of fish killed will take many years. The Conservation Department is assessing the impacts of the kill on future paddlefish seasons.

Bagnell Dam is owned by AmerenUE. The company operates the facility under a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Bagnell Dam provides electricity to customers throughout Missouri and Illinois. AmerenUE said it is committed to developing a long term solution to this problem and has met with Conservation Department and private consultants to address the issue.

When to wear orange

Recent changes in hunting regulations clarify the blaze orange requirement, which is aimed at keeping hunters safe.

The requirement to wear blaze orange during deer season—even if you are hunting something other than deer—has always confused some hunters. The reason for the requirement is simple. Anyone in the woods during deer season can be mistaken for game or caught in the line of fire of a hunter shooting at deer. That is less likely to happen if you’re wearing an orange jacket and cap.

Part of the confusion has been due to changes in deer seasons over the years. Missouri once had only one season, for firearms deer hunters, in November. Now, the deer season also includes a three-month archery portion, a youth-only firearms portion, a muzzleloader portion and a late, antlerless-only portion.

The key to understanding when to wear hunter orange is to remember the original intent—preventing hunting accidents without making hunting unnecessarily difficult. If going without hunter orange would expose you to a greater chance of being mistaken for game or caught in a firearms deer hunters’ line of fire, wearing hunter orange probably is required.

The recently modified regulation regarding hunter-orange clothing says, “This requirement shall apply to all hunters during the youth-only, November and antlerless-only portions of the firearms deer hunting season.”

There are some exceptions, however. Migratory game bird hunters don’t have to wear hunter orange. Neither do archery deer hunters during the muzzleloader deer hunting season. All hunters in Units 28-32 and 38-57 also are exempt during the antlerless-only portion of deer season, since these areas are closed to deer hunting at that time.

The final exemption is for archery deer hunters who are hunting within municipal boundaries where discharging firearms is prohibited, or on federal or state public hunting areas where deer hunting is restricted to archery methods.

Thanks to the hunter-orange requirement and mandatory hunter education training, deer hunting accidents are a mere fraction of what they used to be. Yet, deer hunters are more successful than ever. This demonstrates that wearing hunter orange doesn’t reduce hunters’ chances of killing deer. Keefe, Davidson honored for conservation careers

Keefe, Davidson honored for conservation careers

The late Jim Keefe, long-time information worker for the Missouri Department of Conservation, and Charlie Davidson, whose conservation career in the private sector spanned four decades, were honored at the July 26 meeting of the Missouri Conservation Commission.

Keefe, who died in 1999, became the 29th person to be enshrined in the hall of fame. He began working for the Conservation Department as a writer in 1951, and served as editor of the Missouri Conservationist and the head of the Information Section from 1957-85.

Davidson’s career with the private Conservation Federation paralleled Keefe’s public career in several ways. He worked 31 years for the 27,000 member private conservation group. As editor of Missouri Wildlife, the Conservation Federation magazine, he informed and influenced many of the state’s most active and influential citizen conservationists for decades.

Like Keefe, Davidson played a key role in securing passage of the conservation sales tax. In addition, Davidson was active in securing voter approval of a 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax for state parks and soil conservation. He also helped create Missouri Stream Team and Operation Game Thief.

The Conservation Commission’s resolution honoring Davidson expressed “heartfelt commendation and congratulations on his outstanding service to the cause of conservation” and wished him well in his retirement. Davidson said his retirement will include continued conservation work.

Missouri youths become international YHEC champs

Five Missouri youths captured top honors in the senior division of the 2002 Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) International Championship in July. Sharing the honor were, from left, coach John Hemeyer, Will Hemeyer, Kevin Uballez, Jacob Crismon, Frankie Clayton Jr., Nick Muckerman and coach John Muckerman.

The Missouri Magnums, as the team is known, outscored other teams in events ranging from muzzle-loading rifle and shotgun marksmanship to wildlife identification and hunting safety. Missouri contestants brought home 16 medals from the competition in Mansfield, Pa.

For more details about the event, visit the Missouri YHEC Web site. To learn more about the YHEC program, contact Program Coordinator Jan Morris, (636) 464-6214, <MissouriYHEC@aol.com>.

Steward heads Protection Division

Dennis Steward, who began his career chasing poachers and teaching hunter education classes, became leader of the Conservation Department’s Protection Division July 1.

Replacing John D. Hoskins, who was promoted to director of the agency. Steward now leads a 238-member division that includes 167 conservation agents, support staff and five manned shooting ranges and training centers. The new Protection Division leader views the challenges of his new position as the continuation of a life-long dream.

“I remember the first contact I had with a Conservation Department representative,” Steward said. “The local conservation agent came to my grade school to make a presentation about wildlife conservation. I knew then what I wanted do for a career. Throughout my 28 years with the Department, I’ve had no trouble finding meaning in my work because I feel protection of our forest, fish, and wildlife is so important. I’m honored to have the opportunity to help lead those efforts.”

Steward is a native of Wayne County. He began his career with the Conservation Department in 1974 after serving two years in the U.S. Army. He has bachelor of science degrees in law enforcement and psychology from Drury College and a master of science degree in public administration from Southeast Missouri State University.

With the Department, he was named Outstanding Conservation Agent of the year in 1978. He spent 10 years as regional supervisor in the Southeast Protection Region, headquartered in Cape Girardeau, before taking assignments in Jefferson City as assistant chief for the Protection Division in 1993 and field chief in 1997.

Steward’s vision for the Protection Division is to continue working closely with citizens to conserve and protect wildlife resources and make sure public conservation areas are safe and enjoyable for visitors. He said he is committed to ensuring that the Protection Division continues to have a large role in carrying the conservation message throughout the state.

“Resource conservation begins with each individual and at the local level, and since conservation agents are assigned to every county, they are in an ideal position to be leaders in those efforts,” he said.

Duck season opens Oct. 26

Waterfowl hunting seasons remain liberal this year, with a few exceptions. Pintail hunting will be limited to a 30-day season, and the season has been closed on canvasbacks. Check the 2002-2003 Waterfowl Hunting Digest for details.

While waterfowl numbers remain high enough to avoid triggering more restrictive regulations under adaptive management guidelines this year, waterfowl biologists note that the trend is downward. They say hunters should expect next year’s season to be shorter, and bag limits to be less liberal.

Prairie video scores Silver Screen awards

A new Conservation Department video has garnered three national awards.

The 49-minute “Missouri’s Tallgrass Prairies” won Silver Screen awards for outstanding video and audio production and another for creative excellence at the International Film and Video Festival in Los Angeles last summer. The video also won a Creative Excellence Award from the International Film and Video Festival. The video is available for $7.50, plus sales tax and shipping, by calling toll-free (877) 521-8632. Or you can order online..

Conservation agent class forming

The Conservation Department is accepting applications for a 26-week conservation agent training class that will begin in April.

Qualified candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in wildlife, fisheries, or natural resources management, forestry, wildlife law enforcement, criminal justice, biology or biological sciences (does not include life science studies) or wildlife conservation.

Conservation agents’ responsibilities include fisheries, forestry and wildlife management, public relations, education and law enforcement. Trainees must be able to operate motor vehicles and boats, use firearms safely and communicate effectively. The training is physically demanding, and all trainees must be in good physical condition and meet physical fitness requirements.

The training is conducted in Jefferson City. Housing is provided, and trainees are paid ($30,540 annually) during the training period. Upon successful completion of training, conservation agents must be willing to accept assignment and relocate to anywhere in the state of Missouri.

To apply, submit a conservation agent application with college transcripts to the Missouri Department of Conservation by Oct. 18. Applications and job descriptions are available by calling (573) 751-4115 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Applications and information also are available online.

Don’t forget Migratory Bird Hunting Permit

Before hunting migratory birds this fall, such as doves and ducks, make sure you have the proper permits.

To hunt any migratory bird in Missouri, including doves, snipe, rail, woodcock, ducks, and geese, you need a Small Game Hunting Permit, a Migratory Bird Hunting Permit and a Federal Duck Stamp.