News and Almanac

Conservation partnership helps develop B.K. Leach wetland

The initial purchase of the B. K. Leach Memorial Conservation Area, in Lincoln County, was in 1985 and was a total of 690 acres. Between 1985 and 1997, and additional 723 acres were purchased, bringing the total acreage of the area to 1,413.

In 2001, a 938 acre tract and a 1,815 acre tract were purchased. This 2,753-acre addition with associated wetland developments was funded through the efforts of conservation partners including the Missouri Department of Conservation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Ducks Unlimited, Mary E. Leach Trust Fund, The American Land Conservancy, and Waterfowl USA. Forrest Keeling Nursery, located in Elsberry, will be supplying the local wetland tree stock to reforest a portion of the new addition.

The 938-acre tract is located on Route P North of Elsberry and the 1,851 acre tract is adjacent to the original B. K. Leach Memorial Conservation Area. Both tracts of land were enrolled in the USDA Wetland Reserve Program by the prior landowner, enabling the land to be taken out of agricultural production and restored to a wetland habitat. When completed, the new wetlands will provide crucial Mississippi River floodplain habitat. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is designing and funding new wetland structures. Other partnerships are being considered to restore the seasonal hydrology of the area, making conditions favorable for migrating water birds and other wetland wildlife.

This project at B. K. Leach Conservation Area involves a diversity of critical partners. Efforts to purchase, restore and manage the fish, forest and wildlife resources of Missouri will increasingly depend on the initiation of conservation partnerships. Such cooperative efforts can benefit and enhance these resources.

The wetland habitat at the B. K. Leach Conservation Area is currently being developed, and will be open for public use and enjoyment when construction is complete.

Sturgeon numbers continue to dwindle

Results from the second year of sturgeon sampling on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers show that the primitive fish continue to decline. Habitat loss and overexploitation are the likely culprits.

Fisheries workers netted 2,888 sturgeon from the Missouri River during the 2002-2003 sampling season. That is down from 3,265 the previous year. On the Mississippi River, fisheries crews caught only 170 sturgeon in 2002 2003, down from 285 the year before.

Most of the fish caught were shovelnose sturgeon. The 2002-2003 catch of endangered pallid sturgeon on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers was four. The catch of lake sturgeon--also endangered--was 39.

The catch rate on the Missouri River was about the same as in the past. However, the catch rate on the Mississippi River has declined steeply since the first samples were taken in 1996.

Shovelnose sturgeon appear to be taking a big hit from commercial fishing. Fisheries biologists say they are even more concerned about an increase in the number of commercial fishermen pursuing sturgeon on the lower portion of the Missouri River. If commercial fishing for shovelnose sturgeon on the Missouri increases, it probably will have the same effect as on the Mississippi River.

Sturgeon in Missouri's two great rivers are suffering from a one-two punch like nothing else in their 150 million-year history. One is changes in the rivers themselves. Channelization has eliminated most of the places that once provided them shelter, food and spawning sites. The second punch is increased demand for North American sturgeon eggs, which are used to make caviar.

Largely because of a rise in the value of sturgeon eggs, the number of pounds of sturgeon taken from the Mississippi River has jumped 1,000 percent in the past three years. The harvest of sturgeon on the Missouri River has also increased, although at a slower rate. If these negative trends continue, the Department might have to consider more restrictive regulations.Both recreational and commercial anglers can legally catch and keep shovelnose sturgeon. Pallid and lake sturgeon must be released unharmed immediately after being caught. Information about how to identify the three species is found in the 2003 Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations, available wherever fishing permits are sold.

However, anglers should be aware of a typographic error on page 25 of the summary. On that page, some of the descriptions of shovelnose and pallid sturgeons are reversed. The descriptions on page 26 of the summary are correct.

Habitat Hints

Put native plants in your land management toolbox

Landowners are rediscovering native plants. Serviceberry shrubs, little bluestem grass and native oak trees are used by many landowners for stabilizing soil, filtering water runoff and reducing maintenance.

Wayne Lovelace, business manager at Forrest Keeling Nursery, said landowners often favor native plants for landscaping because they are better able to survive weather extremes like flood and drought.

"We're seeing an increased demand for things like prairie cord grass and swamp white oak," Lovelace said.

Another reason landowners are looking into native plants is the 2003 Farm Bill. Conservation programs in the Farm Bill, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), are available to land holdings of all sizes. They emphasize plantings that increase wildlife habitat, improve water and air quality and reduce soil loss. Plantings that incorporate native species are more successful in achieving these goals. They also help applicants qualify to enroll land in CRP.

For lists of native species that can help you meet your conservation goals, contact your local private land conservationist at the Conservation Department's regional office in your area or visit Grow Native! on the Web.

Researcher says birth control for deer isn't practical

"Immunocontraception simply will not work to control deer populations." That is the conclusion of a five-year study by Larry Katz, professor of animal science at Rutgers University's Cook College.

Immunocontraception is a technique by which a deer's own immune system is used to make the animal temporarily infertile. The difficulty with this approach, said Katz, is that deer mature early and have high survival and fertility rates. "Even in a confined situation," Katz said, "the current technology will take 10 to 12 years to reduce the population and will require annual retreatment--booster shots--of at least 75 percent of the does."

Richard Dolbeer, a population modeler for the USDA National Wildlife Research Center, independently examined the potential effectiveness of using reproductive inhibitors to control wildlife populations. He concluded that the time, effort and money needed to treat such a high proportion of female deer makes the use of immunocontraception "highly questionable."

Because of these factors, Katz said that using immunocontraception for deer population control "is a waste of time and money." He also concluded that "appropriate hunting, particularly of antlerless deer, can and does control deer, as well as feed people."

"BioBlitz" targets Powell Gardens

The flora and fauna of Powell Gardens will be under the microscope June 13 14 as 80 or more professional and amateur "-ologists" of various stripes descend on the metro area for an intensive biological inventory. The event, billed as a "BioBlitz," will seek to document as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours.

This is the second BioBlitz. The first event was held in Swope Park in June 2002. This year's event will document the variety of animals, plants and fungi at Powell Gardens. BioBlitzers will share their discoveries with the public from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. June 14 at the Powell Gardens Visitor Center. Visitors will get to view specimens collected as part of the event, take guided hikes around Powell Garden's grounds and participate in hands-on activities related to biological diversity. Lots of biologists will be on hand to answer questions.

Powell Gardens is 20 miles east of Lee's Summit on Highway 50. The event is sponsored by the, a coalition of conservation organizations dedicated to restoring natural communities in the Kansas City area. More information is available by calling (816) 561-1061, ext. 116, e mailing linda@bridgingthegap.org or on the Web.

Applications open July 1 for managed deer hunts

Hunters can apply for one of Missouri's managed deer hunts starting July 1. Applications can be filed by calling (800) 829-2956 between 4 a.m. and midnight seven days a week or by visiting the Conservation Department's web page.

You will need a 2003 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information booklet, which will be available by 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.

Successful applicants will be notified by Sept. 10 of whether they have been drawn for a hunt. After that date, applicants can check the status of their applications on the Interactive Voice Response system or the Conservation Department Web page, using their conservation identification number.

Only Resident Managed Deer Hunt Permits and Nonresident Managed Deer Hunt Permits are valid for managed hunts. The number of deer that may be taken with a single permit depends on the hunt for which it is issued. For some hunts, up to three may be taken.

Application procedures are outlined in the Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information booklet and online under keywords "managed deer."

KC cougar may have come from the West

Laboratory test results show that a mountain lion killed by a motorist in Kansas City area last fall probably came from a western state.

The 2 1/2- to 3-year-old male cougar died after being stuck by a car while crossing I-35 near Parvin Road at 1:45 a.m. Oct. 14. It weighed 125 pounds and measured more than 7 feet from nose to tip of tail.

The big cat showed no sign of having been held in captivity, and DNA testing showed that its stomach contained white-tailed deer and raccoon hairs. These facts, along with the animal's age and sex, lead experts to believe the mountain lion might have wandered here from a western state. Young male cougars often roam widely to find their own territories.

DNA tests on the road-killed cat showed that it was a North American cougar. This is significant because many captive mountain lions come from South American stock.

The Conservation Department receives hundreds of reports of mountain lion sightings each year. Most sightings remain unverified due to a lack of physical evidence such as tracks, droppings, photographs or video tape recordings. In about a third of the cases, physical evidence clearly shows that other animals--often dogs or bobcats--were involved. However, the Conservation Department's Mountain Lion Task Force investigates all credible reports of mountain lion sightings. People who think they have seen a mountain lion should call the nearest conservation agent or Conservation Department office.

National wildlife refuge system is 100 years old

One hundred years ago this year, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Pelican Island, a 5-acre tract off the coast of Florida, as the nation's first national wildlife refuge. The idea then was to protect bird species that were imperiled due to uncontrolled market hunting for their feathers.

Today, the number of refuges has grown to 540, encompassing nearly 100 million acres. Their mission has expanded to include preserving the nation's biological diversity, as well as hunting, fishing and nature study.

Missouri has five national wildlife refuges:

  • Squaw Creek in Holt County
  • Swan Lake in Chariton County
  • Clarence Cannon in Pike County
  • Big Muddy along the Missouri River
  • Mingo in Stoddard and Wayne counties.

For more information about the national wildlife refuge system, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Web site.

Don't let West Nile bug you

With the return of mosquitoes, Missourians should be aware of the chance of getting West Nile virus. However, public health officials say the risk is small, and people can manage their risk with common-sense precautions.

The virus arrived in the United States in 1999. Although people, dogs, cats, horses and other mammals can be infected, birds are the virus' primary host. Crows and blue jays are particularly susceptible. The virus gets into humans and domestic animals with the help of mosquitoes, which harbor viruses in their bodies after biting infected birds.

Avoiding West Nile virus means avoiding mosquito bites. Preventive measures include:

  • Eliminating stagnant water where mosquitoes breed, such as clogged rain gutters, old tires, buckets and swimming pool covers.
  • Emptying bird baths and other water containers weekly to get rid of mosquito larvae.
  • Using insect repellents containing N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide, commonly known as DEET. Apply only as directed. Adults shouldn't use repellents with DEET concentrations higher than 50 percent. For children ages 2 through 12, use repellents with concentrations of 10 percent or less.
  • Wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Stocking fish in ponds. Many fish, including goldfish, eat mosquito larvae.

Small-scale insecticide spraying is ineffective because mosquitoes can travel several miles on the wind.

"It is important for Missourians to be aware of this disease and to take reasonable precautions, such as using insect repellents and eliminating standing water around their homes," said Howard Pue, Public Health Veterinarian with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). "However, people should keep the risk of West Nile virus in perspective. This is just one of several insect- or tick-borne diseases, along with St. Louis encephalitis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, that have been around for a number of years. We haven't let those stop us from attending little league baseball games, going on picnics, fishing or hunting. West Nile virus is no different, really."

More information about West Nile virus is available from the DHSS.

Howard Wood is CFM Conservationist of the Year

Howard Wood of Bonne Terre was named Conservationist of the Year March 28 at the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) annual conference in Jefferson City.

Wood, the current chairman of the Missouri Conservation Commission, received the award in recognition of a long career of citizen conservation work. Among contributions cited in his award presentation were 25 years as a member of CFM, including service as president (1984-85) and director and committee chairmanships. He also helped put CFM and its Operation Game Thief anti-poaching hot line on a sound financial footing.

"He is working hard to strengthen conservation education, penalize Wildlife Code breakers, confront anti-hunting sentiments, preserve streams and other focus on big picture questions," said a CFM statement.Tom Westhoff, the Conservation Department's private land conservationist for Callaway, Montgomery and Warren counties, received the Conservation Communicator of the Year Award for his work with soil conservation, Quail Unlimited and youth activities. Retired Conservation Department forester. Shelby Jones, Jefferson City, received the Forest Conservationist of the Year award for his years of work on forestry in the public and private sector.

Other Missourians honored at the event included:

  • Hunter Education Instructor of the Year--Goeffrey Grossbaur, Dittmer
  • Air Conservationist of the Year--Roger Randolph, Jefferson City
  • Professional Conservationist of the Year--Norman Klopfenstein, Rocheport
  • Conservation Educator of the Year--Tammy Teeter, Montgomery City
  • Wildlife Conservationists of the Year--Bryce and Brad Evans, Concordia
  • Conservation Organization of the Year--Environmental Task Force of Jasper and Newton Counties, Webb City
  • * Water Conservationist of the Year--Department of Natural Resources, Water Pollution Control Unit, Nonpoint Source Unit, Jefferson City.

Latest No MOre Trash! video winner focuses on litter second chances

Two St. Charles High School students are the latest winners in the third No MOre Trash! video contest, sponsored by the Missouri departments of Conservation and Transportation.

John Flavin and Jay Simpson won a $200 first-place award for their litter ad, "Bottle." In the video, a student tosses a bottle at a trash can, misses, and the bottle breaks on the sidewalk. The student gets a chance to replay the scene and place the bottle in the trash can.

"No MOre Trash!" is Missouri's statewide litter awareness campaign. Helping in the effort is the Missouri Litter-Prevention Advisory Board established by Gov. Bob Holden and First Lady Lori Hauser Holden. The board is composed of government, business and nonprofit organizations. The campaign targets 16- to 22-year-olds. Research shows this age group is the most likely to litter. The campaign provides informational tool kits and promotional materials to interested parties.

The next entry deadline for the video contest is May 6. Anyone age 16-22 is encouraged to submit a 30-second entry to convince other Missourians their age not to litter. Send entries in VHS, digital video or other formats to No MOre Trash!, Attn. Ginny Wallace, P.O. Box 180, 2901 W. Truman Blvd., Jefferson City, MO 65109. For more information on the campaign or contest, or to view the winning videos, visit their website.

$2,500 reward offered in eagle shootings

Although bald eagles have been staging a recovery in Missouri for several years, some old threats to their survival remain.Since the beginning of 2003, three bald eagles have been found shot in the Kansas City region. One juvenile bald eagle was killed in January in St. Clair County. In late February, an adult bald eagle was killed in Bates County near the St. Clair County line, and in mid-March another juvenile eagle was shot in St. Clair County near Osceola. All three were killed with small-caliber, high-powered rifles.

"These are just the birds that have been found," said Conservation Department Natural History Biologist Norman Murray. "It seems likely that there are others we haven't learned about. I can't imagine why people would needlessly kill eagles."

Killing eagles is a federal offense. Rewards of up to $2,500 are available for tips that lead to the conviction of eagle killers. To make an anonymous report, call the toll-free Operation Game Thief hot line, (800) 392-1111.

Aluminum-only bass tourney set

If you have an aluminum boat, you can take part in U.S.A. Bass Club #7549's eighth annual aluminum-only buddy bass tournament Sept. 9 at Indian Creek Marina on Mark Twain Lake. For an entry fee of $75, you can compete for prizes equal to 70 percent of entry fees. The top 10 percent of the field will receive cash prizes. The winning team also will receive two gift certificates worth up to $1,000 each toward the purchase of Mercury or Mariner motors. There will be an optional big-bass pot with an entry fee of $15 and first-, second- and third-place prizes. For more information, call Jeff Risinger at (314) 878-4857.

Booklet offers otter help

Landowners with otter problems can obtain a new Conservation Department publication about how to deal with these fascinating but voracious predators.

Otters now live throughout most of Missouri. Their presence can be a source of delight, but these efficient predators also can cause consternation when they move into favorite fishing spots.

"Missouri's River Otter: A Guide to Management and Damage Control" contains a wealth of information about river otters' habits and practical tips about trapping and other strategies for reducing otter damage.

Single copies are free on request from the Conservation Department Distribution Center, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, phone (573) 751-4115, ext. 3630, or by e-mail at pubstaff@mdc.mo.gov.

Shed antler is "picture perfect"

Missouri Conservationist photographer Jim Rathert often gets calls from readers about his photographs, but this one was different. On the line was Dave Gideon of Rolla, who claimed to have found the shed antlers of a deer pictured on Page 11 of the 2003 Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations booklet.

"He told me about this big ‘shed' he'd found and asked me where I had photographed the deer," Rathert recalled. "I said, ‘Tell me where you found the shed, and I'll tell you if you're close.' Well, the place he described was almost exactly where I shot the photo."

Days later, Gideon appeared in the Conservationist office with the antler. He and several members of the Conservationist staff compared the antler to the left antler in the picture, and it was a perfect match.

Rathert shot the photograph in question in 1998. Gideon found the antler in 1999, but he found an identical shed the previous year. Gideon credited a friend for identifying the match.

"My friend, Carl, came over to the house and said he wanted to borrow the antler to show his dad and brother," Gideon said. "He was going to play a joke on them and tell them he'd found it on their land real close to the house. He made up this big story and got them all stirred up, and we all got a good laugh out of it.

"Later, he was thumbing through the regulations booklet, and when he saw the horns on that deer, he made the connection," Gideon added. "It's obvious. You can see every point, every dark spot, every burr."

Gideon said he's covered a lot of ground trying to find the buck's other antler, but to no avail. He called Rathert to see if he could get a photograph of the buck to display with the antler.

"Not too many people have sheds that match a photograph," Gideon said. "The odds for that are unreal."

Judging by its size and physical condition, the buck appears to have been about six or seven years old when the photograph was taken. Gideon wonders if it's still alive.

"Just because you haven't seen him doesn't mean he's dead," Gideon said. "I raise deer in Rolla, and I know they can live 10-13 years in captivity. It would be interesting to see if anybody has him on their wall somewhere."

--Bryan Hendricks