News and Almanac

Deer, turkey hunters need to watch out for each other Oct. 11

Fall Firearms Turkey Season and the Urban Portion of Firearms Deer Season overlap by one day this year. Hunters participating in those seasons on that day should be especially watchful for each other.

Oct. 11 is the last day of urban deer hunting and the first day of fall firearms turkey hunting. Firearms deer hunters are always required to wear hunter orange to advertise their presence and reduce the likelihood of accidents. Although turkey hunters normally wear camouflage to hide their presence, they are required to wear hunter orange in the counties open to deer hunting on Oct. 11.

Come see us in El Dorado Springs

The Conservation Department will celebrate the opening of the its El Dorado Springs office Oct. 15-16. At the open house, southwest Missouri residents can see native fish in a 210-gallon aquarium, view equipment used for conservation projects, tour informative exhibits and meet Smokey Bear. The event will run from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 15 and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 16. The new office, at 1109 S. Main St., El Dorado Springs, serves the area between offices in Clinton and Joplin.

WOODLAND STEWARDSHIP CONFERENCE NOV. 5-6

The seventh Central Region Woodland Stewardship Conference will be held Nov. 5-6 in Nebraska City, Neb. The event gives landowners a chance to learn how to manage woodlands and related natural resources.

Workshops on pruning and tree identification will be held Friday afternoon, along with field trips. On Saturday, landowners can talk with professional foresters and attend presentations about woodland management, tree health, agroforestry and wildlife.

Conference registration costs $35 ($40 if postmarked after Oct. 29). For more information, contact Hank Stelzer (573) 882-4444, <stelzerh@missouri.edu>.

DUCK NUMBERS DIP, HUNTING PROSPEC TS STILL BRIGHT

Unfavorable nesting conditions cut into waterfowl reproduction this year, but a wet, mild summer may have set the stage for good hunting.

The number of North American breeding mallards was down 7 percent from last year and 9 percent below goals set under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP).

Wigeon and shoveler numbers were down 22 percent compared to last year, and blue-winged teal were down 26 percent. Species showing smaller one-year declines were pintail (-15 percent), green-winged teal (-8 percent) and gadwall (-2 percent).

The number of canvasbacks was up 11 percent from last year and 15 percent above the NAWMP goal. Scaup were up 2 percent from last year but still 39 percent below the NAWMP goal.

While these numbers are disappointing, Missourians still might be very pleased with the 2004 hunting season. Usually, waterfowl hunting success depends primarily on the weather.

Missouri will have a 60-day duck season and a 70-day Canada goose season again this year. Natural waterfowl foods are abundant, thanks to a wet summer. With continued normal rainfall, Missouri could be an extremely attractive stopping place for migrating ducks and geese. All that's needed is cold weather to push waterfowl into the Show-Me State early in the season and a normal to late freeze-up date.

To keep tabs on waterfowl migration, visit online.

Quail and Grassland Bird Leadership Council Takes Flight

The Quail and Grassland Bird Leadership Council believes that Missourians should be as aware of conservation issues in their own backyard as they are of rainforest issues in South America.

Bobwhite quail and many of Missouri's grassland songbirds rely on private landowners to provide their proper seasonal habitat needs, and right now their populations need help. The Council was recently formed to ensure that Missourians understand the critical habitat needs of quail and grassland birds, and to spur action among both the public and wildlife agencies that directly leads to "on-the-ground" habitat management.

The Council members are private citizens with close ties to conservation and agriculture, as well as conservation organizations such as Quail Unlimited, the Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, The Conservation Federation of Missouri, Audubon Missouri and the Missouri Prairie Foundation.

Council leaders, in cooperation with the Conservation Department, are helping to chart a course in Missouri to restore quail and grassland songbird numbers, and to educate the public about conservation of these species and the importance of habitat enhancement. Birdwatchers, native plant enthusiasts and upland bird hunters all benefit from enhanced grassland habitat.

BEWARE-DEER CROSSING!

September marks the start of white-tailed deer rutting season. That means more deer movement. To protect yourself:

  • Be on guard whenever and wherever you drive.
  • Scan the area on either side of the road ahead.
  • Slow down if you see deer.
  • Keep your guard up after deer cross the road. Others may follow.
  • Hold the sides--not top or bottom --of the steering wheel to prevent deployed airbags from breaking your arms.
  • Reschedule travel to reduce time on the road near dawn and dusk.
  • Carry a cell phone so you can contact someone in an emergency.

If you do hit a deer, report it to a law-enforcement agency. This will be to your advantage if you file an insurance claim. It also will help track the frequency of deer-vehicle accidents statewide.

Missouri could gain 20,000 additional acres of buffer habitat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency will take applications for "Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds," a new practice of the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program, beginning Oct. 1.

Eligible lands are cropfield edges. Landowners can plant 30- to 120-foot strips of grass as habitat for bobwhite quail and other declining grassland birds. Missouri was allotted 20,000 acres for this new practice. At the 30-foot minimum, this would create 5,500 additional miles of buffer habitat.

USDA offers participating landowners the traditional CRP rental payment, a per acre sign up bonus and the equivalent of 90 percent cost-share to establish grasses and shrubs.

Habitat Hints

Strip herbicide application benefits Bob

Do you want to make your grassland more attractive to bobwhite quail? Try creating temporary strips of open ground with herbicide strip spraying.

Spray herbicides that target grasses on strips 30 to 75 feet wide. This favors broadleaf plants that produce seeds for quail food. It also thins matted growth that quail can’t walk through and creates bare ground, which quail need for dusting areas. Rabbits, deer, pheasant, turkey and songbirds also will appreciate the habitat created by treating CRP plots, old fields and idle areas.

Ideally, strips should cover one-third to one-half of a field each year. To prevent erosion, spray along field contour lines and next to brushy field edges. Shift treated areas each year so the whole field is sprayed every two or three years.

For best effect, spray when grasses have 6–10 inches of new growth. This usually is in May or June for warm-season grasses. Cool-season grasses respond best from October through November, or from mid-March through mid-May.

Spraying equipment may be available to borrow or rent from local county Soil and Water Conservation District offices. In some cases, government or private funds are available to defray the cost of strip spraying. For more information, call your nearest office of the Conservation Department or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. --Steve Fisher

Aspiring naturalists getting organized

Missourians can increase their knowledge of the natural world and share that knowledge through the new Missouri Master Naturalist Program. The program is sponsored by the Conservation Department and the University of Missouri Extension.

Master naturalists receive 40 hours of basic training and field experience in natural resource management and natural history. They also get eight hours of advanced field experience focusing on their special interests.

They commit to use their training in at least 40 hours of community service annually. That could include conducting inventories of plants or wildlife, giving nature talks at schools, youth camps or nature centers, advising landowners on wildlife management or building and maintaining trails.

To form a master naturalist chapter, you need to be sponsored by a Conservation Department and an Extension team. West Plains had the first such team, and another is forming in Columbia. Planning also is underway for other chapters in Joplin and St. Louis.

For more information, visit online.

DEER SEASON QUESTIONS?

Do you have questions about changes in this year's deer hunting regulations? Call toll-free 866/403-3899 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31. Operators will provide quick answers to any question about deer-hunting regulations or permits.

Ozark Trail Trek Oct. 9-16

Information about the 2004 Ozark Trail Trek published in the August News & Almanac was incorrect. The event will run from Oct. 9-16, with opportunities for participants to backpack for three, four or seven days.

Sponsored by Hostelling International/American Youth Hostels (HI-AYH) and the Ozark Trail Council, the event joins novices with seasoned veterans. October's cool, sunny days and crisp nights are perfect for enjoying fall colors and the rugged beauty of the "Current River" and "Between the Rivers" sections of the Ozark Trail.

The cost for Ozark Trail Council members is $175 for a full week or $90 for a half week. Non-members pay $185 or $100. The price includes transportation from St. Louis, trail shuttle, experienced leaders, an Ozark Trail patch, maps, an information packet and the evening meal on Oct. 9.

The difficulty of the trip varies. Daily treks average 7 to 8 miles for a total of about 50 miles. A midweek break after completing the first trail section will give participants a chance to shower and spend the night in a motel.

For more information, contact Gateway Council HI/AYH, (314) 644-4660, <clerk@moonlightramble.com, or visit them online.

MISSOURI EXEMPT FROM TOPEKA SHINER CRITICAL HABITAT DESIGNATION

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated 836 miles of streams as critical habitat for the endangered Topeka shiner, no Missouri streams were on the list.

Missouri is doing such a good job of looking after the 2-inch fish that the FWS exempted the Show-Me State from critical habitat designation.

"Missouri has again led the way in demonstrating that through a collaborative spirit we can conserve endangered species while providing private landowners technical and financial assistance and regulatory flexibility," wrote FWS Field Supervisor Charles M. Scott.

The Topeka shiner actually is better off with the voluntary, cooperative measures Missouri developed to help private landowners care for the fish's habitat than it would be under federal regulations with the critical habitat designation.

"Critical habitat" refers to land that is considered necessary for the survival of an endangered species. Federal agencies won't authorize, fund or carry out any action in designated critical habitat until it has been reviewed to ensure it wont hurt the species in question. Exempting Topeka shiner habitat in Missouri from the designation allows greater flexibility for agencies and landowners.

Scott gave special recognition to Endangered Species Coordinator Peggy Horner, Fisheries Regional Supervisor Harold Kerns, Private Lands Regional Supervisor Kyle Reno, and Assistant to the Director Denise Garnier for their work to ensure the shiner's future in Missouri.

Kansas mussels pose imminent threat to Missouri waters

The discovery of zebra mussels at two lakes in eastern Kansas is bad news for Wichita city officials and worrisome for Missourians, too.

El Dorado Lake, northeast of Wichita, has adult zebra mussels. Larval zebra mussels recently were discovered in Cheney Reservoir northwest of the town. City officials say the cost of keeping the prolific mollusks from clogging municipal water intakes could be millions of dollars.

Missouri officials urge anglers and boaters traveling between Kansas and Missouri to take precautions to prevent bringing tiny zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, into the Show-Me State. Once here, the exotic invaders could cause incalculable property damage and upset the ecological balance in lakes and streams. The result could be impaired fishing, boating and swimming, reduced property values and increased utility costs.

For information on how to avoid spreading zebra mussels, visit online or request the free publication "Zebra Mussels, Missouri's Most Unwanted" from Zebra Mussel, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102 or <pubstaff@mdc.mo.gov>.

Missouri fish consumption advisory updated

With a few exceptions, catfish, carp, buffalo, drum, suckers and paddlefish are safe to eat in any amounts throughout Missouri. That's a brief summary of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' (DHSS) fish consumption advisory.

"In Missouri, we have seen a slow decrease in contamination levels of some chemicals," said DHSS Environmental Public Health Section Chief Gale Carlson. "One reason is chlordane, causing the most widespread contamination in the past, was removed from the market by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1988."

The EPA has tightened its standards for consumption of fish contaminated with mercury in recent years. For this reason, the DHSS continues to advise women who are pregnant, who may become pregnant, nursing mothers and children 12 and younger not to eat largemouth bass longer than 12 inches from any Missouri waters.

The DHSS also has a consumption advisory on fish in some east-central Missouri streams as a result of lead contamination.

The full advisory is available online. A summary is printed in the 2004 Summary of Fishing Regulations, which is available wherever fishing permits are sold.

Fish for fun at Stone Mill Spring Branch

Trout anglers can find winter fishing adventures at Stone Mill Spring Branch in Pulaski County from Nov. 1 through the last day of February. The scenic spot in the Mark Twain National Forest is open for catch-and-release fishing from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily during that period.

On the last Saturday in February, the area hosts a spring youth-fishing derby. Access to the area is through Fort Leonard Wood. For current regulations, permits and access information, call the Fort Leonard Wood Sportsman's Center, (573) 596-4223.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR EAGLE DAY EVENTS

Mark your calendar now for the Conservation Department's Eagle Day events. They give you a chance to see live eagles in the wild through telescopes and up close in indoor programs. Call the telephone number provided for detailed information about each event.

  • Dec. 4-5, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, (816) 271-3100.
  • Jan. 8-9, Lake Ozark, (573) 526-5544.
  • Jan. 8-9, Smithville Lake, (816) 532-0174.
  • Jan. 15-16, Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (St. Louis), (314) 877-1309.
  • Jan. 22-23, Clarksville, (660) 785-2420.
  • Jan. 22-23, Springfield Conservation Nature Center, (417) 888-4237.
  • Jan. 29, Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, (573) 222-6343.

Apply by Oct. 22 for conservation agent jobs

The Conservation Department is accepting applications for conservation agent training. Successful candidates will attend a 26-week class that begins 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.

Responsibilities for conservation agents include public relations, education and law enforcement. Trainees must be able to operate motor vehicles and boats, use firearms safely and communicate effectively. 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 at the annual rate of $33,024 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. 22. For applications and job descriptions call (573) 522-4115, ext. 3694, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit <www.missouriconservation.org/about/jobs>.

AGENT NOTEBOOK

One event had a big emotional impact on me this summer.

It started with a knock at my door late one evening. I recognized the man at the door, but I was curious when he asked me to step outside to talk. The man sat on the steps of my porch and told me how he had recently lost his wife after many years of marriage, and how he was alone for the first time in a long time.

He had been doing some thinking and wondered if I would help him put on a fishing day for children at the lake on his farm. We decided on a day, and he announced it at his church and spread the word among others that we were going fishing and all you had to do was show up. This was one of those events that you just don't know what you'll get.

I arrived with the fishing poles and immediately grew concerned because there were lots of children, very few with poles, and even more adults. The gentleman assembled the anxious group of anglers and asked if I would talk to them about fishing first. I made a short presentation for the kids. I had a few extra poles that I equipped with casting plugs. I then challenged the adults to try casting into several buckets we set up.

Some people built a fire and began cooking hotdogs. Children began catching fish. It was all I could do to keep up with the tangles and snagged hooks.

At one point I looked up and saw the man responsible for all this fun. The same man that sat on my porch a week earlier wiping tears from his eyes was now smiling and laughing and having a big time.

Anyone that questions the power of the outdoors and fishing, for putting your stress and worries behind you, should have been there that day. It has sure stuck with me."--Steven Nichols