The picture of the owl on the conservation calendar brought back memories of a little owl that wintered in a tree up the road from us.
He arrived every year when it turned cold. We named him "Hootie."
On my daily walks, I would stop and talk to him if he was in the opening. If not, I could usually coax him out by calling to him.
He stopped coming about two years ago, but we still look up at his hole, hoping he'll still be there.
Kathy Frazier, Anderson
I was surprised to see what we always referred to as fall coral mushrooms included in a photo of inedible mushrooms in your October issue.
My family has enjoyed this variety for as long as I can remember. Not only are they delicious, they are also fun to hunt. Their golden color and coral shape make them easier to spot.
We also find them easier on the digestive system than the morel mushrooms we find in the spring. They don't have as strong a flavor. We cook them the same way as we do morels, rolled in egg and flour and fried golden brown.
Teri Ellison, St. Clair
Saying that the nice bunch of mushrooms shown on page 2 of your October issue "is a collection of colorful mushrooms, not edible mushrooms" is too defensive.
The fact is that I've probably eaten most of what types are portrayed. The grayish violet ones to the left and right are probably Russula cyanoxantha, edible uncooked, and very good!
The red ones are probably Russula lepida, which can be eaten if the red cuticle is pulled off or simply boiled off.
The violet one on the lower left might be the tasty Clitocybe nuda, and the tan-orange-umber mushrooms on the upper left look like something I've eaten.
I'm an amateur mycologist who is still alive after eating about 20 species growing on the 1/2-acre around his home.
Carl Masthay, Creve Coeur
Editor's note: We didn't mean to imply that all the mushrooms in the picture are inedible. Instead, we meant to say that they are not all necessarily edible.
I read where you are introducing Virginia sneezeweed at two Conservation areas. I have seen similar enthusiastic write-ups on other plant introductions: sericea lespedeza, kudzu and multiflora rose. Each of those species proved to be invasive and overly aggressive pests. Virginia sneezeweed is being introduced without even having a purported benefit.
We should learn from our past mistakes.
Jack Hall, Doniphan
Editor's note: We did not introduce Virginia sneezeweed into Missouri, only to two conservation areas in Howell County. It occurs in, and is considered native to other areas of south-central Missouri, and has been documented there since the 1950s. It has probably been in Missouri for hundreds, if not thousands, of years but was not recognized as a separate species from another of the more common Missouri sneezeweeds until recently. It has not become a problem in pastures, and it requires more moisture than the bitterweed, so it will not grow on droughty sites.
You printed a letter from a gentlemen recommending the eating of squirrel brains. I was distressed that you would publish such a letter without noting a "warning" against such a practice. Did you not know of the numerous deaths in recent years in Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas from people eating squirrel brains from diseased squirrels?
There were quite a few deaths and upon finding the cause of these, it was determined that all persons practiced eating of squirrel brains. It evidently is considered quite a delicacy in some of the Ozark mountain regions and lapping over into Tennessee and Kentucky mountain areas.
I hope you will check this out and print a comment or warning that this is not a practice that should be continued.
Norma Rodeck, Kansas City
Editor's note: Neither the Center for Disease Control nor the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has issued cautions about eating squirrel brains. A 1997 study reported a possible link among five people in Kentucky who had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). All five had a history of eating squirrel brains. Subsequent studies, however, have not confirmed any causal relationship between eating squirrel brains and CJD.
Ask the Ombudsman
Q: How can I get a subscription for the kid's magazine for my grandson?
A: Outside In is a youth-oriented publication that is inserted into the February, May, August and November issues of the Missouri Conservationist magazine. If your grandson's parents are receiving the Conservationist, they are also receiving Outside In. The supplement is not available as a separate subscription. It is available to schools in bundles of 30. Teachers interested in receiving Outside In or the Missouri Conservationist can request them through their school librarian. Librarians should contact our Circulation office to place school orders. Contact information is at the bottom of each magazine's contents page.
Q: I have some great nature pictures. Can I get them printed in the magazine?
A: We receive many more photos from readers than we could ever publish. However, we usually pick one reader's photo per month to include in the magazine. If you would like yours to be among the group from which we choose, you can send it to Magazine Editor, at the address mentioned below. Sorry, but photos can't be returned. If you would prefer to send your photo via e-mail, send it to me at <Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov>.
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) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at <Ken.firstname.lastname@example.org>.