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Plant lovers go native, search for rare milkweed

Can someone who knows nothing about botany “go native”? Ask Kathy and David Winn. When the couple bought some acreage in Cass County a few years ago, all they knew was that pretty flowers grew there. Their interest in plants sprouted when they got involved with the Missouri Native Plant Society (NPS) and discovered that they were the proud owners of an endangered species.

“At first, they didn’t know bluegrass from an oak tree,” a fellow member of the Kansas City NPS chapter said. But on an outing at the Winns’ prairie in June the couple led a dozen plant sleuths in search of the elusive Mead’s milkweed (Asclepias meadii). They even located a nearly invisible seedling that had not yet produced its first distinctive flower.

The Winns originally intended to build a home on the site. They changed their minds as their interest in Mead’s milkweed and other prairie life blossomed. Now their passion for the pristine prairie has become the focus of their leisure time. For them, one of the best things about the NPS is the opportunity to learn from experienced, professional botanists.

Mead’s milkweed survives in only a few sites in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. It is on Missouri’s list of endangered plants and is classified as threatened by federal officials. The Kansas City NPS chapter spends one Saturday each June counting the rare plants at the Winns’ property and nother nearby location. The outing combines recreation with serious conservation business.

Fanning out across the 22-acre prairie this June, the plant-loving group found plenty to look at while documenting a dozen Mead’s milkweed plants. Missouri evening primrose, spiderwort, compass plant, rattlesnake master, wild indigo, perennial phlox, prairie rose, coreopsis, foxglove beard-tongue and many other plants were in bloom.

A fresh breeze rolled waves across the living sea of prairie plants. Here and there an oval patch of flattened vegetation revealed where a deer slept the night before, and an area littered with empty eggshells marked a successful turkey nest. Field sparrows and meadowlarks serenaded the group, and those who found time to look up saw kingbirds, turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks.

If you are interested in outdoor fun with a mission, you might enjoy the NPS. Membership costs $10 per year, $5 for students. Information about the four Missouri chapters and a calendar of events is available at online.

World-Record catfish likely lurk in Missouri waters

An accident of geography gave Illinois bragging rights to a world-record blue catfish. It might just as easily have been caught in Missouri waters.

Tim Pruitt, Godfrey, Ill., caught the 124-pound blue catfish while fishing on the Mississippi River near Alton May 22. The fish topped the International Game Fish Association’s previous record by 2.5 pounds. Because Pruitt was fishing on the Illinois side of the river, the fish also was an Illinois state record. However, catfish know no state boundaries, and it’s a sure bet the record fish spent much of its life in Missouri waters.

Fisheries biologists, who get to see lots of big fish while conducting fish population surveys, say other large fish haunt the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It’s just a matter of time until one winds up at the end of someone’s line, and that someone could be a Missourian.

Women anglers to make asplash at Tan-Tar-A

It’s 5 a.m. and a group of women is eagerly preparing to make their first casts of the day. They are part of a new organization, called Sho-Me Women Fish!, that is helping women all over the state learn the joys of fishing. Sho-Me Women Fish! seminars offer instruction by experts in all fishing styles in non-intimidating settings. It also offers at least one major fishing get-together annually.

Between outings, members can share fishing experiences on the group’s online forum, “Reel Women Fish Tails.” The group’s next event is set for Sept 16, 17 and 18 at Tan-Tar-A Resort at Lake of the Ozarks. For more information, contact Sarah Holleran, 300 Florine, St. James, MO 65559, (573) 261-0045, sholleran@shomewomenfish.com.

Most Missouri fish are safe to eat

Fish provide a good alternative to meat, and Missourians can feel good about eating most fish caught in the Show-Me State, according to the 2005 Fish Advisory from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

The report, issued in May, says that pesticide contamination of fish remains low throughout Missouri. Lead contamination is a problem on two streams. Mercury contamination remains a concern statewide, but only for certain people.

DHSS recommends against eating:

  • Shovelnose sturgeon from the Mississippi or Missouri rivers because of chlordane and PCB contamination.
  • Sunfish, carp and suckers from the Big River in Jefferson and St. Francois counties because of lead contamination.
  • Sunfish, carp and suckers from the Flat River in St. Francois County from Highway B to six miles downstream where it enters the Big River because of lead contamination.
  • Sunfish from Big Creek near the town of Glover in Iron County due to lead contamination.
  • Largemouth bass larger than 12 inches anywhere in Missouri for nursing mothers, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and children under age 12. Other Missourians may eat all sizes of largemouth bass safely.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises people to restrict consumption of other predatory fish to one 8-ounce (weighed uncooked) meal a week if no local advisory is in effect.

Advisory details are available online.

Fountain Grove renovation will limit hunting this year

Renovation work will reduce hunting opportunities at Fountain Grove Conservation Area this year, but the end result will be more and better hunting. Ongoing projects include replacing the decades-old water control structures and making improvements in Pools 1 and 3. The work will allow flooding of 220 more acres, increase the flexibility of water management and enhance habitat diversity. However, to accomplish these activities, the pools must be kept dry until construction is completed. Besides reducing wetland acreage this year, the work will restrict public access around construction areas. For more details about closed areas, call (660) 646-6122.

Gettin’ edgy with quail management

One of the first lessons serious quail managers learn is there is no such thing as permanent bobwhite habitat. The mix of cover types that quail need to thrive quickly reverts to other things when left alone. This is especially true of brushy border areas, which disappear in a few years if left untended.

One of the best things you can do to keep edge areas productive is to set back growth of brome and fescue. These hardy grasses survive in border areas, even when eradicated from adjacent fields, and can choke out beneficial weedy growth.

Controlling these grasses in brushy borders is a challenge because they are sheltered by shrubs. The solution is to wait until after woody plants drop their leaves and use an ATV-mounted sprayer with a hand gun or a flood nozzle on the end of a boom. Use herbicides recommended for brome and fescue and follow label directions for best results. Do this in the fall, when the grasses are most vulnerable, and the benefits will last three or more years.

Information about cost-sharing and other quail-management incentives is available from Conservation Department regional offices, local Farm Service Agency offices or from Quail Unlimited, (660) 885-7057, bobwhite@iland.net.

Fed bear = Dead bear in Madison County

The death of a bear in Madison County in May demonstrates the saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”

The 315-pound male bear broke into a shed at a rural residence to get at livestock feed. The owner reported the problem and took reasonable measures to keep the bear out. However, it returned and showed no fear when the man made noise to scare it away. The landowner shot the bear when it threatened a dog.

Bears are protected in Missouri. In this case, however, no charges were filed because the man had done everything required and had legitimate concerns for his property and safety. Had the bear not been killed, nuisance wildlife specialists might have been able to trap and relocate it.

Missourians can prevent similar fates for other bears by ensuring that livestock feed, pet food, bird seed and other food stuffs are inaccessible to wildlife. If you do have trouble, call the nearest Conservation Department office for help.

Make waterfowl reservations Sept. 1–18

It’s time to apply for hunting reservations at state-managed wetland areas. To apply, call (800) 829-2956 or visit www.missouriconservation.org. All you need is the nine-digit identification number found at the top of a hunting or fishing permit or next to the bar code on your Conservation Heritage Card. Drawing results will be available at the same phone number and web site Oct. 1.

Two areas that have taken reservations in the past are not included this year. Ongoing renovation of etland pools at Fountain Grove Conservation Area (CA) makes water-level manipulation impossible in pools 1, 2 and 3 this year. Hunting will be available on portions of the area not affected by construction, when and where water conditions permit. Call (660) 646-6122 for information about current conditions.

The number of applications to hunt at Little River CA in the past have not justified taking reservations for this area, so it will not be included in this year’s drawing. Hunting there will be on a first-come,first-served basis in designated areas as posted at the check-in parking lot. Hunters will check themselvesin and out.

The daily drawing procedure tested last year at Eagle Bluffs and Otter Slough CAs will be in effect again this year. Under the standard drawing procedure, each party of up to four hunters draws one number, and parties with the lowest numbers get first choice of hunting spots. Under the experimental arrangement, each person in a hunting party is allowed to draw a number, and the party can use the lowest number drawn. The strategy is meant to increase the number of people who get to hunt each day by encouraging them to form parties rather than hunting alone or in small groups.

Come tell us what’s on your mind

Conservation Department Director John Hoskins and his top state and regional staffers will hold another round of public forums. Each of the eight events will begin with a 10-minute presentation, with the remainder of the meetings reserved for questions from the audience.

“I really liked the interaction this format allowed last year, and I look forward to doing it again,” said Hoskins. “We learned a lot at those meetings. I hope those who came last year come back and bring their friends.”

Dates, locations and contact numbers for the meetings are:

  • Northeast Missouri, Sept. 22 in Memphis, (660) 785-2420
  • St. Louis Region, Sept. 27 in St. Louis, (636) 441-4554
  • Ozark Region, Sept. 29 in Houston, (417) 256-7161
  • Central Missouri, Oct. 4 in Camdenton, (573) 884-6861
  • Kansas City Region, Oct. 11 in Sedalia, (816) 655-6250
  • Northwest Missouri, Oct. 20 in Cameron, (816) 271-3100
  • Southeast Missouri, Oct. 27 in Poplar Bluff, (573) 290-5730
  • Southwest Missouri, Nov. 8 in Springfield, (417) 895-6880.

Young guns invited to Youth Waterfowl Extravaganza

Youths who want to learn how to hunt ducks and geese will have a golden opportunity Sept. 17. The Missouri Waterfowl Association and the Land Learning Foundation are conducting the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Extravaganza at Dean Lake in Chariton County. The event includes safety training, duck-calling instruction, demonstrations of retrievers, boats and decoys and realistic waterfowl shooting practice. Lunch will be provided free of charge. Youths of all ages are welcome, but shooting events are open only to those 11 through 15 with valid hunter education cards. Shooters must bring their own firearms, but 20-gauge and 12-gauge ammunition will be provided. Each participant must be accompanied by an adult. Register online at www.mowaterfowl.org, or call James Worley, (816) 941-7065, for assistance. The registration deadline is Sept. 10.

Super-Auction set for Oct. 22

Trucks, SUVs, sedans, ATVs, boats, motors, office equipment, furniture, tractors, farm implements, cameras, air conditioners and a host of other equipment will go on sale Oct. 22 at the Conservation Department’s Salem office. This year all the Department’s surplus property for the year will be sold in one auction, instead of two as in the past.

Auction items are on display from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. the day before the auction and starting at 7 a.m. the day of the auction. The auction begins at 9 a.m. A complete list of sale items and terms of sales are available at the registration desk the day of the sale.

All property must be paid for on the day of the sale and before removal. Acceptable methods of payment include cash, MasterCard or Visa or personal checks with proper identification. For lists of sale items, call the Conservation Department General Services Division at (573) 522- 4115, ext. 3279 or 3283.

Missouri gets 9-day teal season

Waterfowl hunters who long for the whistle of wings overhead will be able to satisfy their yearnings during Missouri’s early teal hunting season Sept. 10-18. The limit is four blue-winged or green-winged teal in the aggregate daily and eight in possession. Shooting hours are sunrise to sunset.

Pigeon problem turns to falcon fascination

Sometimes problems are adventures in disguise. Consider the case of David Childers and Associated Electric Cooperative’s New Madrid Power Plant. Five years ago, the materials management supervisor was looking for a way to control pigeons at the power plant. His supervisor suggested attracting peregrine falcons.

Childers was intrigued. He built a falcon nest box and mounted it on the power plant’s emissions stack 27 stories above ground. The box remained empty for three years, so last year Childers got help from the Conservation Department. He got necessary permits and bought four peregrine falcon chicks from a breeder.

Childers, several coworkers and New Madrid County Conservation Agent Rodney Ivie put them in a “hack box” atop one of the power-plant buildings. Thirty days later, the falcons were ready for freedom. Within 24 hours, the falcons took wing. Before long, they were doing what they were brought in to do, making the power plant an unattractive place for pigeons.

Eventually, all four falcons left, and none have returned. Associated Electric continues to support the program, however. Childers and his team raised four more falcons this year, and they have high hopes that one of the eight eventually will come back to raise a family.

What began as a suggestion to help control an over-population of pest pigeons has become a fi ve-year adventure into wildlife conservation. Work will never be the same for Associated Electric workers, who now watch the sky around the New Madrid Power Plant with a new sense of wonder.

Irresponsible ORV use is bad for everyone

Some of Missouri’s most treasured natural assets are our streams, where we fish, swim, canoe, hunt and dangle our toes on sultry summer evenings. One threat to streams is irresponsible use of off -road vehicles (ORVs).

ORVs don’t have to be destructive, especially if driven responsibly in appropriate areas. However, when driven across or through streams, ORVs destroy animal habitat and stream-side vegetation. Irresponsible ORV use inevitably increases erosion, which makes streams less attractive, contributes to muddy water and damages neighboring land.

Check out deer regulation changes on CAs

Maintaining healthy deer and quality deer hunting on conservation areas requires tailoring hunting regulations to each area. To meet that challenge, the Conservation Department has changed regulations on many conservation areas this year.

To help hunters fi nd places for their preferred type of hunting, every conservation area where deer hunting is allowed now falls under one of six sets of regulations. The 2005 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations booklet includes a table showing which set of regulations applies on every conservation area where deer hunting is allowed. However, public areas not managed by the Conservation Department, such as national forest, are not included in the table.

The section on conservation area deer regulations also includes a list of 47 areas—mostly tower sites, accesses and other small areas—that were open to deer hunting last year but are closed this year.

The booklet is available from hunting permit vendors, or you can find the information online at www.missouriconservation.org/hunt/deer/deertuk/ten.htm.

Six win Arbor Awards of Excellence

Three cities, a civic group and two individuals received Missouri Arbor Awards of Excellence from the Conservation Department and the Missouri Community Forestry Council for eff orts to enhance urban tree resources.

Honorees include the cities of Clayton, St. Louis and Columbia, Springfi eld’s Midtown Neighborhood Association, Carolyn Gerdes of Springfi eld and Chriswell Lentz of Kahoka. Awards are based on sustainability, use of sound management principles, eff ectiveness, size of area affected and innovation.

For more information about the awards, contact Justine Gartner, (573) 522-4115, ext. 3116, Justine.Gartner@mdc.mo.gov.

AGENT NOTEBOOK

Fall is near and many people are anxious to exit their air-conditioned homes and get outdoors to enjoy the cooler weather. Lots of folks are looking forward to hunting. Others may be just eager to take a scenic ride, stroll or hike through Missouri’s colorful fall foliage.

Whatever your reason for heading outdoors, it is important to remember a few simple safety tips.

If you plan to walk through the countryside, remember not to dress in colors that make you resemble wildlife species. If you wear hunter orange clothing, no one should mistake you for game.

If you plan to go by yourself, let someone know where you will be and when you plan to arrive home. Take a cell phone with you. It could become your lifeline.

If you plan to be afield all day, remember that outdoor temperatures can fluctuate 20 to 30 degrees. Layered clothing, rain gear and comfortable footwear designed for our climate will help you cope with Missouri’s changing weather.

Bring along plenty of food and water, as well as a lighter or waterproof matches. These will help you survive should you be stranded overnight. It’s also not a bad idea to pack a small first-aid kit. Get in the habit of keeping these items in a fanny pack or backpack, so you’ll never go into the woods without them.

Fall is a great time for outings. You’ll enjoy your trips more if you go prepared.

Patrick J. Masek

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