News and Almanac

Free Fishing Weekend June 10–11

If you are looking for something to do outdoors with your family June 10 and 11, why not take them to one of the Show-Me State’s hundreds of public fishing areas? You won’t even have to buy fishing permits because those are Free Fishing Days in Missouri. With conservation areas, community lakes, stream accesses, state parks and federal reservoirs dotting Missouri’s landscape, finding a fishing spot close to home is easy. Use the Conservation Atlas database or call the nearest Conservation Department office. See page 1 for regional office phone numbers.

Updated Conservation Atlas

Missouri’s Conservation Atlas, the detailed, large-format guide to more than 900 conservation areas, is in print again, and it is better than ever. The 240-page, spiral-bound book has been updated to include new conservation areas and now has new color county maps grouped by region. Each county map has a list of conservation areas found there with driving directions to each and summaries of facilities and recreational opportunities. A section in the back lists shooting ranges and areas with disabled-accessible facilities. The atlas fits neatly beneath car seats, so it is handy when you pass a sign for a conservation area and wonder what is there. The atlas is available for $19 plus shipping and tax, where applicable. Buyers will get a 20 percent discount during July and August. It is on sale now at Conservation Department nature centers and regional offices. To order by mail, call toll-free (877) 521-8632, or write to The Nature Shop, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102. You can also order online.

Join national “carp-in” June 24

If you are the kind of angler who hates to miss unique fishing opportunities, you will want to “carp diem” at the Carp Anglers Group (CAG) Invitational Fish-In June 24 at Bull Shoals Lake. The event is one of hundreds taking place nationwide on the same date. You won’t be able to see the thousands of other anglers simultaneously catching carp, but you will be competing with them for regional and national prizes. Scoring employs a handicapping system that factors in regional differences in fish size. Registration costs $10 per angler for CAG members and guests. The registration fee is waived for members who bring guests. The carp fish-ins emphasize fun rather than competition. There is even a prize for the wackiest photograph of a carp catcher. Visit www.carpanglersgroup.com for more information.

Lewis & Clark journalists launch final leg of journey

Like the Lewis and Clark expedition’s Voyage of Discovery, Missouri’s Lewis and Clark Journaling Program now spans three years. This year participants can earn a new set of 10 enamel lapel pins by visiting every site on the prescribed list. And, as before, there will be a drawing for a grand prize of outdoor equipment for those who visit all the sites.

Participants follow in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps by taking trips to conservation areas scattered around the state and writing entries in journals provided as part of the program. Sites for this year and the pin awarded for visiting each are:

  • Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center (CNC)—burr oak acorn
  • Cape Girardeau Conservation Campus Nature Center—beaver
  • Columbia Bottom Conservation Area (CA)—trumpeter swan
  • Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center—sycamore leaf
  • Lost Valley Hatchery—lake sturgeon
  • Powder Valley CNC—northern pike
  • Runge CNC—pale purple coneflower
  • Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center— softshell turtle
  • Springfield CNC—striped skunk

Those who visit all nine of these sites will receive a keelboat pin.

Census Bureau calling Missourians about outdoor activities

If you get a telephone call from someone asking about your outdoor recreation activities, don’t hang up right away. It could be the U.S. Census Bureau calling on legitimate business.

Census officials are conducting the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bureau officials conducted interviews in April and May and will do so again in September and October, and in January and February 2007.

The survey has been conducted about every five years since 1955. State and federal officials use information from the survey when planning fish and wildlife management programs.

Call the nearest Conservation Department office if you have questions about someone calling to ask about your outdoor activities. More information is available online.

Warm, dry spring increases fish kills

An unusual number of fish kills across Missouri this spring were the result of warm, dry weather that began in January. The Conservation Department normally receives about one report of dying fish per week in the spring. This year, however, the figure was more like five per week. Spring fish kills are a normal result of winter stress followed by the rigors of spawning. Warm, low water statewide affected fish of all species in lakes and streams of all sizes. Southwest Missouri was particularly hard-hit. The kills occurred when parasites attacked fishes’ skin or gills, and secondary infections set in. The Conservation Department needs timely reports of fish kills. If you see dead or dying fish, look for unusual conditions, such as odor or signs of petroleum products on the surface of the water. Then call the nearest Conservation Department office or (573) 882-9880, ext. 3228.

Upper Mississippi CA blind drawing

Waterfowl hunters, mark your calendars for the 2006 Upper Mississippi Conservation Area blind drawing July 22 at Francis Howell High School at Hwy. 94 and Hwy. D in Weldon Spring. Registration will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m., with the drawing at 11 a.m. Registrants must be 16 and older and bring a valid 2006 Missouri Small Game Hunting Permit, a 2006 Missouri Migratory Bird Permit, a 2006 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp and a photo I.D. You should provide names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and conservation numbers for other hunters in your party. For more information, call Columbia Bottom Conservation Area at (314) 877-6014 or the St. Louis Regional Office at (636) 441-4554, or online.

Camping and hunting changes at Thomas Hill CA

Hunters and campers at Thomas Hill Conservation Area need to note changes in areas open to public use. Some areas have been closed, while new opportunities now are available in others. Watch for newly posted boundary signs around areas where changes have occurred.

All campsites at the north and south primitive campgrounds have been closed. The Hwy. T campground with 10 improved sites remains open, and overflow camping will be available there on weekends during the camping season.

Other areas now closed include some narrow strips of land with limited access, areas near housing developments and areas with unclear boundaries. This includes the Wisdom Point area. Also, 50 acres of strip-mined land on the lake’s warm-water arm now are closed to public use.

Rules for building duck blinds have not changed. Hunters may build blinds along the shoreline, even in recently closed areas, such as Wisdom Point. Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. now regulates private boat docks on the lake and is contacting dock owners about new regulations. Additional camping facilities are available nearby at Long Branch State Park and at private campgrounds.

For more information, call (660) 385-4920. For information about boat docks, call (660) 261-4221, ext. 331.

Missouri renews its commitment to waterfowl nesting habitat

The Conservation Department has renewed its commitment to ducks by pledging $1.25 million over five years for nesting habitat conservation. The money will go to Ducks Unlimited (DU) in western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan. Conservation Department Director John Hoskins called the pledge “an excellent investment in the future of waterfowl.”

The Conservation Department’s contribution will be matched by DU, which in turn will use the combined amount to obtain a matching grant from the U.S. federal government under provisions of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). The result will be waterfowl habitat increases and improvements on thousands of acres in Canada. Missouri has received more than $11.6 million in NAWCA grants for in-state wetland projects since the program began in 1990.

“Most ducks harvested here originate from the Canadian prairies,” said Conservation Department Director John Hoskins. “It’s not enough to provide migration and wintering habitat for ducks in Missouri. We also need to improve conditions for those same birds during critical breeding periods while they are in Canada.” He said partnerships with federal agencies and citizen groups are the key to the success of North American waterfowl conservation.

Conservation Contractors

Forty-five men and women who completed the first Conservation Contractor Workshop in West Plains Feb. 28 are in the vanguard of private land conservation. Landowners are their customers, but wildlife is the ultimate beneficiary. The workshop was the first in a series of training sessions aimed at giving private wildlife management professionals the technical and business savvy they need to establish successful businesses. Landowners who want to encourage wildlife but lack the time, equipment, knowledge or physical ability will be able to turn to these conservation entrepreneurs.

The courses are a cooperative effort of the Conservation Department, the Missouri Agriculture Industries Council Inc. (MO-AG) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The first round of workshops gives participants a crash course in grassland and woodland management for wildlife.

They also receive a Conservation Contractor Manual with detailed information about dozens of aspects of managing open land, forests, wetlands and streams. The manual includes information about tapping state and federal wildlife management cost-share programs and MO-AG services to make wildlife management more affordable for their clients.

Workshop participants can be included on the Conservation Department’s list of qualified contractors. Landowners can get the list online. The list and information about future workshops also are available from Private Land Services Division, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, (573) 751-4115.

Second-largest youth turkey harvest

Young hunters recorded their second-largest turkey harvest in the six-year history of Missouri’s Youth Spring Turkey Season. Youngsters killed 3,694 turkeys during the season April 8 and 9. That is 200 (5 percent) fewer than last year’s youth harvest. They maintained their perfect safety record; the Conservation Department recorded no firearms-related turkey hunting incidents during the youth season.

Prairie Day at Burr Oak Woods

Big bluestem and Indian grass are dressed in their spring finery, the prairies are dotted with colorful wildflowers, and Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center is celebrating! Join us between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. June 24 for a trip back in time as we share our fascination with prairie and history. Enjoy old-time tunes and listen to stories of bygone days. Visit displays of traditional crafts, such as quilting and basket making. There will be plenty to entertain the kids, including horse-drawn wagon rides, old-time prairie games, Indian dancing, a buffalo chip throwing contest and more. We will even have free lunch for visitors. This will be a great time for families of all sizes and ages. Best of all, the event is free! Burr Oak Woods is off Park Road north of I-70 in Blue Springs. For more information, call (816) 228-3766.

Commissioners celebrate Arbor day

Their April 7 meeting in Jefferson City allowed Conservation Commissioners Chip McGeehan and Cynthia Metcalfe to take an active role in celebrating Arbor Day. Along with Commissioners Lowell Mohler and Steve Bradford, they handed out tree seedlings to fourth-graders at South Elementary School and helped plant a tree there.

Callaway County crappie tops state record

John R. Horstman of Mokane landed more than a meal when he reeled in a 5-pound black crappie April 21. He also landed himself in the Missouri fishing record book.

The previous record was a 4-pound, 8-ounce fish caught from a farm pond in Clay County by Ray Babcock in 1967.

For more information about Missouri’s state-record fish programs online then click on “Fish and Fishing” and then “Fishing records —pole and line.”

Communities honored for tree care

Four communities received Missouri Arbor Awards of Excellence at the annual Missouri Community Forestry Council Conference in March. The City of Gladstone, the City of St. Peters, TreeLiberty of Liberty, and Polly Jaben of Plattsburg were selected from 25 applications received from across the state. Applications were evaluated based on sustainability, use of sound tree management principles, effectiveness, size of area affected and innovation. The City of Hannibal also received a Citation of Merit. For more information about the award program, e-mail Justine.Gartner@mdc.mo.gov or call (573) 522-4115, ext. 3116.

Magic pill holds promise for zebra mussel control

Scientists at Cambridge University say they have developed a new pill that could eliminate zebra mussel infestations without harming other creatures. The “biobullets” consist of potassium chloride, which most people know as a dietary substitute for table salt. Zebra mussels, exotic invaders that can cause ecological as well as economic havoc in North American waters, take in the potassium chloride microcapsules from surrounding water. As the capsules dissolve, they slowly kill the fingernail-sized mussels.

Agent Notebook

From mid-May through mid-July we receive lots of calls from kindhearted people who want to adopt “orphaned” animals. It is not unusual to hear of baby foxes, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and birds being taken home. In most cases, the baby animal in question is not actually orphaned.

Many adult animals leave their young for extended periods of time during the day. Deer are a great example. For the first couple of weeks after birth, young deer are left by their mother during the day. She returns to feed the fawns after dark. Reducing contact with her young keeps predators from clueing in on the helpless fawns.

The best advice we can give most callers is to return wild animals immediately to the site where they found them. It may be difficult for people to leave a small animal and walk away from it, but that’s usually what’s best for the animal. The longer an animal is away from its parents or its natural habitat, the less likely its chances of survival.

It’s a violation of state law to keep wild animals unless they were legally taken. The Conservation Department does not issue permits for people to keep “orphaned wildlife.” Wildlife rehabilitation centers usually aren’t an option, because they often are stretched to their financial limits rescuing less common species. They are reluctant to spend money raising raccoons, squirrels, deer and other common animal species.

The next time you encounter a baby animal, stop and think about the options. Take photographs and enjoy the contact but leave the area and the baby undisturbed. Wild animals are best left in the wild. —Jeff Brown, Randolph County