Miscellany

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: Can you supply the dates for the 2009 fall firearms deer season? I need to schedule some November activities.

A: For 2009, there will be an urban zone portion Oct. 9–12, early and late youth portions Oct. 31–Nov. 1 and Jan. 2–3, a November portion Nov. 14–24, an antlerless portion Nov. 25–Dec. 6, and a muzzleloader portion Dec. 19–29. Dates for archery deer and turkey and fall firearms turkey season have not yet been set.

Q: What is the first plant to bloom in Missouri each year?

A: That distinction goes to a native shrub called Ozark witch hazel. Sometimes called vernal witch hazel, the Latin name is Hamamelis vernalis. Its small yellow and dark red flowers can open on leafless stems as early as mid-January, usually after a few days of mild weather. Once open, the fragrant flowers seem tolerant of winter conditions. It is not unusual to find Ozark witch hazel in bloom with snow on the ground underneath. For a winter-blooming plant, it is somewhat surprising that its flowers are insect-pollinated, by small bees and flies. It is found throughout the Ozarks of Missouri, Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, most often along rocky stream bottoms. This native shrub has become more popular in recent years for ornamental planting in home landscapes.

Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Department of Conservation programs. Write him at PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.

Agent Notes

Attend an Eagle Days event near you for fun with the family.

As is the case with many of Missouri’s wildlife species, the “good old days” for bald eagles are right now! Not many years ago there were no known nesting pairs of eagles in Missouri, but that all began to change in the 1980s with the raising and releasing of a few young bald eagles around the state. From these meager beginnings, Missouri now can boast of almost 150 nesting pairs.

In addition to the nesting birds, Missouri commonly hosts more wintering bald eagles than any other state. These are birds that migrate south to find open water as winter progresses. The birds need open water so they have access to their main source of food, which is fish. Waterfowl also comprise a portion of their diets. Now is an excellent time to see bald eagles in Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Conservation helps to coordinate “Eagle Days” events across the state. These events usually consist of an indoor educational program, including a captive bald eagle, and an outdoor eagle viewing area where visitors can observe bald eagles. Be sure to dress for the weather. Spotting scopes are provided at the viewing areas so you can get a close look at these fascinating birds. To find an Eagle Days program near you, visit online.

Mic Plunkett is the conservation agent for Wayne county, which is in the Southeast region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

January 1999

The Big Chew was written by Joel Vance about Missouri beavers. Beavers are one of the least visible and most common animals. An adult beaver can weigh 40 to 60 pounds and is the largest rodent in North America. Beavers have four front gnawing teeth that grow continually, keeping “chisel-like” edges. Because of their oversized liver and large lungs they can stay under water for up to 15 minutes. Female beavers usually have four young per year and their lifespan can be up to 12 years. Landowners sometimes consider these furbearer a nuisance because of the damage they can do to their trees and ponds.—Contributed by the Circulation staff