News & Events

By Jim Low

Snowy Owls Visit Missouri

Some Missourians may wonder if they have been magically transported to the Hogwarts School of Wizardry, as huge, white owls appeared in unprecedented numbers around the state.

The title character of the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone receives a white owl as a birthday gift. The cinematic bird is a perfect match for owls that began showing up in Missouri in December.

Snowy owls normally inhabit the high arctic region of North America and Eurasia. However, in years when populations of their prey (mainly lemmings) crash, the birds are forced to travel south in search of food.

Missouri experienced such mass migrations, known as irruptions, in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the current event far exceeds previous ones. MDC has received dozens of reports from people who were entranced to find the beautiful white owls perched in odd places. Most of the sightings came from the northern half of the state.

Snowy owls are similar in size to great horned owls, which are common in Missouri but are much darker than snowy owls. Most of the snowy owls visiting Missouri this winter are juveniles. Many are near starvation. They are not accustomed to automobiles, and often land on highways and fail to flee from speeding cars.

MDC Wildlife Ecologist Brad Jacobs said people should not approach the birds. He asked motorists to slow down and do their best to avoid killing owls on roadways. If you see a snowy owl, please call Jacobs at 573-522-4115, ext. 3648.

Conservation Partner of Year

Bass Pro Shops has named MDC Director Robert L. Ziehmer as one of its two 2011 Conservation Partners of the Year.

In presenting the award, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris noted Ziehmer’s commitment to public input and involvement as key components of conservation success.

“All of us at Bass Pro Shops are proud to honor Bob and the Missouri Department of Conservation for everything they have done for all of us as Missourians to protect our right to hunt and fish as well as for their conservation efforts that help protect the wildlife and their habitat. Their work has gained them recognition as the national conservation leader that other states try to model.”

Ziehmer and Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing, received the 2011 awards from Morris at the company’s annual Christmas luncheon for associates held at their national headquarters in Springfield.

Past winners of the Bass Pro Shops Conservation Partner of the Year Award include Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, Rob Keck of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Jeff Trandahl of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and former MDC Director John Hoskins.

Demystifying Deer Management

All that remains of the 2011-12 deer season are stories and photos, but thanks to collaboration between MDC and the U niversity of Missouri Extension, landowners can turn those remnants into action plans for better deer hunting.

MDC resource scientists Emily Flinn and Jason Sumners have teamed up with Extension Fish and Wildlife Specialist Robert A. Pierce II to create a series of free, downloadable guides to practical deer-management techniques. Topics already available include implementing quality deer management on your land, estimating deer populations with trail cameras, harvest records and observations, aging live deer and aging deer by examining their jawbones.

The guides include photographs, detailed illustrations and worksheets. They are available at extension.missouri.edu/main/DisplayCategory.aspx?C=82. Additional guides are under development and will be available at the same site in the coming months. Topics covered in upcoming guides include the biology of antler development, setting up landowner and wildlife cooperatives, deer-habitat management practices, deer diseases, the importance of providing quality deer nutrition, establishing and managing food plots, and factors that influence deer population dynamics. Landowners interested in improving their property for wildlife should contact their private land conservationist for technical assistance. Find your local Department representative using the “Who’s My Local Contact” link at www.mdc.mo.gov/.

Deer hunting contributes $1.1 billion to Missouri’s economy annually and supports approximately 12,000 jobs. Those are not the only benefits, however. Hunting is a tool that allows landowners to manage local deer populations for fewer, more or bigger deer. The new management guide series is designed to help landowners and hunters finetune harvest at the local level to maintain healthy, stable deer populations that meet their needs.

Endangered Species Awareness

More than 4,000 students entered the 2011 Endangered Species Postcard contest, submitting artworks based on the theme, “River habitat— we gotta have it!” Winners were: Myles Hamacher of St. Francis Xavier in Jefferson City in the K-2nd- grade category, Ray Winter of St. Catherine Labouré in St. Louis for the 3rd-4th-grade category, Sydney Haistings of St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School in Kansas City for the 5th-6th-grade category, Katie Heflin of Heflin Homeschool in St Peters in the 7th-8th-grade category, and Ryan Vernon of California High School in California in

the 9th-12th-grade category. All five first-place winners will have their postcards printed and sold through MDC’s Nature Shops. Participating students learned about Missouri’s endangered species and the importance of sustaining healthy habitats. V iew the top three entries from each grade category and get more information on the contest at www.mdc.mo.gov/node/3533.

2011 Loggers of the Year

When it comes to excellence in logging, three heads apparently are better than one. That was the conclusion of the panel of forestry experts who named Jay Duncan, Gene Fiske Sr. and Gene Fiske Jr. of J&G Logging in Summersville as Missouri’s 2011 Loggers of the Year.

The Logger of the Year Award is given to loggers who demonstrate good working relationships with landowners and foresters, minimize damage to remaining trees and resources on harvest sites, use best management practices to conserve soil and water, address wildlife management concerns, practice sustainable forest management and use wood products wisely.

One thing that set the three apart from other candidates was the fact they garnered multiple nominations from representatives of the Missouri Forest Products Association, Pioneer Forest, The Nature Conservancy and MDC. Nominations noted the men’s commitment to both their customers and to protecting forest resources.

“MDC recognizes and appreciates loggers who use best practices to harvest timber in ways that are economically, ecologically and socially sustainable,” said Missouri State Forester and MDC Forestry Division Chief Lisa Allen. “The statewide Logger of the Year award is the highest honor loggers can achieve in Missouri. It takes special conviction to being the best to achieve this honor, and we congratulate these outstanding loggers. ”

Missouri Logger of the Year recipients receive framed certificates from MDC and a Stihl chainsaw donated by Crader Distributing in Marble Hill.

Muzzleloader Deer Harvest

Hunters shot 15,238 deer during the muzzleloader portion of Missouri’s firearms deer season. Missouri held its first muzzleloader season in 1988. Back then, hunters had to declare if they intended to use a muzzleloader or a center-fire rifle. If they chose a muzzleloader, they had to use a muzzleloader during the firearms season in November but also could hunt during the muzzleloader season. That first year, the muzzleloader season was three days long.

Since then, many of the original restrictions on muzzleloader hunting have been relaxed, and the season has been lengthened to 11 days. Changes in muzzleloader technology also have contributed to the sport’s increased popularity. When Missouri had its first muzzleloader hunt 23 years ago, most commercially available muzzleloaders were traditional caplock and flintlock types, and muzzleloader season was a practical exercise in hunting history. Today, most hunters use in-line muzzleloaders, often with telescopic sights, modern propellants and bullets.

Water Summit Defines Priorities

Missouri’s Water Summit brought together people from across the state Dec. 1 and 2 and produced dozens of recommendations for the wise, sustainable use of Show-Me State water resources. The Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) organized the meeting as a follow-up to the 2009 Summit on the Future of Missouri Outdoors. The summit theme was

“Missouri’s Water Realities: Deepening Our Water Wisdom and Mobilizing for Action.” The top 10 action priorities identified during the summit were:

  1. Develop a simple, unified water awareness campaign that connects with all Missouri citizens.
  2. Establish, incentivize and evaluate best management practices, strategies and water goals at the watershed level.
  3. Build a sense of pride, emotional connection and responsibility through a statewide clean water campaign with education.
  4. Protect watersheds, riparian corridors and flows through incentives that place a value on healthy water resources.
  5. Invest in water resource planning, conservation and efficiency at all geographic levels.
  6. Strategically partner with industry and commerce to inform and educate citizens, trade leaders, political leaders and business leaders to develop a combined water ethic on a watershed basis.
  7.  Increase efforts for water quality and quantity outreach and education (statewide campaign, reallocation of resources for outreach and education, charismatic water icon).
  8. Develop a comprehensive/integrated statewide water plan.
  9. Expand the floodplain and restrain development.

Recognize and showcase the environmental success of innovative farmers through a local community partnership-based approach (e.g., Farmers Teaching Farmers). Summit results, including videos of speakers and panel sessions, are available at www.confedmo.org/watersummit.

Adapt Felt-Soled Waders to Avoid Spreading Rock Snot

Missouri’s trout waters are threatened by invasion of Didymosphenia geminata, commonly called didymo or rock snot. This invasive diatom covers stream bottoms with dense mats, impairing their value to fish and anglers. Porous-soled waders can carry the invasive diatom to new waters, so effective March 1 the use of waders or footwear with felt or other porous soles will be banned when fishing in trout parks and other specific trout waters in Missouri. Some anglers may choose to replace felt-soled waders. However, you also can adapt felt-soled waders to comply with the new regulation by sealing the soles with solutions of contact cement or marine rubber cement.

The procedure is outlined in an instructional video at http://bit.ly/rRLejr. Adapting waders is just one step toward solving the problem of spreading rock snot. It still is vital to check and clean, or dry all waders and all other gear that have had contact with the water.

Did You Know?

We work with you and for you to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife.

The George O. White State Forest Nursery

  • Located in Texas County, the George O. White State Forest Nursery offers a variety of low-cost seedlings for reforestation, windbreaks and erosion control, as well as wildlife food and cover.
  • More than 100,000 seedlings are given to fourth graders for Arbor Day each year.
  • 200,000 seedlings are provided for planting projects on Department lands annually.
  • 80,000 seedlings are provided to FFA, 4H, Scout groups and other youth groups annually.
  • More than 13,000 orders are processed and about 3.5 million seedlings are shipped each year.
  • About 62 million seedlings were sold over the past 15 years.
  • A special 75th anniversary tree bundle is being offered this year. The bundle consists of two seedlings of 10 species, including flowering dogwood, bald cypress, black walnut, white fringetree, red oak, white oak and shortleaf pine.
  • More than 70 species of trees and shrubs are offered by the nursery to help Missourians create wildlife habitat.
  • For prices and ordering information, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/node/3328, or call 573-674-3229. The nursery accepts orders through April. However, many bundles and individual tree and shrub species will sell out before then. Orders are shipped starting in February.
  • Since 1935, the nursery has been producing trees. For more information on the history of the nursery, visit the link listed below.