Miscellany

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: I found a small, vase-shaped object attached to a leaf of one of my dusty miller plants on my porch. Can you tell me what produced the object?

A: The vase-shaped structure is a mud nest made by an insect called a potter wasp. Related to mud daubers, the wasps are considered beneficial insects because they prey on caterpillars that eat leaves and other plant tissue. Female wasps lay a single egg in the nest, or brood cell, and then provision it with as many as a dozen paralyzed caterpillars that serve as the food source for the developing young wasp. The provisioned brood cell is sealed up with mud. A hole in the top of the “pot” indicates that the adult wasp has already exited the brood cell. It is speculated that Native Americans used the potter wasp’s nest as a model design for their clay pots.

Q: I’m seeing lots of box turtles crossing the roads now. Do they migrate?

A: Box turtles do not migrate. They may spend their entire lives, 50 years or longer, in a home range of only 30 acres. Good habitat may hold as many as 10 turtles per acre. They become familiar with the resources within their range and should not be moved to unfamiliar surroundings or kept in captivity for a prolonged period.  Box turtles will move about in search of food, water, courtship, an egg-laying site or a resting site. Young male turtles are especially mobile in the spring. Motorists should be alert to box turtles on the roads at this time and try to avoid hitting the crossing turtles, if that can be done safely. The greatest hazard to box turtles is vehicle collisions, but some may also succumb to sudden freezing weather in the spring or early fall.

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 email him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.



Agent Notes

Enforcement Aids Wildlife Restoration

In 1823, my ancestors settled on the farm where I now reside in Callaway County. Deer at that time were documented as abundant. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, commercial harvest of deer nearly brought this population down to zero. As the Missouri Department of Conservation formed in 1937, wildlife restoration was a priority and the protection of wildlife, including deer, became the duty of the newly defined conservation agent.

In 1938, the first class of 35 conservation agents attended an intensive two-week training before being assigned to one of four districts throughout the state. The hunting of deer had been stopped in 1937 in order for restoration efforts to begin. Resource enforcement by these conservation agents was a must to help protect the small herd of 5,000 deer. By 1944, efforts were moving in a positive direction, and the population was estimated at 15,000 deer. That year a two-day buck-only hunt was established in 20 counties.

Resource enforcement by conservation agents is a basic tool for game management. Resource biologists need the protection of species as they start their restoration efforts. It has been said that without resource enforcement there would be no resources, and without resources there would be no resource enforcement. Great success has occurred with a partnership between these two.

It is interesting to speak with my father who remembers the days of never seeing a deer on the family farm. However, now it is common for my sons to see several deer daily. The protection and restoration efforts of the Missouri Department of Conservation and conservation agents are something we all can be proud of.

If you witness or suspect a wildlife violation, report it to your local conservation agent or call the Operation Game Thief hotline toll free 1-800-392-1111, which is manned 24 hours a day.

Todd Houf is the conservation agent for Callaway County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.