What a surprise when I opened the September issue to the article about Operation Brightside in St. Louis! Years ago, I was lucky enough to volunteer with Mary Lou and Gwen. They were just the best. Congratulations to all of the volunteers on a job well done on such an eyesore of a corner!
Janet Smith, Affton
Beagles Want to Know
I am really enjoying the Conservationist’s online archives that were announced in the June issue [Visit the Missouri Digital Heritage Database at go.usa.gov/VTW or the Conservationist’s page at mdc.mo.gov/node/83]. I have two beagles with whom I enjoy rabbit hunting in the fall and winter. So, my first search was for articles about beagles, which resulted in many articles about rabbit hunting. It has been very interesting reading. Several of the articles refer to methods MDC used to monitor the rabbit population. Although rabbits appear to be numerous today, the archives suggest there had been concern about their diminishing numbers. I had no idea the Conservation Department kept track of a “rabbit index.” Does the Department still track the rabbit index year to year, and if so, are the annual indices published anywhere or otherwise made available to the public? I often see reports on deer, turkey, quail and waterfowl populations discussed in the Conservationist, but I do not recall recently reading about how rabbits or other small game are fairing in Missouri. My beagles are interested in comparing their hunting success to the rabbit index. Sigmund and Lucy (the beagles) thank you for your answer.
Dr. Christopher Grimes, Dardenne Prairie
Biologist’s Note: Dear Sigmund, Lucy, and Dr. Grimes: I’m glad you are enjoying the archived articles. I’ve enjoyed looking through them myself. Throughout the years, the Department has used a variety of techniques for different animals. Most recently, for cottontails, our conservation agents ran roadside surveys in April from 1983–2002 along the same 20-mile routes as our quail roadside surveys (run in August). The rabbit survey routes were discontinued because it was determined that the information we were getting from the surveys was so variable (as are rabbit populations) that they were not useful.
The Department still conducts the Small Game Harvest Survey to track many small game species. This mail questionnaire asks permit holders if they hunted small game, how many of each of the small game species they harvested, where they hunted most and how many days they hunted for each species. The results from the most recent survey can be found at this link: mdc.mo.gov/node/4207.
I look forward to each issue of the Missouri Conservationist. It is helpful when I am looking for a place to camp or visit for the day in Missouri. Most of all, I enjoy the photographic art of Noppadol Paothong. I believe that his art is inspirational, and I enjoy putting some of it out where I can see it daily. Thank you for the beauty you display in your magazine.
Carol Grimmer, Bridgeton
The picture on the back cover of the September issue could not be cuter—seriously! That black bear cub is beyond adorable. Please send kudos to David Stonner.
Susan Daiber, via Internet
Regarding David Stonner’s cover photo on the September issue [Cooper Hill Conservation Area in Osage County], the photo’s flowing movement, from lower left to upper right, and accented by the sunburst, is commendable.
Walt Jones, Lake St. Louis
Reader Photo Leucistic Fox Squirrel
Duane Widhalm of Lebanon captured this image of a squirrel at his parents’ farm near Brunswick. The coloration of fox squirrels can vary significantly. Partial albinos like this one are referred to as leucistic individuals. Widhalm grew up at the farm and took this photo while deer hunting on the property with several of his brothers. “This squirrel was mother to two baby squirrels, which had very similar markings as the mother had on her,” says Widhalm. Genetics determine the color variations on the fur, meaning that some offspring may also have patterns of white fur.