Miscellany

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: Why are there so many dead hawks and owls on the highways at this time of year?

A: We host large populations of hawks and owls in the state each winter due to the influx of migrant birds that nest further north. Most of the dead predatory birds on roadsides were killed by vehicles while pursuing prey species to eat. Their full concentration on a roadside rodent while swooping for the kill makes them vulnerable to oncoming vehicles. Even if there is no collision with a vehicle, the air turbulence from passing trucks can be strong enough to slam the flying birds to the ground.

Highway rights of way can be particularly good areas for birds of prey to find food. They provide open, grassy areas with nearby perches. Spilled grains and salts used for de-icing can attract small mammals that are prey for hawks and owls. Bird carcasses don’t decay quickly in cold weather, so the cumulative effect of weeks of fatalities is especially noticeable by late winter.

Q: Why can’t I buy my spring turkey permits earlier in the year? It’s inconvenient to have to renew my hunting and fishing permits by the end of February and then go back to get the spring turkey permit a few weeks later.

A: That used to be the case, but, as of last year, you can now purchase your spring turkey hunting permit as early as Jan. 1.

The Conservation Commission typically sets the regulations and season dates for the upcoming spring turkey season in late December. That allows them to use the latest population surveys and recent harvest data in their decision making, but it prevents the spring turkey hunting regulations and information booklet from being available on Jan. 1. The booklet will be available at permit vendors by March 1 and can be found on our website several weeks earlier. Each year’s booklet is tailored to that year’s season. It highlights any new regulation changes and includes a hunting forecast for the spring season.

Q: Would you recommend some areas where I can hunt feral hogs and have a reasonable chance of success?

A: We don’t promote feral hog hunting in Missouri or provide hog numbers or locations to hog hunters. However, we do encourage hunters and landowners to shoot feral hogs on sight when pursuing other wildlife. States that become known for feral hog hunting tend to have more difficulties reducing their wild herds, because it leads to more illegal releases of feral hogs for hunting purposes.

Additionally, our staff efforts to trap and kill hogs in areas where they are concentrated can be confounded by hunters who disturb the trap site and cause hogs to move out of the area. We continue to look for effective ways to reduce our feral hog population. Unfortunately, feral hog hunting has proven to be ineffective in controlling their numbers.

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.