Miscellany

What Is It?

Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of the Missouri outdoors. See if you can guess this month's natural wonder. The answer is at the bottom of the page.

Ask the Ombudsman

Q. We found some teeth near Bull Shoals Lake that had all of us stumped. My dad said he has seen lots of teeth but nothing like these. We would love to know what animal grew them.

A. Those teeth are confusing because they didn’t come from a mouth. Your photo is of the pharyngeal (throat) teeth of a fish called the grass carp. Grass carp are native to rivers in Siberia and China. They have been widely introduced into North American rivers, lakes, and ponds as a natural means of controlling the growth of vegetation. The species is a very large member of the minnow family that, in its native range, can reach a length of 4 feet and a weight of 100 lbs. The Missouri record grass carp was taken by archery methods and weighed 71 lbs. 4 oz. Grass carp have a preference for aquatic vegetation and have been reported to consume more than their own weight in vegetation in a day. The grooved pharyngeal teeth function to grind vegetation prior to swallowing it. There is a left and right set of teeth that mesh together to create the grinding mechanism.

Q. I spooked a groundhog and he took off running. To my surprise, he went up a tree and stayed there, about 10 to 15 feet high. I took a photo to prove it.

A. Most people are surprised to see a groundhog climb a tree because the species is usually observed feeding or running on the ground or lounging near an underground burrow. Because they prefer to build their burrows in rocky or sandy, sloping ground, they are often seen on grassy slopes beside roadways. Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, have powerful legs and claws on their toes. They are quite capable of climbing and will do so to obtain ripe fruits in trees, especially pawpaws, and to escape from danger on the ground. They are occasionally treed by dogs.

Q. I recently observed a kingfisher going into a hole in the dirt bank of a creek. Would you please explain that behavior?

A. Kingfishers excavate nest burrows in the sandy loam soils of river and stream banks. These burrows can extend from 3 to 6 feet back into the bank. The entrance tunnel slopes uphill, possibly to keep rain or floodwaters away from the nest. The nesting in the dirt burrow may explain why the female kingfisher is brightly colored because, unlike open-nesting birds, camouflage is unnecessary to hide her from predators while on the nest.

Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions, or complaints concerning the Conservation Department.

  • Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180
  • Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848
  • Email: Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov

Agent Notes

Dove Season Opens Sept. 1

Hunters are looking forward the time of year that traditionally kicks off the fall hunting seasons — the opening day of dove season.

Dove season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Nov. 9. Doves can be harvested during these dates from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is 15. Required permits include a Resident Small Game Hunting Permit for residents age 16 through 64, unless exempt, and a Nonresident Small Game Hunting Permit for nonresidents age 16 and older. A Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit is also required of residents and nonresidents age 16 and over. Before you go afield, it is always a good idea to read through the regulations. Regulations are available at permit vendors, Conservation Department offices, or online at mdc.mo.gov/node/3607. The Web page also includes a link to conservation areas managed for public dove hunting.

Mourning doves are one of the most abundant birds in North America. In fact, more mourning doves are harvested each year than all other migratory bird species combined. Doves are a great way to introduce kids to hunting. There are plenty of shooting opportunities and the action can be fast. sure to practice shooting trap or skeet prior to the season increase your odds of success and minimize wounding birds. The Conservation Department has five staffed ranges that provide various trap and/or skeet shooting opportunities. learn more, call your regional office (see Page 3) or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/6209.

A trip to the dove fields is a great way to usher in the fall hunting season.

Rudd Binsbacher is the conservation agent in Clark County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office,

What Is It?

Prairie Blazing Star

Liatris pycnostachya
Above is a blazing star that reaches up to 5 feet high and blooms July through October. Blazing star grows in glades, upland prairies, ledges and tops of bluffs, savannas, openings of upland forests ,and (rarely) banks of streams. They are scattered throughout the state. Native Americans and early settlers ate the roots raw or baked. Blazing star is one of the showier plants used in native wildflower gardens. A wide variety of insects visit the flowers, and birds feed on the seeds. The sweet, thickened rootstocks are relished by voles and other herbivorous mammals. Blazing stars are an important (and showy) part of the complex community of plants in the tallgrass prairie. —photo by Noppadol Paothong