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.
Ask The Ombudsman
Q. Why do some deciduous trees retain their dead leaves until spring? Doesn’t it make the trees more susceptible to wind, snow, and ice damage?
A. The retention over winter of old, dead leaves is known as marcescence. In Missouri it is common among trees such as pin oaks, shingle oaks, young oaks of other species, and American beech in southeast Missouri. It probably does make trees more subject to weather damage during the winter, but not all plants are supremely well adapted to their current growing conditions. One theory is that marcescent species may have originated at more southern latitudes, eventually spread northward, but are genetically programmed for a later-arriving winter. The early onset of cold temperatures can prompt marcescence in species that don’t normally show that characteristic. Marcescence may provide an advantage as a defense against animals browsing the winter buds, if the browsers are deterred by the presence of dried leaves on the twigs.
Q. Is it legal to sell the fish that I catch in my pond?
A. It depends on the circumstances. If you purchased the fish to stock your pond and you have documentation of that, the fish are yours to do with as you wish. If you or any previous owner received fish from the Department in the past for stocking the pond, stocked it with wild-caught fish, or if the pond receives wild fish from a connection with any creek or stream or other public body of water, then you cannot sell the fish due to the Wildlife Code of Missouri’s restrictions on the sale of wildlife.
While there are some exceptions, most game and fish taken from the wild may not be sold. For example, there are commercial fishing permits and regulated trapping of some animals also has a commercial aspect. However, commercial markets for animals and animal parts were one of the driving factors in the great decline of wildlife in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Modern conservation began as a reaction against that devastation of wildlife populations. Current regulations are intended to protect fish and game from overharvest in response to market demand.
Q. I recently saw a bald eagle perched near my rural home. Are bald eagles rare in Missouri?
A. Bald eagles are becoming more common in Missouri. In the winter we typically have thousands of eagles in the state. They are most numerous near rivers, large reservoirs, and wetlands, where they can feed on fish or migrating waterfowl. Most of the migrant birds arrive in December and leave by the following March. During the spring, we have more than 150 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the state. That is great news because for many decades there were no nesting bald eagles here. Young eagles that fledge in Missouri usually return to nest as adults, so we expect to continue to see a gradual increase in the number of bald eagles here year-round.
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
Winter Crappie Fishing
Like many avid crappie anglers, I enjoy pursuing this delicious game fish during the spring spawning season. As cold weather arrives, many put their boats and poles away, but those that continue to fish can experience some of the best fishing of the year and have their favorite lake to themselves.
The trick to catching crappie in the winter is adjusting your techniques. One major difference is the depth at which they’re found. In spring, most people fish the shallows. In winter, crappie are often found in deeper water, sometimes between 20-40 feet deep, but they will move into shallower water during a string of warm days. Another thing to keep in mind is the rate at which you retrieve your lure. In winter, crappie will be far less aggressive and unlikely to chase a fast moving lure. Sometimes they will only bite a lure that is suspended in the water with a bobbers. In addition, in winter crappie tend to congregate in large, dense schools near structures instead of scattering in loose schools over a large area. Casts to one side of a brush pile may yield nothing, while the other side may produce a fish on nearly every cast.
Many kids will be home soon on winter break. Include them in your winter fishing fun. All it takes is the appropriate fishing permit (or exemption), and a little determination to face the cold weather. For more information on local fishing rules and regulations contact your local conservation agent or Department office, or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3104.
Derek Warnke is the conservation agent in Camden County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
What Is It?
The black bear is the only species of bear found in Missouri. Black bears live mostly south of the Missouri River in heavily wooded areas. In winter they den in a hollow tree, cave, an excavated hollow in the ground, or another shelter. Black bears eat a variety of foods, including berries, nuts, the inner bark of trees, insects, fish, frogs, small rodents, fawns, bird eggs, and many kinds of carrion. Mating is in May or June, but the development of eggs is arrested for 6 or 7 months. The eggs continue development about the time that bears enter hibernation, in October or November. Usually two to three cubs are born in late January or February — sometimes while the mother is still asleep. —photo by Noppadol Paothong