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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.

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Ask the Ombudsman

Q. I was surprised to see seagulls around a marina at the Lake of the Ozarks this winter. What are they doing in Missouri?

A. The term “seagull” is often used for any of several species of gulls. In reality there are some gull species that have very little association with oceans. These are more appropriately referred to as inland gulls. The most common of these in Missouri is the ring-billed gull, named for the black band near the tip of its yellow bill. That species breeds in the northern U.S. and Canada and overwinters in the Atlantic coastal states, the southern states to the west coast, and in Mexico. They are found in Missouri during migration and some overwinter here, feeding opportunistically on fish, insects, worms, or garbage. They can be seen in areas such as parking lots, garbage dumps, newly plowed fields, wetlands, or near fast-food restaurants, large rivers, or reservoirs.

Q. After catching a largemouth bass or trout and releasing it, how soon will those fish bite an artificial lure again?

A. I cannot give a definite answer to that question, but it would not be unusual to catch the same fish that you had caught 10 or 15 minutes earlier. That might be even more likely if you had changed your lure or fly during that time. Fish have a limited capacity for memory based on their experience. If the fish is still hungry, it’s likely that it will continue to be fooled by an artificial lure and not make the connection with what happened previously when it did the same thing. That is fortunate for anglers because many fish are voluntarily released after being caught or are released due to not meeting length limits.

Q. Is there any permit needed to keep shed deer antlers that I find?

A. There is no permit required to keep shed antlers. On public lands, there may or may not be restrictions on taking shed antlers, depending on the managing agency. You are free to take them from conservation areas and from national forest lands in Missouri. They may not be removed from state parks or national wildlife refuges. Antlers found still attached to the skull must be reported to a conservation agent within 24 hours to receive possession authorization.

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

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Agent Notes

CSI Conservation

Conservation Agents are tasked with enforcing the Wildlife Code to protect Missouri’s forest, fish, and wildlife. Regulations enforcement sometimes means routine assignments with little need for assistance. Occasionally though, agents come across crime scenes similar to ones seen on television. With some help from forensic scientists, these scenes can hold vital information that a conservation agent can use to solve the case.

In 2009, the Missouri Department of Conservation teamed up with a DNA forensic laboratory at the Center for the Conservation of Biological Resources/WestCore at Black Hills State University to aid in gathering DNA on Missouri’s white-tailed deer population and its genetic diversity. In 2010, the database was put to the test when a conservation agent arrested two suspects for a wildlife violation. WestCore used a blood sample from a dead deer to see if it matched a sample taken from one of the suspect’s boot. These samples were a match. WestCore reported that based on a local database of white-tailed deer DNA, the likelihood that another white-tailed deer would randomly result in the same DNA genotype is less than 1 in 3.6 quintillion! That DNA report was the first of its kind used in a wildlife case in Missouri. Based on the report, the court sided with the State of Missouri and issued a guilty verdict.

Since 2009, the Department has started other DNA databases for species such as black bear and elk. The Department continues to be a forward-thinking agency providing wildlife management and protection based on scientific knowledge.

David Baldridge is the conservation agent in Carter County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

What Is It?

Indiana Bat

Myotis sodalis

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On Page 1 is a photo of thousands of bats hibernating together, and above is a close-up of a single Indiana bat. Indiana bats hibernate in clusters of several hundred to several thousand in cool caves. Of Missouri’s 6,500 known caves, only 27 have ever had sizeable Indiana bat populations. Listed as Endangered, Indiana bat conservation methods include avoiding disturbing hibernating bats, maintaining cave habitats, and improving streamside habitats. The bats emerge from hibernation in early spring. Indiana bats summer along streams and rivers in north Missouri, raising their young under bark of certain trees. They eat primarily moths but also mosquitoes and aquatic insects. — photo by Shelly Colatskie

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