Sixty years ago, Missouri had virtually no deer or wild turkeys. River otters were unknown outside the state's Bootheel region, and the giant Canada goose was thought to be extinct.
Today these four species are abundant enough to permit annual harvests. The story of how this remarkable turn-around was achieved is the subject of a new film that will premiere at nature centers in Springfield, Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City over the next three months.
"Back to the Wild" uses stunning footage captured by cinematographer Glenn Chambers to trace the restoration of seven species of wildlife in Missouri. Underwater footage of otters capturing prey and astonishing sequences of Canada geese in flight are among the visual delights offered up in the 30-minute film.
Besides learning how hunters' and anglers' contributions made past wildlife restoration possible, those attending premiere parties at the state's four conservation nature centers will learn about a new opportunity for all Missourians to help with similar restoration of nongame wildlife.
Information about Teaming With Wildlife, a national, nongame wildlife conservation initiative, will be presented by the Conservation Federation of Missouri, which will co-host the premiere parties and provide refreshments. Those attending premiere parties in Springfield and St. Louis will get to meet Chambers and learn how the film's most remarkable sequences were captured.
December is a great time to get out and enjoy nature at one of Missouri's four Conservation Nature Centers.
Each of the nature centers is showing conservation nature videos and films throughout the holiday season. Other programs are live, and some are outdoors.
Powder Valley hosts Glenn Chambers' live "Otter Mania" show Dec. 29. On Dec. 30, Powder Valley's programs will revolve around the theme "Streams of Missouri," and on Dec. 31 programs will explore "Backyard Wildlife." Movies, crafts and a hands-on "Discovery Table" for kids will enliven these after-Christmas week programs, too.
On Dec. 13, Runge Conservation Nature Center will host workshops for visitors who want to learn to play the hammer dulcimer, or who just want to enjoy concerts by Judy Schmidt. The same day, visitors to Runge will learn to identify plants after the growing season in a "Winter Wanderings" program. Ralph Duren, nationally renowned for his wildlife imitations, will present "The Call of the Wild" Dec. 23. Otter Mania will come to Runge Dec. 30.
The Springfield Conservation Nature Center will offer "Cabin Fever" activities for the whole family. Tots will have crafts and other activities geared to their interests and may even want to join the rest of the family for a guided nature hike on one of the area's several trails. Those who visit the nature center Dec. 27 or 28 will be able to get in on the fun and excitement of the annual Eagle Days event, with live eagle shows inside and viewing of wild eagles outside.
Kansas City area residents can get in on Christmas fun at Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center in Blue Springs. It will offer visitors a chance to see birds up close at a bird-banding demonstration Dec. 5. On Dec. 20 and 21, Burr Oak Woods will offer kids a chance to make gifts for their parents while mom and dad watch nature films or enjoy the bird viewing area.
Reservations are required for some holiday programs. For reservations and details about program content and times, call Powder Valley at (314) 301 1500, Burr Oak Woods at (816) 228-3766, Springfield Conservation Nature Center at (417) 888-4237 or Runge at (573) 526-5544.
A 1998 Natural Events Calendar hanging beside your desk or kitchen sink guarantees you will never be more than a glance away from a refreshing view of Missouri's outdoor treasures.
The cover of the 1998 calendar is splashed with the brilliant red of butterfly weed. Through the year, you'll be treated to more than three dozen gorgeous images of Missouri plants, animals and landscapes. With this 14-by-20-inch wall calendar at hand, you're guaranteed a visual vacation whenever you need it.
And there's more. Information about the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, ordering tree seedlings from the state forest nursery, joining a Stream Team, making your yard or farm attractive to wildlife and a host of other practical matters are covered in the '98 calendar.
Daily entries will keep you abreast of when barred owls are courting, persimmons are ripening and lady's slipper orchids are blooming. Hundreds of other "natural events" that mark the passing of the seasons. also are listed.
Calendars cost $3, plus 19 cents tax and $2 postage for single-copy mail orders.
To order, write to Natural Events Calendar, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.
Here are some ideas for turning old Christmas trees into fish and wildlife assets.
The sun was still climbing toward the eastern horizon on Oct. 11 when five hunters rolled out of sleeping bags at Charles W. Green Conservation Area, tugged on warm clothes and donned hunter-orange vests and caps. After last-minute checks of firearms, they joined their guides outside the bunkhouse.
The date was a month before Missouri's regular deer season opener, but that wasn't the only thing different about this hunt; all the participants were women, all graduates of Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops.
Jane Doss of Monett was first to tag a deer. A yearling doe offered her a perfect broadside shot, but not an easy one. "I practically had to lean all the way out of the blind to shoot," she recalled.
Doss, 45, bought an air rifle with saved-up allowance money when she was 12. She learned to hunt squirrels, rabbits and frogs, but until this year she never had a chance to hunt white-tailed deer.
Pat Smith of Owensville had always let her husband plan her hunts and clean her rifle. But when she returned home this time and he offered to clean her rifle, she told him she would do it herself. She wanted to experience every detail about the hunt, from planning it to cleaning her equipment afterwards.
The Conservation Department plans to offer more outdoor opportunities for women. Next year's Beyond Becoming an Outdoor-Woman hunts will include deer, turkey, waterfowl, squirrel, rabbit and quail. Those who study birdwatching, fishing, canoeing and camping in Becoming an Outdoors-Woman classes also will get a chance to practice these skills in organized activities.
To learn more about the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, contact Mariah Hughes, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Phone (573) 751-4115, ext.189.
Conservation Department Director Jerry Conley and co-host Arleasha Mays will tackle a number of interesting and controversial topics this month on their weekly radio call-in show, "Conservation On Call."
The show airs live from 6 p.m to 7 p.m. each Monday on participating radio stations statewide. Missourians are encouraged to call in questions for Conley, regardless of whether they receive the radio program locally. The number to call is (800) 973-3779. Radio stations interested in airing "Conservation On Call" can contact Arleasha Mays at (573) 751-4115, ext. 855.
Carter County Conservation Agent Tom May went to Scottsdale, Ariz., on business in September. Members of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies asked May to attend their annual conference so they could meet the person who put an end to one of the most outrageous poaching sprees on record.
May lifted the lid on an operation that poached hundreds of game animals, including a bighorn sheep in Glacier National Park and a 12-point elk in Yellowstone National Park.
May's investigation, which eventually involved state and federal law enforcement officials from several states, led to fines totaling $20,000 and court-ordered restitution of $11,000. The two violators lost their hunting privileges, and one got a six-month, all-expense-paid vacation to a federal correctional facility.
Missouri citizens overwhelmingly believe that environmental and economic agendas need not clash in state forests.
A survey conducted for the Conservation Department in 1996 showed that more than 70 percent of Missourians believe economic development and environmental protection can go hand in hand. When forced to choose between the two, 67 percent said they would support environmental protection.
The study asked respondents where they get their information about environmental issues and which sources of information they trust most. Newspapers and television stations were the most frequently cited sources of information, with the Conservation Department third. The Conservation Department, however, was named as a "very reliable source of information" by nearly 70 percent-more than named newspapers, television or any other government agency or news medium.
Interested in a career writing about the outdoors? You might qualify for a scholarship from the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
OWAA offers scholarships of up to $500 to high school students who win its annual youth writing contest. Poetry, fiction and non-fiction entries all are eligible.
Writing excellence is the sole criterion for judging. Entries must have been published during 1997. Publication in school newspapers, organizational newsletters or commercial periodicals meets this requirement. Entries must be related to hiking, camping, fishing, nature, hunting, canoeing, ecology, the environment or some other outdoor subject.
Entrants must submit three tear sheets or three clear photocopies of each entry. The tear sheets must include the publication name and date. The deadline for receiving entries is Jan. 31. Send entries to OWAA Headquarters, 2017 Cato Ave., Suite 101, State College, PA 16801. For more information, call (800) 692-2477.
The average deer bagged in Missouri yields 60 to 70 pounds of venison. Assuming this year's harvest is close to last year's-about 200,000-Missouri hunters will have 12 to 14 million pounds of meat to eat and share with friends and family.
On average, a cord of high-quality firewood contains the heat equivalent of 25 million Btu (British thermal units).
A cord of cured hickory has the heating value of a ton of coal or 200 gallons of fuel oil. Unlike coal and oil, however, wood is a renewable resource.
A cord of hickory contains about twice as much energy as soft woods, such as cottonwood and basswood.
Preferred species, in descending order of energy content, are hickory, locust, oak, hard maple and ash. Woods with lower energy content include basswood, cottonwood, cedar, pine, silver maple, elm and sycamore.
How much of that energy can you really use? That depends on where you burn it. If you have an open fireplace, nearly all the heat goes up the chimney. Such fires look nice, but they can actually cost you heat by drawing cold air into the house as heat goes up the chimney. The colder the day, the less sense it makes to light a fire in an open fireplace.
Fireplaces with glass doors do a better job, and a good fireplace insert increases efficiency even more. To get the most from your firewood, though, you need a high-efficiency wood stove.
Freshly cut firewood doesn't burn efficiently, because it contains too much water. For best results, firewood should be cured for at least six months. The bark of cured firewood will be loose enough to pull off.
Even with well-cured firewood, your chimney may accumulate flammable residues from incompletely burned wood smoke. This can lead to fires. Avoid this hazard by having your flue professionally inspected each year.
Last month we reported the discovery of a flower never before found in Missouri. As if to prove that wasn't a fluke, Conservation Department botanists recently discovered a flower that represents not only a new species to the state, but a new genus.
The flower, monkshood, is blue, with a hood on top. It is native to Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and southern Indiana.
The remote site in Shannon County where the flower was found is not near any known abandoned homestead, where it might have been planted artificially.
Conservation Department Botanist Tim Smith said the discovery is important because, "It reminds us that there is botanical work still to be done in Missouri. It also is important to know what plants grow in the state so that we can prevent them from becoming threatened or endangered. It's part of our flora, and we are charged with protecting the diversity of the flora of the state."
Botanists plan to check similar habitats nearby where the flower also might be found.
Every week, Missouri citizens wade into the job of keeping their state's streams healthy. They take and analyze water samples, monitor the number and variety of aquatic creatures and haul thousands of pounds of junk out of streams.
In September, the Department of Natural Resources gave outstanding protectors a pat on the back for their work.
Missouri's Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring program is a joint effort of the Department of Natural Resources, the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Conservation Department. Participants complete classroom and field training where they learn to gather data on stream quality directly through water testing and indirectly through observations of aquatic life. To date, more than 1,300 Missourians have completed the training.
For more information about the Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring program, call (800) 781-1989.
Gray squirrels shed and replace their fur twice a year. The spring "molt" starts at the squirrel's head and progresses to the tip of the tail. The fall molt begins at the tip of the tail and moves forward until the head is fully furred for winter. A squirrel can look pretty scruffy while molting, leading to the mistaken assumption that the animal has "mange" or some other disease. In most cases, though, this scruffiness is just part of the semiannual molting cycle.
The Conservation Department and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are cooperating to provide one-stop shopping for a wide range of conservation-related services.
The two agencies plan to trade some staff to help implement conservation-related Federal Farm Bill programs. The cooperative effort is called the Open Lands Initiative.
The program will be piloted in northeastern Missouri. Landowners can learn more at Natural Resources Conservation Service offices in Moberly, Shelbyville or Edina.
Regardless of landowners' goals, and regardless of which programs are needed to reach those goals, all the necessary assistance will be available through one office.
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