The Conservation Commission has opened the doors to large-scale wetland management in Bates and Vernon counties.
At its November meeting, the Commission voted to buy 7,234 acres of agricultural land between the two existing tracts of Four Rivers Conservation Area. The purchase will enlarge the area to nearly 14,000 acres.
Enrolling the land in the federal Wetland Reserve Program could garner as much as $4 million toward the cost of the land. The Conservation Department plans to request $2 million in North American Wetland Conservation Act funds for the project, and Ducks Unlimited has expressed interest in raising money to help defray the cost.
The new land has extensive frontage on the Marmaton River, one of Missouri's most pristine prairie rivers. It has excellent potential to recreate bottomland hardwood forest, which is scarce in Missouri.
The area will provide habitat for migratory birds and furbearers and will serve as a nursery area for fish. It also will give flood waters room to spread out, reducing the severity of future flooding downstream.
The bar just moved up a few inches for anglers hoping to catch a state record brown trout.
Rob Caudel of Springfield landed a 26-pound, 13-ounce trout Nov. 10 at Bull Shoals Lake. He was using 6-pound test line and a plastic tube jig. He caught the fish at 2 a.m.
Caudel's catch bested the old record by 1 pound, 14 ounces. The new record fish had a girth of 24 inches and measured 37 inches from snout to tail.
Wet, windy weather held down the 1997 fall turkey kill. The good news is that fall turkey hunting was safer than usual this year.
Hunters bagged 11,792 turkeys during the fall firearms hunting season Oct. 13-26. The 1996 fall turkey harvest was 13,144.
"Permit sales were down slightly," said turkey biologist Larry Vangilder. "The weather kept hunters indoors."
He said a reduction in turkey harvest doesn't necessarily indicate a population decrease. "There were plenty of birds out there," he said.
The Conservation Department recorded five turkey hunting accidents this year, compared to none last year. Over the preceding 10 years, however, Missouri averaged 8.1 fall turkey hunting accidents annually.
Counties posting the largest fall turkey kills were DeKalb (510), Macon (458) and Adair (404). Regional totals were: Northeast, 2,807; Northwest, 2,739; West-central, 1,748; Central, 1,330; East-central, 984; Southwest, 692; Ozarks, 616; Southeast, 477; and St. Louis, 146.
Missourians increasingly are interested in how demands for saw timber and wood fiber affect the health of their forests. Since 84 percent of the state's timbered acreage is privately owned, the future of the state's forests depends mainly on management decisions made by citizens.
Now, landowners, loggers and foresters can learn how to manage their forests sustainably by taking classes offered by the Missouri Forest Products Association. The five-part Professional Timber Harvester Program covers safety, forest ecology, long-term profitability and such practical matters as how to maintain a chain saw and how to minimize the impact of logging road construction.
Instructors for the course are Soren Eriksson, an internationally known logging expert, and Skip Stokes, a Missouri consulting forester.
The Missouri Forest Products Association is conducting the course with help from the Conservation Department. Their goal is to train 60 Missourians this year.
Participants get a chance to test their skills in a competition. First prize is $1,000 cash and a Husqvarna chain saw.
Classes begin in March. A similar course is offered for foresters. For more information, contact the Missouri Forest Products Association, 611 E. Capitol Ave., Suite 1, Jefferson City, 65101, (573) 634-3252.
State Forest Nursery Program Manager Bill Yoder has helped change Missouri's forests. Now, ironically, his work at George O. White State Forest Nursery is changing as a result.
Missouri gained 1.1 million acres of forest between 1972 and 1989, but the state's forest acreage is being divided into more small parcels.
"Individually, you might not notice the changes," says Yoder, "but in combination, they make a big difference in the number and kinds of trees people want."
Seedling orders at the state nursery have declined in recent years. Landowners ordered 12 million seedlings in 1966, but only 3.3 million last year. The decrease occurred partly because reforestation is nearly complete in Missouri.
To make sure the state forest nursery near Licking continues to meet Missouri's needs, Yoder plans to survey nursery customers to find out how current services could be improved. He also plans to visit customers to learn how state-grown seedlings fare after delivery.
"Our main mission is ensuring an adequate supply of seedlings for reforestation and wildlife habitat," says Yoder. "We are always looking for better ways to do that."
Twenty-five young Missourians will get to learn about the bobwhite quail at the MO Quail Academy June 14-19.
The academy is an intensive five-day course that focuses on quail biology and habitat management.
The Academy is open to students who will be sophomores or juniors in the 1998-99 school year, and who have grade point averages of 2.5 or above. Applications can be obtained from local Quail Unlimited chapters, regional Conservation Department education consultants, Extension 4-H youth specialists and high-school counselors, agriculture teachers or biology teachers.
Applications must be returned by Feb. 13. For more information, call Quail Unlimited at (660) 885-7057, or Conservation Department Agriculture Education Coordinator Jan Dellamano at (573) 751-4115, ext. 285.
Major newspapers are finding ways to deliver information to their customers 24 hours a day. That's a bonus for Missouri outdoorspeople.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star both have automated telephone systems that include information on the outdoors.
The Post-Dispatch's "Postline" service can be reached at (314) 923-2323. Entering the appropriate four-digit code on a touch-tone phone will get you information about fishing (2307), fish stocking (2306), shooting ranges (2309), hunter education classes (2327), hunting seasons and limits (2328) and outdoor events (7111).
Other information available through Postline is listed on page 2 of the St. Louis Region section daily.
The Kansas City Star offers a similar service, called StarTouch. Dialing (816) 889-7827 gives you access to fishing and hunting reports, as well as general information from the Department of Conservation. Again, the information is obtained with four-digit codes.
The code for hunting information is 4868-"HUNT" on the telephone key pad. Similarly, 3474 (FISH) gets you fishing information, and 2667 (CONS) gets you the Conservation Department's information line.
A treasure trove of outdoors-related information can be found on the Conservation Department's Internet web site.
Among the many services available through the Department's web site is easy access to information contained in Missouri's Conservation Atlas, a comprehensive guide to more than 900 Department-owned areas. For example, if you are interested in areas that have otters and handicapped accessible shooting and fishing facilities, you can identify all the areas that have these features with just a few keystrokes.
See the accompanying graphic for other information available on the Conservation web site at <http://www.mdc.mo.gov/help/>.
Public and private programs offer Missourians incentives to plant and care for trees.
The Branch Out Missouri program provides financial support for community tree planting programs. The "Communitree" Awards recognize governments, organizations or individuals who contribute to the care of trees in their communities. More information on these programs is available from the State Forester, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.
Union Electric of St. Louis is offering $100,000 in Greenleaf grants for civic landscaping projects. Information on this program is available from Cody Thomas, (314) 544-4161.
The 1998 fishing prospects report is available now from the Conservation Department. It has detailed information on prospects for fishing success at dozens of streams and lakes.
The report includes up-to-date information on the size and species of fish you can expect to find at each area, plus tips on fishing gear and methods. It's also a great source of information on fishing regulations.
Copies are available from regional conservation service centers. To receive a copy by mail, write to Missouri Department of Conservation, Fishing Prospects, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.
The Conservation Department keeps records on champion trees of 129 species. The impressive proportions of these giants are difficult to see during much of the year. It's easier to find potential champs when their leaves are on the ground.
The champion of each tree species is based on the total of trunk circumference, branch spread and height.
For a list of state-champion trees and their locations, or for more information about the State-Champion Tree Program, write to Bruce Palmer, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.
Some animals survive the winter by hibernating; others have different cold weather adaptations.
Bats lower their body temperatures and pulse rates to conserve energy through the winter, when their insect foods are unavailable. Because they spend about half of each year in this state of suspended animation, bats live about twice as long as most mammals their size.
Other mammals, including skunks, raccoons and opossums, may sleep for several days at a time during severe weather, but they never enter the deep dormancy of true hibernators.
A few small warm-blooded creatures, such as moles, are able to remain fully active year-round because their habitat provides a measure of protection from the elements.
Armadillos, whose evolutionary history began in Central America, have not yet developed the ability to hibernate. They must remain active and find food every day or two or freeze to death. That's why they are seen in southern Missouri, but not in the northern half of the state
Missouri's major lakes total approximately 250,000 acres, with 4,500 miles of shoreline. Small impoundments (mostly private lakes 5 acres or less) add another 255,000 acres. Wetlands in Missouri total about 100,000 acres, approximately 2 percent of the state's original wetlands.
Not everyone would be flattered to be called a "weird talent." But then, Ralph Duren isn't just anyone. He has embraced the title, turned it into a job description and parlayed it into national fame.
Duren, a public relations specialist for the Conservation Department, is a world-champion turkey gobbler and quail caller. On Thanksgiving Day, he made his first national television appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Duren is no newcomer to fame. He has won honors in several national competitions and been a guest on national network radio.
Although highly entertaining, his ability to mimic almost any wildlife is-well-unique. When discovered a couple of years ago by David Letterman, Duren got a call from the late-night talk-show host's "weird talent coordinator."
Weird or not, Duren's talent is useful. He uses his uncanny ability to captivate audiences and then drives home a conservation message.
Although they are common in Missouri, flying squirrels are seldom seen. That's because these tiny creatures with enormous eyes are active almost entirely at night. Most people's first encounter with flying squirrels takes place when they turn on outside lights to investigate unusual sounds at bird feeders.
This time of year, several flying squirrels may share a hollow tree or other den site to make the most of their combined body heat. Such energy-wise behavior helps them survive in severe weather.
Missouri hunters checked 186,452 deer during firearms season Nov. 15 25, an increase of 6,057 from last year.
This year's 13 reported deer hunting accidents represents an increase from last year, when 11 hunters were injured. None of the deer hunting accidents this year or last year was fatal.
Top harvest counties were: Macon, 4,361; Boone, 4,000; and Callaway, 3,403. Regional totals were: Northeast, 40,760; Northwest, 37,934; West central, 25,116; Central, 23,847; East-central, 15,158; Ozark, 13,788; Southwest, 12,673; Southeast, 9,841; Kansas City, 4,727; and St. Louis, 2,608.
The full 1997-98 deer harvest won't be known until figures come in from archery season (Oct. 1-Jan. 15), muzzleloader season (Dec. 6-14) and from the late firearms deer season (Jan. 3-4). These totals are expected to push the annual harvest near 220,000.
Missouri's largest November firearms deer harvest was in 1995. Hunters checked 186,697 deer that year, which was the first with an 11-day firearms deer season.
Missourians who like to savor a cup of fine coffee while drinking in the natural splendor of birds can combine the two pleasures in a way that enhances both.
Local Audubon societies are participating in a partnership that connects nature-loving coffee drinkers with environment-friendly coffee growers in Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. These growers cultivate their crop beneath the canopies of tropical rain forests.
Shade-grown coffee requires no pesticides and does not contribute to rain forest clearing, soil erosion and loss of wildlife habitat that occurs at plantations where coffee is grown in full sun. In many areas, shade-grown coffee plantations provide the only winter habitat available to hummingbirds, warblers and other birds that spend the summer in Missouri. Shade-growing also produces gourmet-quality coffee.
If you want to enjoy a cup of organically grown java and preserve the rain forest habitat that sustains Midwestern songbirds, contact your nearest Audubon chapter, or call 639/239-8383.
Several years ago, the United States Navy commissioned a study of how long the average person could be expected to survive if immersed neck deep in water of various temperatures.
They found that swimmers would last 30 to 90 minutes in water 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Even when the water temperature was 40 to 50 degrees, survival time was only one to three hours, with unconsciousness occurring after 30 to 60 minutes.
Duck hunters and anglers are the outdoor recreationists most obviously at risk of hypothermia, but you don't have to be immersed in water to succumb to this insidious killer. Soaking by rain or even perspiration can leave outdoorspeople vulnerable to death by "exposure." Add a brisk breeze and you are in real trouble, if you can't find shelter or dry clothing. Hunters have died of hypothermia in temperatures as mild as 50 degrees.
Here's how to protect yourself against the "big chill."
The first symptom of hypothermia is uncontrollable shivering. Quick action is important.
Slurred speech, loss of coordination and drowsiness are signs of advanced hypothermia. Immediate medical help is critical. Remember the universal distress signal: three of anything-whistles, shots, shouts or flashes of light.
Don't miss Missouri's two Eagle Days events in January. The celebration at Lake Ozark is Jan. 3 and 4 at Osage Elementary School. The final event is Jan. 24 and 25 at the Apple Shed Theater in Clarksville. Both events run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily.
Signs will be posted to direct you to program areas. For more information or maps to the areas, write to Eagle Days, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.
Those who attend the Clarksville event will have a chance to visit the World Bird Sanctuary's new visitor center on the east side of Highway 79 at the north end of town. In addition to Eagle Days programs, the visitor center will offer demonstrations of birds of prey in flight on Jan. 17 and 18.
Visitor center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. For program schedules, call (573) 242-3132.
Editor - Tom Cwynar
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