Reflections

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Tunneling's dark side

At the end of the "Snow Days" article it suggested that kids "tunnel through a plow bank of snow." For one, I tried that and it's not that easy; for two, it's not that safe. The snow can collapse on the person tunneling into the plow bank. It happens.

Garrett Williams, Webb City

Fossil sighting

I want to compliment you on your article, "Missouri's Massive Mammals." I would like to suggest another site where kids can go to learn more about fossils and early people in our state.

The Geological Survey Program has several displays at the Division of Geology and Land Survey located in Rolla. In addition to mineral displays, GSP has exhibits of the mastodon, mammoth, ice-age buffalo and musk ox, dinosaur, saber-toothed tiger and others. Young visitors get free samples of our state rock, mineral and fossil.

Ira R. Satterfield, Director, Geological Survey Program

Trashing bags

Those plastic shopping bags are a good thing, but when people are finished with them they belong in a dumpster or should be recycled, not tossed out of an automobile or thrown on the ground. The wind picks them up and they end up in a tree or fence. I live on a farm and it is necessary for me to clean my fence rows at least twice a month.

Marie Shelley, Exeter

Drum solo

In "First Prize Field Trip" in your December issue, it states that a drum is the only freshwater fish in North America that can make a sound. I have caught enough channel catfish in the last 30 years to know they make a similar sound. Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Harold Adams, Harrisonville

Editor's note: Any fish might emit a grunting sound when air is squeezed from its swim bladder by an angler, but the drum voluntarily makes noise while in the water. A drum produces sound-described as booming or drumming-by using two elongated muscles to move a tendon over its swim bladder. Only sexually active males make the sound, which is most likely to be heard in the evening. The drum's ivory-hard otoliths, sometimes valued as "lucky stones," are thought to have adapted for receiving these and other sounds.

Droning

I enjoyed the article on honeybees, but I was surprised to read that drone bees tended the eggs. I was under the impression that drones were only sex objects, and that the worker bees routinely kill off the drones whenever the nectar flow reduces or at the end of the season.

Robert Hiltenburg, Centralia

Editor's note: We're ashen over our error. Worker bees tend the eggs and larvae, not drones. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects says "drones die after mating; unmated drones are denied food and die."

Deer diet

I was surprised to read in the article "Downtown Deer" that deer do not like coralberry and hydrangea. I always thought they were among their favorite foods

Ron Goodman, Billings

Virtual trophy

The article on cyberfishing by Mike Kruse was entertaining and informative. I particularly like the Missouri Flyfishing Web Page: <http://www.agron.missouri.edu/flyfishing> This is a real trophy catch.

George M. Bohigian, St. Louis

Piggybacking

After reading your very informative article on geese migration, it occurred to me that you could help me prove that hummingbirds hitch a ride on the backs of geese when they fly to South America before winter. When I told this to my friends they challenged my ability to listen to and comprehend the true facts.

Helen Henry, Waynesville

Editor's note: Sorry, but we can find no evidence to support that persistent bit of folklore. Hummingbirds are fully capable of flying terrific distances on their own. Folklore also says that hummingbirds don't have feet. They do; they just don't use them for walking.

Smiling senior

I thoroughly enjoyed "Breaktime," in your December issue. The picture of the baby rabbits on page 3 is precious; I intend to frame it. Chmielniak always produces a smile. The section for kids is good for us seniors, too.

Doris McCann, St. Louis

Prairie relative

Mark Jackson's article on Bilby Ranch interested me because the original owner of the property, John Bilby, was my grandfather. I am pleased that the old ranch is being restored to prairie and that pheasant and quail are being raised there. Maybe someday I'll get to pop a pheasant on the old ranch.

Joe Bilby, Wall Township, N.J.

AGENT'S NOTEBOOK

One of the benefits of being a Conservation Agent is that while I'm patrolling I get a chance to see lots of wildlife.

While working the other night, for example, I stopped on a bridge and heard something below me in the river. I shined my flashlight in the direction of the sounds and was treated to the sight of a young river otter chasing frogs on the creek bank.

Other days, I have seen badgers searching for food along the roadsides and prairie chickens booming on breeding grounds.

It's clear to me that wildlife in Missouri is prospering, and its success is in large part due to new land management practices that benefit wildlife at the same time that they help our farmers.

Another factor working in favor of wildlife is that people-young and old-have come to recognize its importance and are willing to actively work to protect it.

This new attitude has made it hard on violators. They can't be as open or comfortable about their activities as they once were because they know that others will report them.

Thanks to the help of concerned citizens, we have poachers and violators on the run. We should push our advantage by continuing to be vigilant. If you should witness a violation of our fish or game laws, take careful notes and report the incident as soon as possible to your local conservation agent or sheriff's office, or call Operation Game Thief at (800) 392-1111.

ROBERT R. FARR

HENRY COUNTY

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