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Apr. 1998 - Vol. 59, No. 4

Lost Valley Fish Hatchery rapidly becoming a reality. The largest fish hatchery ever built in Missouri is well under way in Benton County, near Truman Lake. By the year 2000 it will be turning out close to 15 million fish per year.

Construction of Lost Valley Fish Hatchery began a year ago this month and now is about 40 percent complete. The earth work is done, pond drain-and fill structures are in place and the maintenance building is up.

When finished, the 970-acre hatchery facility will include an 18,000-square foot fish production room, 78 fish-production ponds, seven water-supply wells and 15 miles of piping capable of delivering 3,500 gallons of water per minute.

State-of-the-art technology will include electronic monitoring of water temperature and pH and oxygen levels. A special solar collecting pond will produce inexpensive warm water for controlling temperatures in the plastic lined rearing ponds and the hatchery building.

When fully operational, the new hatchery will have a full-time staff of 16. Visitors to Lost Valley will be able to view Missouri native fish in a 13,000 gallon aquarium in the reception area.

Lost Valley will produce both cool-water and warm-water fish, including largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, hybrid striped bass, catfish, paddlefish and bluegill and hybrid sunfish. It may also be used to rear endangered species, such as Niangua darters, Topeka shiners and Ozark cavefish.

The enormous capacity of the Lost Valley Hatchery will allow the Conservation Department to close Lewis and Clark Hatchery near St. Joseph and Indian Trail Hatchery near Salem. Both these facilities were built in the 1930s. They have served Missouri well, but the new hatchery will do the same work more economically.

You can see the growing facility on the east side of Highway 65 a short distance northeast of Warsaw.

Lost Valley isn't just the largest hatchery project ever undertaken in Missouri; it's the largest project ever funded under the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program. The program, set up by an act of congress in 1950, places a small excise tax on fishing equipment, boats and boat fuel.

Federal sport fish restoration funds are earmarked for fisheries work and are allocated to state fisheries projects through matching grants. Federal funds pay 75 percent of project cost. More than 94 percent of the federal money ends up being spent on state fisheries programs.

Bassing buddies boost charities

Fishing tournaments at Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake will benefit two St. Louis area charities.

The Eighth Annual Fish for Sight amateur buddy bass tournament will take place May 2 at Truman Lake. The event is sponsored by the Concord Village Lions Club.

The first-place prize is a fully rigged Nitro bass boat. Second place nets $2,000 cash, and third place will bring $1,500 cash. Information is available by calling (314) 487-5732.

Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital will benefit from the St. Louis Area Bassmasters Association's annual charity buddy bass tournament June 7 at Lake of the Ozarks. The first-place prize in this event is $2,000 cash. The Bassmasters also will give away a fully rigged Champion bass boat. Details are available by calling (314) 645-5445 or 677-4626.

Kids green up Missouri with free trees

Missouri will be a greener place after April 3 as more than 100,000 of the state's school children take home tree seedlings, compliments of the Conservation Department.

Giving trees to fourth-graders on National Arbor Day is a 19-year tradition in Missouri. This year the Conservation Department will provide about 120,000 seedlings to kids in public and private schools, along with leaflets (no pun intended) about how to care for them. Teachers will get guidelines for incorporating tree planting into lesson plans.

Youngsters in the St. Louis area will receive swamp white oak tree seedlings this year. Those in the Kansas City area will get persimmon seedlings. Fourth-graders throughout the rest of Missouri will receive white pine seedlings this year.

Arbor Day Foundation honors Forestkeepers Network

On April 25, the Conservation Department will receive the National Arbor Day Foundation Education Award at ceremonies in Nebraska City, Neb. The Foundation selected the Forestkeepers Network program for outstanding achievements in fostering responsible forest stewardship.

Forestkeepers volunteers receive kits that enable them to monitor the health of forests in their areas using simple techniques. Reports of their findings, create a database that reveals statewide trends in forest health.

Volunteers also receive periodic updates and alerts about forest health and management issues.

More than 820 individuals, families and groups currently participate in the program. For more information, call toll-free (888) 936-7378.

Purple martins prefer gourd houses

Have you ever wondered whether purple martins do best in houses made of wood, metal or gourds? The folks at the Purple Martin Conservation Association have. They even went to the trouble of learning the answer.

Their study of 10,052 eggs in 2,203 nests showed that martins nesting in gourds and wooden houses fledge about 60 percent more young than those in metal houses. They also discovered that martins fledge about twice as many young when using boxes actively maintained by humans than they do if their quarters are simply put out and left unattended.

That's the kind of information that association members find in the group's newsletter, Purple Martin Updates. The international not-for-profit association functions as a centralized data-gathering and information source on purple martins, which have been associated with humans so long that they no longer reproduce in any natural setting.

For more information, contact Purple Martin Conservation Association, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, PA 16444. Phone 814/734 4420 or visit their website.

Courtois River nature float rescheduled

A nature float on the Courtois River originally planned for last fall has been rescheduled for May 9. This pilot program will be guided by Joe Bachant of the Conservation Department's Streams Unit.

The trip is designed for people who want to learn about one of Missouri's loveliest streams and how to encourage private-sector nature tourism. If you would like to join the Courtois trip or learn more about other nature tours, contact Shannon Cave, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180. Phone (573) 751-4115, ext. 250.

Pheasant stocking program ends

Winding up a 10-year effort in which thousands of wild birds have been released, the Conservation Department reports only limited success in establishing pheasant populations beyond their previous range.

Missouri has tried to establish pheasant populations throughout the state since the late 1880s. Virtually everything has been tried, from running a hatchery to releasing wild-trapped pheasants. These efforts have not appreciably changed ringneck distribution. There seems to be a boundary in north Missouri beyond which pheasants don't want to live.

"We don't completely understand why they won't live south of that line," says Wildlife Research Biologist John Schulz, "but we have a long enough track record of trying to extend their range into central and southern Missouri to know that it's not going to happen."

These findings suggest that the best strategy for managing the game birds is to assure that their numbers remain stable within their existing range.

Hunting opportunities have expanded slightly in recent years, as seen in the addition of several counties to the Northern Missouri Pheasant Hunting Zone.

Commercial fishing ban helps catfish anglers

Anglers and fisheries biologists agree that a ban on commercial catfishing has translated into better recreational fishing.

The Conservation Department imposed the ban in 1992 out of concern that commercial anglers were catching too many big catfish. Since then, the size and number of catfish caught by recreational anglers have increased. The harvest of flathead catfish has more than doubled at some sites since the ban was put in place

Eighty-seven percent of anglers surveyed said they knew about the commercial fishing ban, and 92 percent supported it. Seventy-seven percent said the fishing had improved.

Diseases take toll on birds at feeders

Two diseases are taking a toll on Missouri songbirds. Many dead and sick birds are being found at bird feeders due to salmonellosis and Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG).

Salmonellosis affects birds that have eaten

contaminated foods. To prevent salmonellosis in birds, clean feeders frequently with bleach and don't let seed residue and droppings accumulate around feeders.

Salmonellosis can cause food poisoning in humans. To avoid this, wash your hands after handling bird feeders and take care not to contaminate foods or utensils with material from feeders.

Many house finches and goldfinches also are being stricken with a disease caused by MG, which causes red, swollen, runny or crusted eyes. Although not fatal itself, MG can impair finches' vision enough to make it difficult for them to find food and escape predators.

Although MG is common in domestic poultry, biologists with the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study say MG does not pose a threat to humans or domestic poultry.

To reduce the potential for spreading the disease among wild birds at feeders, avoid using tube feeders and clean feeders frequently with bleach. Tube feeders can be a problem because birds must put their heads into them. When they do, their eyes can touch feeder surfaces where they may deposit or pick up disease organisms.

One-stop shopping for conservation services

Missourians now can get answers to questions about any aspect of conservation at any of 10 Conservation Service Centers around the state.

Each office is staffed by experts in forestry, fisheries, wildlife, law enforcement and natural history. And because Conservation Department offices are linked by E-mail, the staff at regional service centers can immediately contact other offices statewide and pass on requests to the offices nearest the person who needs help. The result is one-stop shopping for conservation services.

Locations and phone numbers for regional conservation service centers are:

  • Northwest, (816) 271-3100
  • Northeast, (660) 785-2420
  • East-Central, (573) 468-3335
  • Southeast, (573) 290-5730
  • Ozark, (417) 256-7161
  • Southwest, (417) 895-6880
  • West-Central, (660) 885-6981
  • Central, (573) 884-6861
  • St. Louis, (314) 441-4554
  • Kansas City, (816) 356-2280

Wildlife adoptions do more harm than good

Taking in young animals isn't good for them. It can be dangerous for humans, too.

Trying to help "orphaned" birds is a mistake. When fledglings grow too large for the nest, they hide in weeds and brush, where their parents continue to feed them. Taking young birds inside and feeding them bread crumbs makes as much sense as putting human infants in trees and feeding them worms.

People who adopt "deserted" fawns or other mammals usually are fooling themselves, too. Deer stay away from their offspring except when nursing to avoid betraying fawns' locations to predators.

It is very difficult to duplicate the natural diets of wild babies. Even if you do, the animals miss their chance to learn from parents how to live in the wild.

If wild young are put back where they were found, parental care will resume. "Human smell" won't cause parental rejection.

There are no approved vaccines to protect wild animals against rabies and other diseases, many of which can strike humans. Parasites can be a problem, since humans have no resistance to them. And wild animals remain wild, regardless of how they are treated. They grow unpredictably aggressive as they mature.

Wildlife = big business

Wildlife is an $84 billion industry in the United States. A 1996 survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that 63 million Americans enjoy watching wildlife. Anglers numbered 35 million, and hunters 14 million.

Anglers spend the most, plunking down a total of $38 billion for fishing annually. Wildlife watchers spent $29 billion annually, and hunters $21 billion.

Hunters were the biggest spenders on a per capita basis, paying approximately $1,500 each annually to pursue their activities. Per capita spending by anglers was approximately $1,085 annually, while wildlife watchers spent an average of $460 per year on their activities.

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: Why does the Conservation Department restrict the use of boats on MDC lakes?

A: Big motors can damage shorelines and disrupt fishing. Regulations are crafted to prevent this. General rules for department-owned lakes are:

  • Boats are allowed on lakes only for fishing and wildlife-related activities;
  • Only electric motors are allowed on lakes smaller than 70 acres;
  • On lakes 70 acres and larger, outboard motors are allowed, but motors over 10 horsepower must be operated at slow, no-wake speed. Always check local area regulations, which may differ from statewide regulations.

Q: When are newly purchased conservation areas opened for public use?

A: The answer varies. The time between the purchase of a new conservation area and its opening can be several years. The Conservation Commission approves each land purchase, but closing a deal may take several months. Once the Conservation Department takes title, hazards like abandoned cisterns, dumps or unstable structures must be identified and made safe. New roads or parking lots may have to be built. Boundaries must be marked or fenced, and regulations have to be set. To use an area where boundaries have not been marked, contact the nearest Conservation Department office for information.

The Ombudsman's Office is interested in your ideas. If you have a question, suggestion or complaint about Conservation Department programs, contact Conservation Ombudsman Shannon Cave, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180. Phone (573) 751-4115, ext. 250. E-mail Shannon.Cave@mdc.mo.gov

Earth Angels Win National Awards

Two national awards will be presented back-to-back this month to a group of St. Louis inner-city children dedicated to helping the environment. First, two Earth Angels will travel to Nebraska to collect their National Arbor Day Foundation Award. Then on Earth Day, April 22, two more Earth Angels will go to Washington, D.C., to accept the Renew America Award for Environmental Sustainability.

 Earth Angels, a program of the Guardian Angel Settlement House in St. Louis, is funded by the Conservation Department. About 150 kids ages 9 to 12 participate in four neighborhood programs. They build habitats for urban wildlife, adopt lakes at Forest Park and Busch Conservation Area, conduct "trash bashes" and "glass passes" to collect garbage and recyclables, learn about native Missouri wildlife and are environmental advocates for their neighborhoods.

Their leader, Neil Andre, says the program builds the kids' confidence. "They know they are giving something to the community and to the earth through their activities," he says.

The National Arbor Day Foundation Award was given to recognize the Earth Angels' urban tree planting. Each year, the Earth Angels add trees to the "Forest of Life," a small portion of Forest Park south of Interstate 40, where a tree is planted for each child killed in violence during the year. This year a butterfly garden will also be planted to celebrate the decline in deaths from 29 in 1996 to 10 in 1997.

The Renew America Award recognizes the Earth Angels' environmental activities.

The Earth Angels sell "stock shares" in their organizations. Stockholders, who become life members of the Earth Angels, vote on projects that will be funded by their "shares." Recent projects have included sending inner-city children to summer camp and adopting endangered species. An exhibit created by the Earth Angels, called "Give Birth to a Better Earth," is on display at Powder Valley Nature Center.

Pattern your turkey gun for a clean kill

1. Place a turkey patterning target with the center 30 inches above ground.

2. Measure 40 yards from the target and take a sitting shooting position.

3. Load your shotgun with the shells you plan to use for hunting (shot no larger than No. 4) and fire one shot at the center of the target.

4. Check the target to see if the shot pattern is centered where you aimed.

5. Check the density of the pattern. There should be at least six pellet holes in an area the size of a turkey's head and neck.

6. Repeat with other loads if your chosen load did not produce satisfactory results.

7. If no load meets the six-pellet test, change guns or chokes.

10 Commandments for turkey hunting safety

1. Always identify your target positively before slipping off the safety.

2. Choose calling sites that offer an open field of view ahead and to your sides.

3. Shout to identify yourself to other hunters. Never wave.

4. Remember the safe firearms handling rules and keep them always.

5. Sit with your back against a tree while calling, so your blind side will be covered.

6. Wear hunter-orange when moving through the woods.

7. Avoid clothing that has any red, white, blue or black.

8. Don't hunt in areas that other hunters may be using.

9. Don't try to stalk a turkey, for it might turn out to be another hunter.

10. Never let excitement or peer pressure cloud your judgement.

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