An x-ray has solved at least one mystery concerning a mountain lion pelt that was found in Texas County last November.
The pelt, with head and paws attached, turned up beside a gravel road. A preliminary examination showed no evidence of injuries that might have been fatal. One of the eyes was damaged, as if by a scavenger.
Then an x-ray of the animal's head revealed fragments of a .22-caliber bullet inside the skull. Conservation Department Wildlife Research Biologist Dave Hamilton says the bullet appears to have entered the skull through the damaged eye.
Hamilton recalls that a man who admitted killing a mountain lion on Peck Ranch Conservation Area in 1994 said he shot the cat in the eye. The man and a companion claimed to have skinned the animal and later discarded the pelt out of fear of being caught.
Is the cat that was killed in 1994 and the one whose pelt was found in Texas County last year one and the same? Hamilton notes that the pelt showed signs of freezer burn. "How many female mountain lions are shot in the eye with a .22 in Missouri?" he asks.
Missouri's first experiment with trapping and relocation to control suburban deer numbers hasn't gone as smoothly as hoped, but the trial is yielding information that will help other communities decide how to deal with similar problems.
City officials sought and received permission to have deer trapped and removed by a private contractor at city expense. The Conservation Department is monitoring the program.
Between late December and mid-February 51, female deer and 29 male deer were captured with nets and taken from Town and Country to a conservation area south of St. Louis. The city is attempting to remove 122 does each year for the next two or three years to reduce its deer population-currently estimated at approximately 600-by half.
After that, smaller removals will be needed periodically to maintain the herd at a level where the risk of deer-vehicle accidents, browsing on landscape plantings and other deer-related concerns are acceptable to city residents.
The Conservation Department has tracked the movements of relocated deer with radio transmitter collars. By late February, 15 (19 percent) of the relocated deer had died of capture myopathy, a nervous disorder that results from the stress of trapping and relocation. Town and Country undertook the trapping and relocation program because a majority of citizens surveyed did not want deer killed to solve the overpopulation problem.
The cost of deer trapping and removal so far has been more than $350 per deer. The private contractor who conducted the first round of deer trapping has withdrawn from the project. Town and Country has been unable to find another contractor willing to do the work.
One bit of information about turkey tagging procedures in the January issue of Missouri Conservationist was incorrect, and hunters need to be aware of the correct procedure. Spring turkey hunters must notch their permits immediately after killing a turkey then tag the bird with the yellow transportation tag supplied when the permit was purchased. The same notching and tagging procedure will be required for deer and turkey hunters during the fall hunting season.
Missourians who enjoy the outdoors in their back yards or the back woods stand to benefit from legislation recently introduced into both houses of Congress. If passed, the bills could bring as much as $17 million a year to Missouri for state and local parks, conservation, recreation and education projects.
Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-Mexico) and U.S. Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-Kansas City) both signed on as sponsors of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999 (CARA). Both the Senate and House versions propose to dedicate a percentage of existing federal revenues from offshore oil and gas leases to states for wildlife conservation and recreation.
CARA quickly drew the support of the 30,000-member Conservation
Federation of Missouri, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife
Agencies and many other conservation groups. Proponents note that more than 2,000 wildlife species lack the kind of continuing funding that has spelled success for the conservation of wildlife that is pursued by hunters and anglers. They say CARA would make it possible to meet the needs of nongame wildlife species while they are still abundant, avoiding much more difficult and costly efforts needed to salvage endangered species.
In addition to aiding nongame conservation, CARA would make money available to local communities for conservation-related projects, including development of trails, wildlife habitat, parks, green space, nature areas, outdoor classrooms, aquariums and nature-related tourism.
CARA funding would come from existing federal revenues, not new taxes.
New trout fishing regulations that went into effect on part of the Current River last year seem to be paying off.
Since March 1998, anglers have been limited to using flies and artificial lures only on the Current River between Montauk State Park and Cedar Grove. The idea was to allow more trout in this Special Trout Management Area (STMA) to grow large enough to be legally harvested under the 15 inch minimum length limit.
Samples taken late in 1998 showed numbers of brown trout-the dominant trout species in the area-were the highest seen in eight years, 23 percent above the eight-year average. Fisheries workers also found increased numbers of trout 11 inches and larger.
Sampling will continue for five years to track the effectiveness of the new regulation. Fisheries biologists hesitate to declare victory after only one sampling season, but the improved numbers and size of brown trout are encouraging.
Anglers still can use natural bait outside the STMA. On either side of the 9-mile stretch of river, anglers may catch up to five trout of any size daily using flies, artificial lures or bait. The legal definition of flies and artificial lures allows a wide range of popular lures, such as spinners, crankbaits, jigs (other than plastic) and spoons.
The Third Annual Bennett Spring Fly Fishing Conclave will offer participants a chance to learn from renowned experts in casting, fly tying and rod building.
Bennet Spring State Park will host the gathering May 1 and 2. Besides fly fishing exhibits, demonstrations and instruction, the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce has planned a wide range of fun activities for the whole family.
More information is available by calling (417) 588-3256.
Early April is your last chance to really see the forest for the trees. Before leaves obscure the view, take time to look at the trees in your forest or yard and plan appropriately.
This is a good time to look for canker diseases and other damage to tree trunks. If you find problems, consult a forester or arborist for advice about how to treat them. Knowing which trees already have problems makes it easier to decide which ones should be removed as part of a thinning program to promote better growth and nut production.
Now is also a good time to identify and deal with trees that pose hazards. Again, an arborist can provide advice about whether the problem can be fixed with trimming or if the entire tree should come down.
Now is also a good time to renew mulch around seedlings and saplings to reduce moisture loss during dry periods.
Members of the Missouri Forestkeepers Network receive quarterly bulletins that detail current forest health problems and provide hints for tree care. Membership in the Forestkeepers Network is free. Program brochures and applications are available by calling Forestkeepers, toll free, at (888) 9FOREST.
Join the staff of Runge Conservation Nature Center (CNC) in Jefferson City for a turkey calling workshop at 10 a.m. April 10. At 7 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22, you can "Learn from the Land" through stories told by nationally known storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis. To make reservations for these and other April events at Runge CNC, call (573) 526-5544.
Powder Valley CNC in Kirkwood will host a woodland wildflower walk along the Hickory Ridge Trail from 10 a.m. until noon April 6, 13, 20 and 27. This program is for adults only. For reservations, call (314) 301-1500 two weeks before the desired program date.
Powder Valley also will hold a spring birdwatching festival from 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 29. The program will include a video with closeup views of spring warblers, recordings of their calls and information about where to find them. Reservations will be taken beginning April 15 at (314) 301 1500.
At the Springfield CNC, the elusive morel mushroom will be the subject of a program from 7:30 to 9 p.m. April 15. Participants age 7 through adult will learn all they need to know to hunt these delicious natural treats. From 9 a.m. until noon April 17, Earthworks will give visitors of all ages opportunities to give something back to nature through volunteer work. For morel program reservations or to learn more about Earthworks projects, call (417) /888-4237.
Burr Oak Woods CNC in Blue Springs continues its Artist in Residence program this month with porcelain painter Lois Young. Demonstrations of painting wildflower designs on porcelain plates will take place from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. April 3 and from noon until 3 p.m. April 4. Finished plates will be on display and for sale for Mother's Day giving. Reservations are not required for this program, but you can call (816) 228-3766 for information about other April programs.
The Missouri Prairie Foundation has committed $50,000 to restoring native grasslands in the state. The effort is based on concern for the dwindling number of prairie chickens and other grassland birds.
The Prairie Foundation is leading efforts by the Grassland Coalition, a group of more than a dozen private conservation organizations and government agencies. Together they hope to restore native plants and animals on thousands of acres in western and northern Missouri.
The coalition plans to enlist the help of thousands of schoolchildren and hundreds of organizations, such as garden clubs, conservation groups and fraternal organizations, in raising money to educate landowners about the value of prairies and help them with prairie restoration and management.
To learn more about the Grassland Coalition and its efforts, call (573) 751 4115, ext. 309.
Missouri hunters can harvest snow geese through the end of April. But snow geese are footloose, moving from one wetland area to another and eventually north, out of Missouri. To help hunters locate snow goose concentrations, the Conservation Department provides a snow goose report on its web page. To get the latest information about areas where snow geese are, go to <http://www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/wtrfowl/weekly-snow/>.
If you catch a big fish, you may qualify for the Missouri Department of Conservation Master Angler or State Record Fish programs. Those programs honor anglers who catch exceptional fish from Missouri waters.
The State Record Fish program recognizes anglers who catch the largest fish from species included on the State Record Fish list. Fish must be captured by legal methods from Missouri waters, weighed on certified scales and verified by a Conservation Department fisheries biologist. A color photo of the fish must accompany the record application. Each angler who catches a record fish receives an engraved plaque.
The Conservation Department recognizes state-record catches in two categories-"pole line and lure" (PLL) and "alternative methods." The second category includes fish taken by legal snagging, grabbing, gigging or bowfishing.
Anglers who catch lunkers that don't quite measure up to record standards can have their efforts recognized through the Master Angler Program. Anglers who catch fish that meet minimum requirements for eligible species receive certificates acknowledging their exceptional catches.
To learn more about the Missouri State Record Fish or Master Angler programs, contact Fisheries Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.
Gabrielle Meyer of St. Louis won first place in the preschool/kindergarten division of the Eagle Art Contest sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Clarksville office in conjunction with the 20th annual Eagle Days in January. Winners received framed certificates. Other winners included: Preschool/kindergarten-second place, Travis Croust-Hoff of Belleville, Ill. Grades 1-3-first, Jourdan Kruchowski of St. Louis and second, Conor Foran of St. Louis. Grades 4-8-first, Jesse Bolden of St. Peters and second, Jordan Connor of Davenport, Iowa. High School and higher-first, Joseph Styer of Centralia and second, Linda Jerman of St. Louis.
Got a freezer full of snow geese and don't know what to do with them? Check out the "Snow Goose Cookbook," published by the Arctic Goose Joint Venture Conservation Office in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The colorful, 40-page cookbook has recipes for the campfire or a gourmet kitchen.
The book's $7 cost includes shipping and handling. To order, send check or money order to Snow Goose Cookbook, Publications Sales, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, AR 72205. Telephone orders can be placed using Visa, Discover or Mastercard at (800) 364-4263.
A pale, sightless fish that haunts caves in southwestern Missouri has better prospects of survival, thanks to the farsightedness of a Springfield-area businessman.
The Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae), which is on the state endangered species list, has grown scarce over recent decades. Pollution of subterranean water supplies is probably the main cause of the fish's decline. Surface water seeping through porous limestone formations can be sullied by septic tanks or by spills from oil, gas or ammonia pipelines. Runoff from livestock operations also can pollute cave streams.
Most of the cavefish's habitat lies beneath private land. Private landowners have little legal obligation to look out for the safety of endangered species, whether they live on their land or under it. But Russ Campbell, owner of Fantastic Caverns, just north of Springfield, realized early on that having cavefish in his tourist attraction was to his advantage.
Cavefish contribute to the air of mystery that surrounds caves and draw thousands of visitors to Fantastic Caverns each year. Furthermore, the presence of cavefish is evidence that all is well with the underground ecosystem that supports them. Fantastic Caverns also is home to other rare and endangered species, including a cave crayfish and the grotto salamander.
When a developer planned to build 300 homes in Fantastic Caverns' above ground watershed, Campbell worried that sewage from the homes' septic tanks would seep into groundwater, threatening the cave, the creatures that live there and his business. He noted that a cave in another state had to be closed after dangerous methane gas, caused by sewage, built up inside.
Fantastic Caverns is listed on The Nature Conservancy's registry of special wild areas. That listing, combined with information provided by the Conservation Department, helped convince county planning and zoning officials to allow fewer homes in the proposed subdivision, reducing the chance that water percolating into the cave-and the wells of 900 area residents-would be polluted.
"The relationship between business and the environment doesn't have to be adversarial," says Campbell. "At Fantastic Caverns it's a positive thing, and the cavefish is a barometer of the health of the groundwater resource here. The cavefish acts like the canary in the mine. If we lose the fish, we know the aquifer is in trouble."
Dr. Al Vogt has been named Missouri's 45th Master Conservationist. During his years as director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Vogt led many successful efforts to enhance natural resource and conservation education in Missouri.
Assembling a $16 million mix of private, state and federal funds to build a state-of-the-art building for the School of Natural Resources is among Vogt's most recent and most lasting contributions.
The Conservation Commission created the Master Conservationist Award in 1941 to recognize outstanding lifetime contributions to conservation in Missouri.
National Arbor Day is April 2, and Earth Day is April 22. Missouri will celebrate the occasions with events around the state.
St. Louis area residents will observe Arbor Day April 16 with tree planting and the dedication of a new trail at 10 a .m. at the Stupp Center in Tower Grove Park.
South-central Missouri residents will celebrate Earth Day from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. April 24 at the West Plains Civic Center. For more information, call (417) 255-2200, days, or (417) 256-2620, evenings. The event will feature hands-on demonstrations, entertainment and special programs, including an audiovisual program by famed underwater photographer Dr. William Rosten.
In Central Missouri you can attend the Day with Wildlife from noon until 5 p.m. April 11 at American Legion Post No. 202 east of Columbia on Highway WW. The event features 60 exhibitors and includes fishing clinics, skeet shooting, wildlife art and booths staffed by government and private conservation organizations.
Earth and Arbor days will be observed at other local events around the state. To find out about events in your area, call the conservation nature center in Blue Springs, Springfield, Kirkwood or Jefferson City or contact the nearest Conservation Department office.
The Missouri Division of Tourism is putting its money where its motto is, to the mutual benefit of Missouri businesses, anglers and floaters, not to mention fish and wildlife.
The state's new license plate inscription "Where the Rivers Run" seeks to focus attention on the state's biggest natural draw. To help keep the state's hundreds of miles of floatable and fishable streams attractive, Tourism officials have chipped in $15,000 for the "Stash Your Trash" program.
The Conservation Department has operated the program for more than a decade, providing plastic-mesh litter bags to 130 canoe liveries statewide. The businesses equip their rental boats with the bags to enable canoeists to dispose of trash while on the river. Tourism Division funding will help the program distribute twice as many bags as last year.
Editor - Tom Cwynar
Assistant Editor - Charlotte Overby
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer