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Elk roaming Missouri? Study underway

Missourians will have an opportunity to express their opinions about the possibility of reintroducing elk to the Show-Me State as part of a feasibility study to be conducted starting this month.

Conservation officials agreed to look into the possibility of reintroducing elk to Missouri, after being asked to do so by the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the Wild Elk Institute of Missouri and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The eastern elk was extirpated in the 19th century, but western elk have been introduced into several eastern states with some success in recent decades. Before deciding whether such a program is a good idea in Missouri, the Conservation Department will determine how much suitable habitat is available and how Missourians-from farmers to city dwellers-view the idea.

Factors to be considered include availability of suitable habitat on public land with minimal highway density, economic benefits of elk introduction and potential problems, such as conflicts with agriculture.

Besides surveying hunters, landowners and the general public about the issue, the Conservation Department will hold meetings with the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, state and federal legislators and agencies and local governments. The resulting recommendation is expected to be ready to present to the Conservation Commission in June 2001.

Trout parks host kids May 15

Missouri's four trout parks will host Kids Fishing Day May 15, offering everything from hot dogs to fly-tying demonstrations.

  • Bennett Spring State Park, near Lebanon,((417) 532-4418) will have free food, fishing lures and drawings for prizes.
  • Montauk State Park, near Licking, ((573) 548-2585) will have free fishing posters, casting plugs and stickers.
  • Roaring River State Park, near Cassville, ((417) 847-2430) will offer free food and classes on fly tying, fishing and fish cleaning and cooking. Some fishing equipment will be available to borrow, and there will be drawings for prizes.
  • Maramec Spring Park, near St. James, ((573) 265-7801) will have fishing contests, prize drawings and fishing instruction. Special exhibits at the nature center and free food also will be available.

Youths 15 and under can fish free on Kids Fishing Day at the four trout parks, but they must first pick up daily fishing tags at the hatcheries in the state parks or at the store at Maramec Spring Park.

Bass tourneys benefit charities

Compete in the St. Louis Bassmasters Association's annual charity bass tournament June 6 at Lake of the Ozarks, and you could win a fully equipped bass boat. What's more, you'll be assured of helping children who need medical care.

Over the past three years, the event has raised more than $30,000 for the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis. The bass club hopes to match that total with the proceeds from this year's tournament. More information is available by calling Bill Lewis at (314) 645-5445 or Gil Kauffmann at (314) 677-4626.

Anglers who enter the Lost Creek Bass Club's "Take a Kid Fishing Tournament" May 8 at Table Rock Lake will have a chance to win a bass boat and trailer and dozens of other prizes in drawings.

Teams entering the tournament at Table Rock Lake must include a student in grades K through 12 and one person over age 18. Proceeds from this event will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

For more information, call (417) 887-1640, 767-4131 or 546-2808.

Bronzebacks and bushytails are legal May 22

Hunters who are itching to get back into the woods and anglers who relish frying up a mess of smallmouth bass should mark May 22 on their calendars. That's opening day for squirrel season statewide and for keeping black bass on streams in most of southern Missouri.

The daily limit for squirrels is six fox and gray squirrels in the aggregate, and the possession limit is 12. The daily limit on black bass is six smallmouth, largemouth or spotted bass in the aggregate in most waters. However, some lakes and streams have special length or creel limits. For information about the waters you plan to fish, check the 1999 fishing regulations summary, available wherever fishing permits are sold.

Town & Country deer trapping falls short

Town and Country finished trapping and relocation of deer far short of its goal.

Studies indicate the St. Louis County area municipality needs to remove 122 female deer for two or three years to achieve the city's goal of reducing its deer population by half. A private contractor was able to remove only 51 female deer and 29 males before the end of its contract in February. Sixteen of the deer removed (20 percent) are known to have died after relocation to a conservation area.

Brother Coyote, the ultimate survivor

Coyotes have always captured Americans' imagination. Most Native American tribes viewed the coyote with respect. Some even claimed kinship, calling the coyote "big brother" in their legends.

The name comes from the Aztec word "coyotl." The first scientific mention of the coyote was in the journals of Lewis and Clark, who at first described it as a sort of fox that barked, howled and burrowed in the ground. After more observation they began referring to the animals as "prairie wolves."

Although Lewis and Clark reported hearing coyotes at the mouth of the Nodaway River on the expedition's return trip in 1806, coyotes were not found in most of Missouri at that time. The prairie-loving species expanded its range eastward as settlers created clearings in the forest that once blanketed the nation's eastern half.

The coyote's range has expanded east of the Mississippi River and south until today virtually every state has coyotes. There are many more coyotes in America today than there were at the time of Columbus.

The larger gray wolf originally inhabited northern Missouri. The Texas red wolf, between the gray wolf and coyote in size, lived in southern Missouri until well after the turn of the century. The red wolf probably was bred out of existence as the more prolific coyote moved into its range and interbred with its larger relative.

The first edition of Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz's The Wild Mammals of Missouri, published in 1959, noted that "The coyote occurs mostly in the prairie regions of northern and western Missouri and only occasionally throughout the entire state except for the Mississippi Lowland where it is absent." Today the coyote is common throughout Missouri and the red wolf is gone. But a shadow of the red wolf lingers in the Ozarks, where coyotes are significantly larger than those in northern Missouri.

When coyotes move into an area, they kill or drive out red foxes. As coyotes became more abundant in Missouri in the 1960s and 1970s, red fox numbers dwindled. In recent years, distemper and mange have reduced the coyote population in north Missouri, and red foxes and groundhogs-both preyed on by coyotes-have made a comeback. But in areas where coyotes are abundant, red foxes barely eke out a living.

As a result of this tug of war over habitat, red foxes today frequently live on the fringes of cities and in suburbs, where coyotes hesitate to venture.

Although it is rare for coyotes to interbreed with dogs, it does happen occasionally, resulting in offspring referred to as "coy-dogs." Such crossbreeding is more common where coyotes are few and dogs are numerous.

Coyotes have adapted and thrived where the larger wolves could not. Coyotes are survivors.

--Ron McNeely, Wildlife Damage Biologist

HABITAT HINTS

Plant a quarter-acre food plot for every 40 acres of your land and you'll have more songbirds, rabbits, quail, deer and turkey.

Corn, milo, millet and soybeans make a good food plot mixture. The best month to plant is May, but you can plant as late as the end of June.

For best results, plant in good soil and full sunlight close to brushy cover. Plow up the soil as you would for a garden and work in a 20-10-10 fertilizer.

Plant slightly thinner than recommended for a crop field. This leaves room for native plants to sprout and adds variety to the food mix.

To maximize benefits, start new plots for each of the first three years and let the crop residue stand in previous years' plots. The old plots will provide nesting and brood-rearing habitat. After three years, plow up and replant the first year's plots, and continue this rotation.

You can hunt over food plots without violating baiting restrictions as long as you observe normal agricultural practices. Ask a conservation agent for guidance if you want to brush hog or otherwise manipulate a food plot that you will be hunting near.

Forest discussion produces sustaining ideas

What do you get when you bring together forest preservationists, timber industry professionals and private forest landowners? In Missouri you get a bevy of innovative ideas about how to ensure the future productivity, beauty and ecological integrity of Missouri's forests.

More than 120 people attended the conference on sustainable forestry, titled "Toward a Vision for Missouri's Private Forests," March 4 and 5 at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU). Sponsors included the MU School of Natural Resources, Conservation Federation of Missouri, the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club, Missouri Audubon Council, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Missouri departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, Missouri Forest Products Association, the State Tree Farm Committee, the USDA Forest Service and prominent private and corporate forest owners.

Experts in disciplines ranging from forestry to ecology to economics took part in panel discussions that tackled challenges facing the state's forest lands. Chip mills, clearcutting, the ecological and social values of forest and the effect of timber harvest on streams all were discussed.

Participants didn't always agree, but they listened to one another and learned some important facts about Missouri's forest resources. For instance, 85 percent of the state's forest acreage is privately owned. Approximately half of Missouri's forest acreage in noncorporate private ownership is in tracts smaller than 20 acres. And of that amount, only 3 percent is used for timber production.

Participants learned about existing programs to encourage landowners to keep their property in forest and manage it wisely. One such program is a series of seminars sponsored by the Conservation Department about marketing alternative forest products, such as grape vine for making wreaths.

The conference also brought to light several innovative ideas about how Missourians with different viewpoints might achieve common goals. One conference attendee suggested offering workshops where private landowners can learn how to manage forest land for various purposes. Another suggested developing a do-it-yourself kit that would take landowners step-by-step through the process of developing their own forest management plans.

Some new ideas also came from other states. The keynote speaker for the conference, University of Minnesota Professor Paul Ellefson, explained that his state uses a governor-appointed citizen forest advisory council to help elected officials make decisions about forest management. The council has helped resolve issues that are too complex or controversial to be debated effectively in the state legislature. Council members representing the full spectrum of public interests study forest management issues, develop a consensus and make recommendations to legislators.

Conference participants also learned about a program still under development by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) aimed at ensuring good stewardship of Missouri forests. TNC is seeking owners of large forest acreages who are willing to enroll their land in a "forest land bank." They would retain ownership of their land, but would turn over responsibility for managing their acreage to the bank. All the enrolled land would be managed for sustained yield of forest commodities, compatible with biological diversity and other values, such as hunting, fishing, hiking and nature study. Income generated from the land would be divided among depositors, providing annual income even in years when their forest did not generate revenue.

A transcript of proceedings of the conference will be available some time this summer. To receive a copy, send your name and address to Jan Weaver, 208 Tucker Hall, MU, Columbia, MO 65211.

LEWIS & CLARK EMBARK ON FUNDRAISER FOR WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT

Lewis and Clark history buffs will be interested in a fine-art print being offered to raise funds for the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association.

"Beyond the Next Bend" is a 17x26-inch color print of an original oil painting by Conservation Department artist Mark Raithel. It depicts Lt. William Clark, Capt. Meriwether Lewis and his Newfoundland dog, Seaman, surveying the Missouri River Valley from atop a bluff in central Missouri. In the background, Clark's slave, York, helps another man up the bluff. The remainder of the Corps of Discovery is visible below, waiting on a gravel bar with a keelboat and pirogue. The distant horizon recedes into haze, capturing the mystery that drew the explorers onward through the more than two years they spent documenting what lay between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.

Signed and numbered prints are available for $75 plus $5 shipping and handling from Missouri Department of Conservation, Protection Division, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, attn: Heather.

Professional societies honor conservation work

Some of Missouri's most productive conservationists were honored during the annual Missouri Natural Resources Conference in February. Award recipients include:

  • Senior Conservation Agent Jim Tennyson of Mt. Vernon, Citizen Conservationist Award from the American Fisheries Society (AFS).
  • Fisheries Research Biologist Kim Graham of Columbia, the John L. Funk Award for Excellence from the AFS.
  • U.S. Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond, Conservation Legislator of the Year Award from the Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS).
  • Conservation Federation of Missouri Executive Director Deirdre Hirner, Professional Conservationist Award from the SWCS.
  • University of Missouri Professor Mark R. Ryan of Columbia, the E. Sydney Stephens Award from The Wildlife Society (TWS).
  • Carl Rapp, Education Director for the Kansas City Chapter of the Safari Club International, the G. Andy Runge Award from TWS.
  • Ralph Allison of Poplar Bluff, the Karkhagne Award from the Society of American Foresters.
  • Wildlife Management Biologist Len Gilmore of Osceola, the Natural Areas Management Award from the Missouri Natural Areas Committee.

Physical combat for the means of subsistence was, for unnumbered centuries, an economic fact. When it disappeared as such, a sound instinct led us to preserve it in the form of athletic sports and games.

Physical combat between men and beasts was, in like manner, an economic fact, now preserved as hunting and fishing for sport.

Aldo leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Nature Center offers an ounce of prevention

Learn how to avoid nicks, cuts, scrapes, burns, bites and blisters that can ruin a hiking, fishing, camping or hunting trip during a one-hour workshop at 2 p.m. May 16 at the Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City.

Participants will learn how to prevent accidents and recognize poisonous plants, biting/stinging insects and venomous snakes. Class size is limited. Call (573) 526-5544 to make reservations.

Conservationists aren't wild about feral hogs

Missouri's wild lands may seem like "hog heaven" to wild pigs, but the Conservation Department is working to eradicate wild hogs before they take the Show-Me State's ecology, agriculture and human health to heck in a handbasket.

Scattered populations of feral hogs are a legacy of the "open range" era when livestock roamed free. Pigs gone native can carry brucellosis, leptospirosis, pseudorabies and other diseases that affect domestic stock. They also carry undulant fever, a brucellosis-like disease that infects humans.

Wild hogs' foraging damages crops and natural habitats and devastates ground-nesting wildlife. Aggressive wild hogs can even attack people.

The Conservation Department is working with the Missouri departments of Agriculture and Health to control wild hogs while their populations are relatively small and isolated. The state agencies look to prevent the animals' spread through public education, hunting and legislation making it illegal to release hogs into the wild.

The Conservation Department also offers technical advice to landowners experiencing damage from these animals. For more information or assistance in dealing with feral hog problems, contact Tom Hutton at (573) 751-4115, ext. 147.

Stream Teams have lake cousins

First Missouri Stream Teams empowered citizens to become stewards and watchdogs of the state's running waters. Now, Missourians who prefer lakes have an organization to help them watch over their favorite resource.

The Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program trains volunteers to collect and process lake water samples. These samples are analyzed at the University of Missouri, which sponsors the program. Data collected in this way document current water quality and reveal changes-good and bad-in water quality.

At present, the Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program comprises about 70 volunteers who track water conditions on 11 lakes. The program publishes its findings in periodic reports. For more information, call (800) 895-2260.

Smallmouth management aims at diverse opportunities

Anglers whose idea of a good time is tying into a hefty smallmouth bass will find lots to like in Missouri's emerging smallmouth management strategy. Those who love the sound of fresh-caught fish sizzling over the campfire will find encouragement, too.

Conservation Department biologists have been studying the effects of various smallmouth management tools in special management areas since 1991. They have learned which stream characteristics lend themselves to management for trophy-sized fish and which are better suited to producing numbers of smaller fish.

Research also has focused on learning what combinations of creel and length limits increase anglers' chances of catching more and larger fish in streams with trophy-bass potential. Now they are ready to begin applying this knowledge to streams statewide.

Fisheries biologists are evaluating 33 candidate streams where special smallmouth bass management efforts might pay off. High on the list are the Black, Eleven Point, Niangua and lower Gasconade rivers.

The next generation of smallmouth management areas may encompass as many as 50 miles of stream each. These, together with streams that remain under regular management, will provide smallmouth fishing opportunities for a variety of tastes.

Federal conservation programs get web feet wet

You can get information about fish and wildlife resources nationwide and learn about two of the world's most successful conservation programs at the new Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration home page.

The web site has links to state fish and wildlife agency home pages and provides one-stop shopping for information about hunting, fishing, boating, nature study and other wildlife-related activities. The web site also offers rewards for outdoors people who introduce others to outdoor activities.

The Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration web site is one component of a three-year cooperative agreement between the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, business, industry, nongovernmental organizations and government agencies to increase awareness of wildlife restoration and wildlife-related recreation.

KC DISCOVERY CENTER FUNDING NEARS HALFWAY POINT

Kansas City's proposed Discovery Center is almost halfway to reality. Funds pledged or received so far total $1,365,018. The projected cost of the center, including design, landscaping and exhibits is $3 million.

The largest donation so far is a $500,000 congressional appropriation. The Lydia Dodge Estate has pledged $411,732, and the Hall Family Foundation has pledged another $200,000 to $300,000.

Other major donors include Miller and Jeannette Nichols, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, American Century, Kansas City Power and Light, The H&R Block Foundation, Lou and Sharon Smith, Paul and Virginia Mohr, the Burroughs Audubon Society, Gene Wilson, Bob and Kathy Rogers, Dr. Fred Fowler and Choppy and Sally Rheinfrank. A total of $5,900 has come from contributors who "purchased" bricks for $100 and trees for $500 each.

All contributions to the Discovery Center are tax deductible. Donors can send contributions to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation at P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, 65102-0366. Donations must be directed to the foundation, not the Conservation Department.

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