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Duck regulations - Numbers set stage for a great year

A 60-day duck season and tremendous numbers of birds could make the 2000 duck season one to remember. Summer surveys of nesting ducks showed blue-winged teal numbers at 7.4 million, up 4 percent from last year's record. Green-winged teal jumped 35 percent last year and zoomed another 21 percent this year, setting another record at 3.2 million.

Mallard numbers dropped 12 percent from the remarkable 10.8 million recorded in 1999. However, the current level of 9.5 million still is well above the average goal of 8 million set by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. This year's total breeding duck population is an estimated 41.8 million, only a little below last year's all-time record of 43.4 million.

Drought prevented the 1999 season from panning out as well as duck numbers led hunters to hope. But timely rains this year have created habitat conditions capable of holding migrating waterfowl for an extended period. Normal autumn rainfall could set the stage for a duck season that will be talked about for many years.

Waders 101

Waders are a must for duck hunters. When buying, look for:

  • Fit. Try on waders with the socks you'll wear when hunting. Too loose and you'll get blisters. Too tight and they'll restrict circulation, causing cold feet.
  • Neoprene It's warmer and allows freer movement.
  • Extra insulation This feature seems expensive until you spend hours in slushy water. Models with insulated booties are best.
  • External belt loops A belt cinched tight around your chest prevents waders from flooding if you stumble. This can save your life.
  • High rise Models that extend high up the body give added protection against icy dips.
  • Other features Rip-stop material saves misery and, ultimately, money. Reinforced knees also help waders last longer. Built-in shoulder straps can't be misplaced the way suspenders can. Pockets are handy for holding shells, calls, gloves, etc. A fleece lining prevents waders from feeling clammy when perspiration accumulates inside. Special stretch material cuts fatigue by making movement easier.
  • Camouflage Ducks have sharp eyes.

Rare bird serves up excitement in MO

When Heather Lambert-Doherty, a wildlife biologist, spotted a pink bird at Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, she knew she had found something rare. The July 12 sighting turned out to be the third confirmed report of a roseate spoonbill in Missouri history. News of the find quickly spread to the avid birders of the Grand River Audubon Society in Chillicothe and then flashed statewide via the Internet. The bird soon acquired the name "Pinkie" and became the darling of birding pilgrims for more than a month. This species usually inhabits wetlands along the Gulf Coast, but individual birds sometimes wander northward in late summer or early fall.

Environmental educators to gather at Osage Beach

The fifth annual Conference on Environmental Education Nov. 10 through 12 will offer Missouri teachers a chance to learn from nationally recognized experts and from each other.

Conference organizers are seeking proposals for sessions to augment the 58 workshops already planned. They are particularly interested in hands-on activities that relate to the conference theme, "Environmental Education Close to Home: Your Community as a Classroom." Ideas should be suitable for classroom use. If they make innovative use of technology, all the better.

The keynote speaker will be David Sobel, director of teacher certification programs at the Antioch New England Graduate School. His books and articles examine the relationship between child development and environmental education curriculum.

Order registration packets from Conference on Environmental Education, MU Conference Office, 348 Hearnes Center, Columbia 65211. Phone (573) 882-2429.

HABITAT HINTS: Grow Native!

Missourians looking for ways to make their property more attractive to wildlife now have a partner, Grow Native!

The program is an alliance of conservationists and nursery owners statewide. It is geared to encourage rural homeowners, developers, communities and other owners of small acreages to grow plants that benefit wildlife. By involving nurseries, the program aims to increase the availability of reasonably priced seed, plants, shrubs and trees suited to Missouri's growing conditions and wildlife needs.

One of the unique features of the program is the attempt to use native plants whenever possible. Such plants require less care and fit the needs of indigenous animals. Using native plants also avoids ecological problems that can result from introduction of invasive exotic species.

To ensure success, the program will offer family-oriented programs at locations throughout the state about gardening with native plants. Publications that explain how to use beneficial plants and tell gardeners where such plants are available also will be part of the program. A book about gardening for wildlife to be published by the Conservation Department next year will tie in with Grow Native!

To help landowners and nurseries connect, Grow Native! will make names of participating nurseries available by mail or through the Conservation Department's website. To learn more, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Grow Native!, P.O. Box 104671, Jefferson City, MO 65110-4671.

Watch this column in the coming months for information about plants in the Grow Native! collection.

Hike up your backpacking expertise

You can explore the spectacular landscapes of the Ozark Trail with some of Missouri's most accomplished backpackers during the 12th annual Ozark Trail Trek Oct. 14 through 21.

Sponsored by Hostelling International/American Youth Hostels and the Ozark Trail Council, the event puts novices together with seasoned veterans. October's cool, sunny days and crisp nights are perfect for enjoying fall colors and the rugged beauty of southern Missouri.

The trip is divided into two 25-mile sections. The cost is $100 for half a week or $175 for all week. The price includes transportation from St. Louis, guides, a T-shirt, an Ozark Trail patch, the evening meal Oct. 14 and motel accommodations for one night at the midpoint of the week-long trek.

For more information, contact Gateway Council HI/AYA, 7187 Manchester Road, St. Louis, MO 63143-2450. Phone (314) 644-4660. Information is available by e-mailing info@gatewayhiayh.org.

Centennial Forests: State Forests (1980s)

Missouri's conservation sales tax has allowed the Conservation Department to purchase thousands of acres of forest for public use. These public forests are managed for hunting, fishing, nature study and many less obvious purposes. Through multiple use management, benefits such as watershed protection, wildlife habitat, recreation, natural area protection and wood production can all be supplied by the same forest. Here are just a few examples of Missouri's many state forests:

  • Bluffwoods Conservation Area (CA) in Buchanan County is a remnant of the lush forests that once grew along the bluffs above the Missouri River. The Lone Pine Trail has spectacular views.
  • Painted Rock CA in Osage County has a hiking trail to a wooden deck overlooking the Osage River valley.
  • Henning CA in Taney County harbors unique plants and animals adapted to the desert-like environment of limestone glades.
  • Donaldson Point CA in New Madrid County is one of the last remnants of the cypress/tupelo forest that once blanketed Missouri's Bootheel region.
  • Pickle Springs Natural Area in Ste. Genevieve County boasts rare plants, animals and geologic features. The Trail Through Time winds past waterfalls, rock shelters, a double arch and canyons.

For more information about state forests, visit our website at: www.mdc.mo.gov/areas, and click on "Conservation Atlas."

- Bruce Palmer

Fatal flotsam, lethal litter

Fisheries management biologist Craig Gemming took this photo of a shovelnose sturgeon netted from the Missouri River near Boonville to illustrate the devastating effect litter has on wildlife. The fish was being cut in half slowly and agonizingly by a discarded rubber band.

Fishing line, plastic beverage containers and a variety of other trash causes similar problems for land- and water-dwelling animals. Keep litter where it belongs - in trash receptacles!

NRA Boosts Youth Shooting Program

Kids ages 12 to 17 benefited from $2,072 donated by the National Rifle Association to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. The money went to the Conservation Department's Youth Shooting Sports Camp and Hunter Education Challenge, which was held July 14 through 18 at Bois D'Arc Conservation Area. Participants received advanced hunter education training and hands-on practice with firearms at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Training Center.

Donating through the foundation enabled the NRA to earmark its gift for the youth program. For more information about the foundation, call (573) 634-2080 in the Jefferson City area or (800) 227-1488.

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