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Conservation by the Numbers

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

offices logged approximately 4,000 assists to landowners.

For more than two decades, the Conservation Department has cooperated with federal agencies and other state agencies to detect gypsy moth infestations. More than 12,000 gypsy moth traps are placed and monitored in Missouri each year.

The Conservation Department also inventories Missouri's forests. Crews survey tree species, volume, growth, mortality and health on 20 percent of selected plots every year, resulting in a complete inventory every five years. The Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project involves research on Ozark forests that will span a century.

A few high-profile wildlife species serve as indicators of the success of Missouri's management programs. White-tailed deer, whose numbers had declined to an estimated 400 animals in 1925, are abundant throughout the state. Missouri's deer herd is currently estimated to number 875,000 animals.

Hunters purchase about one-half million firearms deer permits each year, and nearly 40 percent of those are filled. In 1976, hunters purchased about 232,000 firearms permits, but less than 18 percent of those resulted in a deer being harvested.

Wild turkey provide another success story. Missouri hunters typically take more than 60,000 birds each year. The harvest has steadily increased from 7,853 birds in 1976.

Small game populations have been steady or in slight decline in recent years. Squirrels seem to be doing well, but quail show a notable reduction. Quail populations are estimated based on an annual count taken from 112 30-mile routes driven by conservation agents throughout the state.

With few exceptions, quail numbers are decreasing. During 1999, agents spotted 3.8 quail per route driven. In 2000, they spotted 5.0. These numbers are far below the 1983-1999 average of 9.1 birds spotted per route.

Rabbits also are experiencing a decline. They are counted over 112 20-mile routes. The 1988-1999 average was 1.8 rabbits spotted per route, but only an average of 1.3 rabbits per route was spotted in 2000, slightly down from 1999 average of 1.5 per route.

The Conservation Department has achieved success in its efforts to restore otter, bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Between 1982 and 1992, the Department released 845 otters at 43 sites in 35 counties. Otter numbers are currently estimated at between 11,000 and 18,000. According to biologists, the population allows for an annual harvest of about 2,500 animals.

The number of bald eagles nesting in Missouri has risen steadily from 1984, when no eagles nested here. In the most recent year, biologists counted 48 nests, which together fledged

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