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Go Eye an Eagle

January is a big month for bald eagles in Missouri. It's a great time to see our national symbol at one of six Eagle Days events. You can see wild eagles through your own binoculars or through telescopes provided at the sites. Indoor programs at each site feature live eagles and other birds of prey. The following Eagle Days events are free and begin at 9 a.m., unless otherwise noted.

  • Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 (10 a.m.): Willmore Lodge, Lake of the Ozarks;
  • Jan. 13: Paradise Pointe Golf Complex on Smithville Lake;
  • Jan. 20-21: Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis;
  • Jan. 20-21: Springfield Conservation Nature Center;
  • Jan. 27-28: Apple Shed Theater, Clarksville;
  • Feb. 3-4: Mingo National Wildlife Refuge & Duck Creek Conservation Area, Puxico.

The event at Lake of the Ozarks will include eagle-watching cruises on the paddle-wheeler Tom Sawyer for $3 per person. For a brochure with directions to all Eagle Days events, write to Missouri Department of Conservation, Eagle Days, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, or call (573) 751-4115.

Fall Turkey Harvest Down, Waning Interest Cited

Missouri's fall firearms turkey harvest decreased by 1,421 birds this year, but the decrease doesn't mean that the state's turkey population is declining.

Missouri hunters checked 13,230 turkeys during the two-week season in October, compared to 14,651 in 1999. The 1998 harvest was 15,253.

The zenith of fall turkey hunting's popularity was 1987, when hunters bought 52,922 fall firearms turkey hunting permits and bagged 28,139 birds. Since then, the number of fall turkey hunters has declined steadily.

Decreasing participation explains part of the decrease in the fall turkey harvest. Decreasing enthusiasm among those who pursue turkeys in the fall completes the explanation.

Fall turkey hunting enjoyed a honeymoon period when it was new, but as the novelty wore off, people began drifting away.

Several other hunting seasons compete for hunters' attention in the fall, unlike the spring season.

Population surveys and continuing increases in the spring harvest show that our turkey flock is doing great.

Citizen Conservationist Lends New Meaning to "Wildlife Cover"

"Most of my days have been sunny. It didn't just happen, I made it happen. If I wanted to go hawking at 4 p.m., I started working to that end at 8 a.m."

Those words were spoken by Dan Cover at a Thayer Chamber of Commerce luncheon honoring the Oregon County resident for his contributions to conservation. Cover, a falconer and prairie restoration advocate, received a lifetime achievement award from the Missouri Conservation Commission. He also received accolades from professional and citizen conservationists from across the nation who attended the event.

Cover has been a falconer for more than 60 years. During that time he has been instrumental in promoting state and federal regulations that allow hunting with hawks and falcons in Missouri and several other states. Through the years he has helped refine the process of propagating captive falcons, contributing to the conservation of birds of prey.

A founder and past president of the National Falconry Association, Cover has written numerous educational articles and a book on falconry titled, Oh, Those Wonderful Hawks!

Cover and his wife, Maureen, donated a 282-acre public-use area and an 8- acre river access in Oregon County to the Conservation Department. He also restored 736 acres of historic prairie and manages the land as a falconry hunting area. He has placed this land in a trust, with provisions for the Conservation Department to acquire it eventually and manage it under special regulations to promote falconry. by Gene Kelly

Tree Planters Win Conservation Kudos

The Missouri Department of Conservation recently recognized nine public and private institutions for planting new trees that will significantly benefit their communities.

In December, Director Jerry Conley and the Conservation Commissioners presented Missouri Treescape Awards and a Citation of Merit to those entries judged best in the annual competition. Winners were: Sikeston Business, Education and Technologies Park; Columbia College; Ste. Genevieve County Community Center; (Springfield) Weller Elementary School; (Maplewood) Metropolitan School; (Kansas City) Rotary Club 13; City of Kahoka, City of St. Peters Parks Department. The Forestry Division of the City of St. Louis received a Citation of Merit.

Tim Frevert, Missouri Treescape Awards Coordinator for the Conservation Department, said the main criterion for winning recognition is the contribution that new trees make to the larger area, and not just the site where they were planted.

Light Goose Conservation Order Having an Effect

Wildlife Research Biologist Rochelle Renken could write a pretty interesting, "How I spent my summer," essay. For two weeks last June she lived in a tent near Churchill, Manitoba, and spent her days documenting the damage that overpopulated snow geese are causing to fragile tundra habitat.

"For me, it was a dream job," Renken said, "because I got to watch shorebirds all day long and observe caribou, arctic foxes and many breeding fowl that most Missourians see only in migration."

Not so idyllic were her observations of habitat degradation. Snow geese grub up plant roots like feathered hogs. Normally, the damage this causes is spread over a vast area around Hudson Bay. Spots grazed one year become less desirable, and the geese move on, giving the tundra time to recover.

In the past 10 years, however, snow goose numbers have more than tripled. The current population of about 6 million is the largest ever seen. The birds' voracious feeding has denuded a huge area that shows up on satellite photographs.

There is good news, though. Liberalized bag limits and a federal conservation order designed to encourage the taking of snow geese outside of regular hunting seasons have increased the annual harvest to about 1.4 million birds. Biologists with Ducks Unlimited say that sustaining the harvest at this level could reduce the mid-continent snow goose flock to approximately 3 million by 2008. If this is achieved, biologists will continue monitoring remaining habitat to determine if it can sustain the smaller population.

DU honors Missouri writer Charlie Farmer

Charlie Farmer of Ozark received a Ducks Unlimited Communications award at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association's annual conference in Lake Charles, La. Farmer has written about the outdoors for newspapers and magazines for 30 years. He also is a book author and hosts a radio show.

"In his work," said DU Communications Director Eric Keszler, "Farmer often examines conservation issues and the important role that hunters and anglers play in restoring and protecting wildlife habitat."

LAWS II: Longer and better

What's better for wildlife than food in the winter? Food and cover throughout the year. That's the idea behind changes in the Missouri Department of Conservation's Landowners Assisting Wildlife Survival (LAWS) program.

Since its inception in 1995, LAWS has provided financial incentives for landowners to leave part of their crops in the field for wildlife through the winter. By leaving at least 10 feet of crops adjacent to wildlife cover, land-owners created an enormously productive wildlife food source, as well as valuable edge cover.

In the past, LAWS was a one-year program, and landowners customarily plowed and replanted enrolled acreage each spring. The arrangement was good for wildlife and landowners who value wildlife, but the Conservation Department decided it could be better.

Starting last year, LAWS became a two-year program. Qualifying landowners get $150 per acre, per year, for corn, milo, soybeans or sunflowers; or $75 per acre for small-grain crops. The enrolled land can't be harvested, mowed, grazed or chemically treated during the contract period.

A landowner who enrolls two acres of corn Sept. 1, 2001, will receive a $600 payment on May 15, 2002, and will be free to plow the crop under and start over March 15, 2003. During the 18-month term of the contract, wildlife will not only benefit from the food provided by standing corn, but it will have standing cover from weather and predators. Furthermore, the acreage will produce an abundance of the annual plants and insects that birds and mammals need to thrive.

Landowners will have the option of over-seeding enrolled acreage the second year of the contract with lespedeza paid for by the Conservation Department. Each landowner's participation in the LAWS program is limited to $900 per contract period. Land enrolled in other set-aside programs isn't eligible.

To find out about enrolling crops in the LAWS program, contact the Private Land Services Division at your nearest Conservation Department regional office.

A Wild Time at the Retirement Village

Indian Hills Retirement Village residents in Chillicothe got an early taste of deer season excitement in October when a buck deer broke several windows, then burst through a closed glass door to wreak havoc inside.

The deer landed in bed with the room's occupant, gouged a hole in the ceiling with its antlers, and then bounded into a hallway where it ran amok, poking holes in walls with its hooves and leaving a trail of blood from cuts suffered when it broke through the glass door.

Residents took shelter in their rooms while police herded the animal out of the facility. Retirement village administrator Jan Arnold said the halls looked like a massacre scene.

Amazingly, no one was hurt, not even the woman who momentarily shared her bed with the crazed animal. Arnold said she is considering putting up a deer-crossing sign.

Persimmon Seeds Foretell Deep Snow

If you can believe persimmon seeds, Missouri is in for some serious snow this winter. Ozark folk wisdom says that splitting a persimmon seed into two thin halves will reveal an omen of the coming winter's weather. These seeds, split under carefully controlled conditions at the Missouri Conservationist offices in November, revealed "spoons," a sign that we will be shoveling snow before winter's done. Ozark lore maintains that "fork" images foretell light snow, and "knives" portend cutting cold winds.

RV show in St. Louis Jan. 18-21

St. Louis area campers can get a head start on the 2001 camping season at the St. Louis RV Camping and Travel Show Jan. 18-21.

The event, featuring exhibits by hundreds of recreational vehicle and accessory manufacturers, will be at the America's Center. Special features this year include a live-deer display, antique RVs and a camping supply store operated by Dunn's Sporting Goods. Campgrounds and travel destinations also will have displays.

Organizers say they expect at least 15 area RV dealers to be on hand with 2001 models featuring the latest innovations and features. Live entertainment and activities will make the event fun for kids and adults.

Show hours are noon to 10 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children age 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and younger. Adults 60 and over pay only $4 on Friday, and $2 discount tickets are available at area NAPA Auto Parts dealers. For more information, call (314) 355-1236

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