We've been noticing blue jays flying to our concrete bird bath with something in their beaks and dipping whatever it was in the water several times before eating it.
We couldn't figure it out until I discovered that my neighbor across the street left dry dog food for her dogs in her back yard each morning before she went to work.
The blue jays swooped down to get a piece then brought it over and dipped it in our bird bath. Who says we are the only problem-solving creatures on earth?
Ann M. Wagester, Lee's Summit
The Whole Frog!
People always talk about eating frog legs but never mention the remainder of the frog. The back portion of the frog is actually better than the hind legs, and it accounts for about one-third of the frog. I think it is a shame to throw away the best part. You have to eat around a few more bones, but it is definitely worth the trouble.
To skin the frog, make a slit in the skin at the back of the head just behind the ears. Grip the edge of the skin with pliers (fish-skinning pliers work well) and pull it down toward the back feet. Flip the frog over. The skin on the bottom will form a V-shape after the previous step. Grip the skin at the bottom of the V and pull toward the head, pulling the skin off the front legs also. Cut off the head and front and hind feet. Open the abdomen, cutting through the breast plate between the front legs, and remove the innards.
Small frogs can be prepared without dissecting, but separate the hind legs and back portion of large frogs.
Stephen Fischer, Jefferson City
Mike Stambaugh & Rose-Marie Muzika's article, "Pining for the Dwindling Shortleaf," was great. I grew up in Licking and hunted and fished all around the Big Piney area near the Peter A. Eck Natural Area.
I now live at Lake of the Ozarks, and I miss hearing the breeze blowing through the pines. All the wooded areas here are hardwoods. It is amazing how it's the little things that you miss the most.
I would urge anyone who loves the outdoors to take a walk through the pines at Peter A. Eck Natural Area to listen to the breeze and enjoy the wonderful smell of the pines. It always gives you a wonderful feeling.
Darrell E. Cook, Kaiser
Editor's Note: Peter A. Eck Natural Area is 12 miles west of Licking in Texas County. The area can be reached from the Big Piney River. Look for yellow Conservation Department signs posted on the river bank. High-clearance vehicles are recommended for traveling the dirt road leading to the area.
I was somewhat dismayed over the article and picture of the Michigan wolf killed in Missouri. Why couldn't the man shoot in the direction of the animal to scare it off, instead of killing it? I also feel the picture is very inappropriate. An endangered species should not be flaunted as a trophy.
Susan Rodriguez, Eldon
Editor's note: After an investigation, Conservation Agents concluded that the man shot the wolf thinking it was a coyote after his sheep. A warning shot would likely only temporarily scare away a coyote that has shown an interest in livestock. Biologist Dave Hamilton, who was pictured posing with the Michigan wolf, said he was smiling as a natural reaction to having his picture taken. He said he regretted that the wolf died in the process of making history. He added that he was, "humbled at being in the presence of a magnificent animal that had wandered through 500 miles of cornfields, homesteads, and roads looking for whatever a lone wolf would search for."
I was surprised and honored to see my name in Jim Low's "Triggering Chain Reactions." However, Jim made one minor error: The pickerel at Maramec Spring are grass pickerel, not chain. Their numbers have greatly increased since the James Foundation put in a number of jetties, creating weed-filled backwaters fit for pickerel. If you know what you are doing, fishing for them can often be more rewarding than going after the trout.
Fishing the same lakes as Jim this past year, I have caught numerous chain pickerel in the 20-inch range, including two 23-1/2 inchers from Noblett Lake. I have also made a determined effort to study and catch grass pickerel.
Mark Nickless, De Soto
After hitting a deer while driving from St. Louis to Lake of the Ozarks, my younger brother learned about "Deer Horns," which are small, high-pitch alerts that attach to a bumper. We bought the horns from Wal-Mart, and have never hit a deer since. Many times I see a deer approach the road, and as I come closer they stop and raise their ears.
Norm Kremer, St. Louis
Editor's note: Although the devices produce a high-pitched sound audible to deer as air passes through them, there is some question whether they reduce the risk of vehicle-deer collisions. If they could be proven effective, there's little doubt fleet managers would install the inexpensive devices on their vehicles. The deer alerts might actually increase risk by making vehicle operators believe it is not necessary to slow down when they see a deer.
The letters printed here reflect readers' opinions about the Conservationist and its contents. Space limitations prevent us from printing all letters, but we welcome signed comments from our readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
Ask the Ombudsman
Q: For some reason unknown to me I stopped receiving my monthly copy of the Missouri Conservationist. I miss my magazine.
A: The Conservation Department periodically cleans or purges its magazine circulation list of duplicate, deceased and disinterested subscribers . The purge is conducted about every 18 to 24 months. Readers are asked to tear away a postcard from a plain stock "Notice" cover and return it to the Conservation Department if they wish to continue receiving the magazine. The magazine is delivered to more than 400,000 subscribers. The purges may seem like an inconvenience, but they help us avoid waste and overproduction.
The Missouri Conservationist is available free to adult residents of Missouri (one per household, please). Out-of-state delivery is available for $7 per year and overseas delivery costs $10 per year. You may request a subscription by providing your mailing address to Circulation, Missouri Conservationist, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65201-0180, or by sending an e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. For out-of-state and overseas subscriptions, send the complete name and address of the subscriber and send information and check to the above address.
Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 751-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at <Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov>.