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Discovery Center Celebrates Opening

The public is invited to attend the dedication of the Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave., Kansas City, at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 13.

The recently completed Discovery Center is called an urban conservation campus for its unique indoor-outdoor learning opportunities. Six indoor workshops focus on hands-on lessons. They are: Woodworking for Wildlife, Nature's Palette, Exploring the Outdoors, Nature's Aquarium, Nature's Bounty, and Nature's Garden and Greenhouse. About 30,000 school children a year are expected to attend workshop courses to experience nature firsthand.

Visitors can observe workshop activities, and educators can tour the Teacher Resource Center to glean free and for-sale material available to teach conservation in the classroom. An information desk caters to conservation questions, and a coffee and gift shop provides a relaxed, natural setting in which to browse.

The Discovery Center building has many "green" features to make it energy efficient and blend into the landscape. For example, it is heated and cooled with ground-source heat pumps to use the steady temperature of the earth to reduce energy costs. A "Living Machine" filters and cleanses "gray" water for reuse in a constructed wetland. Solar panels capture the sun's energy, and "bioswales" in the parking lot filter run-off before it can pollute nearby Brush Creek.

The dedication, sponsored by Kansas City Power and Light, will run from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Deer Hunters Set New Harvest Record

Missouri deer hunters broke the quarter-million mark, harvesting a total of 257,910 deer during the 2001-2002 season. Days of near-perfect weather that allowed hunters to remain in the woods longer played a role in the record harvest, but the high number of whitetails taken primarily reflects the fact that we have a lot of deer in Missouri.

Deer numbers have rebounded from a low of about 1,800 in 1935 to nearly a million today. We can thank conservationists, conservation partners and the state's landowners for helping rebuild our deer population. Harvesting deer helps control deer numbers. The permit system operated by the Conservation Department allows increased harvest opportunities in areas where deer numbers are high.

One of the highlights of the 2001 season was the first-ever Youth Deer Hunt, which accounted for 6,277 deer harvested. It also provided an excellent opportunity for hunters to share their love of the outdoors with friends, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Archers tagged 21,767 deer, slightly down from the previous year's harvest of 23,558. Black-powder firearms hunters increased their take, from 4,863 deer in the 2000 season to 8,662 animals in the December 2001 muzzleloading portion of the deer season.

When you add up the amount spent on travel, lodging, food and equipment, deer hunting pumps about $375 million per year into the state's economy. The most recent survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation estimates that hunting supports nearly 7,300 Missouri jobs. The economic impact of all fish, forest and wildlife recreation spending supports an additional 47,500 jobs in the state.

Landowners and Dogs

In 1998, private property owners and hunters who used dogs collaborated on an ethical code to be followed by both groups. Following their guidelines will minimize conflicts and maintain good relations between landowners and people who hunt with dogs.

  • The future of hunting depends upon the ethical behavior of hunters.
  • Hunters should always get permission on any lands they intend to hunt and should consider themselves as guests on the landowners' property.
  • Because hunters are guests on private property, they are expected to conduct their activities in an ethical, lawful and respectful manner. For example, don't block roadways/accesses or leave gates open, etc.
  • Be safe! Follow all rules of gun safety.
  • Report any illegal or unethical activity to the appropriate authorities.
  • Landowners and hunters should know and obey the laws of the State of Missouri. Hunters should know and obey wildlife rules and regulations.
  • Landowners and hunters shall resolve conflicts without resorting to unlawful and inappropriate measures.
  • Landowners should resolve unintentional trespass by hunters and/or their dogs in a courteous and respectful manner.

Trout Anglers Asked to Reduce Harvest

A drought now in its third year is lowering production at trout park hatcheries, and the Conservation Department is asking anglers to exercise voluntary restraint to make available fish go as far as possible.

Dry conditions that have prevailed in the Ozarks since 1999 have reduced the flow of springs that water Missouri's four trout parks. Besides decreasing the flow in streams, reduced spring output is limiting the number of trout that can be reared at the Conservation Department's cold-water hatcheries.

As a result, stocking rates have been reduced at trout parks and trout management areas.

Rainbow trout stocking rates have been reduced by about 10 percent statewide. Brown trout production is expected to be on target.

The Conservation Department considered changing the daily limit from five to four at trout parks and regular trout management areas but decided against the restriction, said Fisheries Division Administrator Norm Stucky. "Instead, we are asking anglers to voluntarily reduce their daily harvest from five to four trout at these areas," Stucky said. "This will ensure that more anglers have the opportunity to catch trout and enjoy this year's season."

The Conservation Department is also asking anglers to carefully handle trout they intend to release.

Conservation Department biologists are exploring ways of increasing production at some hatcheries, but concede that water conditions this summer will determine next year's trout production capacity.

"The staff at the hatcheries is working overtime to keep production schedules," Stucky said, "but when they look up, they're hoping to see rain clouds."

Anglers Can Slow Spread of Bass Disease

Largemouth bass virus has come to Missouri, and the Missouri Department of Conservation is asking bass anglers to help stamp it out.

The virus (LMBV), which has been associated with largemouth bass kills in other states, has been detected in a number of popular Missouri reservoirs, including lakes Wappapello, Springfield, Bull Shoals and Norfork, Harry S Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks.

Once LMBV is established in a body of water, nothing can be done to stop it except to let it run its course, said Norm Stucky, fisheries division administrator for the Conservation Department. However, anglers can take steps to avoid spreading the virus to other waters.

"Anglers are our best chance to reduce the spread of LMBV in Missouri's waters," Stucky said. "They are also our best source for getting the word out on preventing the spread of LMBV."

The disease does not render a bass unsafe to eat. LMBV is in a family of viruses that is not known to cause disease or other side effects in humans.

Although LMBV may have been present in American waters for years, it first attracted widespread attention in 1995 when it was associated with a large fish kill in the Santee-Cooper reservoir system in South Carolina. Since then, the disease has steadily worked its way into Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. In all, it has been detected in 15 states.

"LMBV may have entered Missouri through contaminated live wells of boats or through the illegal stocking of infected fish into uninfected waters," Stucky said.

To avoid spreading the virus, the Conservation Department recommends anglers thoroughly clean all fishing gear and boats and allow them to dry completely between fishing trips.

Although smallmouth, and spotted bass, as well as striped bass and even bluegills and crappie, can carry the virus, LMBV appears to primarily affect adult largemouth bass weighing two pounds or more. According to data compiled by fisheries research biologists at Auburn University in Alabama, most bass infected with LMBV appear normal. When the disease is triggered, likely in response to unusual stress, the disease damages a fish's swim bladder, making it difficult for the fish to maintain equilibrium. Dying fish often struggle near the surface.

Bass are most vulnerable to the effects of LMBV during warm weather, especially if they are handled roughly or subjected to prolonged confinement in livewells. If anglers do not plan to eat bass, the Department encourages them to release bass back to the water immediately. If that is not possible, they should treat livewells with additives and keep livewell temperatures comfortable for bass by adding ice. Fresh water should also be circulated into livewells to maintain high levels of dissolved oxygen. If fish are to be weighed in a tournament, keep them in the livewells as long as possible and release them immediately after weighing.

For more information about controlling the spread of LMBV, call the Conservation Department at (573) 751-4115.

Breaking and Entering

Turkey hunters who have difficulty filling their tags might envy a Fenton man who recently received a visit from a big gobbler. It wasn't as much fun as you might think, however.

The hefty tom burst through the man's bedroom window March 7. Unfortunately for all concerned, the window wasn't open at the time. The bird suffered cuts from broken glass, and soon the bedroom had been redecorated with blood and feathers.

After using garden tools to herd the frightened bird back outside, the man called Urban Wildlife Biologist John George to find out what might have caused the incident. "I told him that birds fly into windows all the time," said George, "but I have never heard of turkeys doing it." George theorized that the big bird might have miscalculated its flight path and been unable to make last-minute adjustments. Or, he says, it might have seen a reflection in the window and thought it was a safe place to land.

At last report, the man hadn't learned whether his insurance would cover the damage.

Private Grant Raises Stakes for Turkey Poachers

Illegal turkey hunting, already risky for game law violators, is about to get even riskier. Angered by outlaws who kill turkeys illegally, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has put up a bundle of cash to help the Missouri Department of Conservation catch turkey poachers.

Illegal turkey hunting is a chronic problem, particularly in the southern half of Missouri. Special operations in recent years have dramatically increased the number of arrests for turkey hunting violations. Now the NWTF has thrown the weight of its 400,000 members behind the effort.

The NWTF recently announced it will raise the stakes for turkey poachers with $12,000 in matching money to help the Conservation Department's Protection Division target turkey violators. Most of the effort will focus on the area south of the Missouri River, where poaching before and during the spring hunting season is a special problem.

Terry Roberson, Ozark Region Protection Field Chief for the Conservation Department, said the matching money will pay for specialized equipment and help defray the costs of special operations. He said the grant is just a small part of the giant role the NWTF plays in wild turkey conservation.

"The Federation has been a huge help in bringing the wild turkey back to Missouri and ensuring good management," said Roberson. "They have underwritten restoration work and research and enforcement programs, not to mention the heavy involvement of the Turkey Federation's 14,000 Missouri members in promoting hunting ethics through hunter education classes and their J.A.K.E.S program. Our continued partnership with the NWTF will reap the benefits of a healthy turkey flock and safe, ethical hunters in Missouri."

Roberson noted that the NWTF matching grant also will help the Conservation Department maintain an aggressive wildlife law enforcement program during a period when sales tax revenue shortfalls are requiring cutbacks in many state programs.

Treescape Awards Honor Tree Planters

On March 7th, the Missouri Department of Conservation presented its coveted Missouri Treescape Awards to 11 public and private institutions throughout the state. An awards ceremony was held at the Annual Community Forestry Council Conference in Branson.

The Department bestows the awards annually to public and private entities for improving community parks, streets, schools and businesses in their respective communities by planting new trees.

To win recognition under the Treescape program, new trees must contribute significantly to the town or area where they are located, and not just where they are planted, said Tim Frevert, Missouri Treescape Awards Coordinator for the Conservation Department.

"A community's forest depends on people practicing good tree stewardship on public and private property," Frevert added. "Well designed tree plantings are an important part of this effort."

This year's Treescape Award winners are: Kansas City District, Missouri Department of Transportation (Institutional category); Grant City R3 School (Schools category); Ozark Greenways, Springfield (Volunteer/Nonprofit category); City of Fayette (Municipal, under 5,000 category); City of Richmond Heights (Municipal 5,000 to 20,000 category); and Raytown Parks and Recreation Department (Municipal, over 20,000 category).

In addition, Citations of Merit were presented to the Forestry Division, City of St. Louis; City of Chesterfield; City of Savannah; City of Cuba; and St. Charles County Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information about the Missouri Treescape Awards, contact Tim Frevert at (573) 751-4115, ext. 3298.

image of Habitat Hints logo

image of Hawthorne blossoms

Go Native, Grow Native! on Arbor Day

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of trees will be planted across the state in honor of Arbor Day on April 5th. Planting a tree is very satisfying, but planting a native tree displays a commitment to conservation. It's also a great way to help restore lost wildlife habitat. Missouri has many native tree species that are excellent choices for home landscapes. For example, our native green hawthorn (Crataegus viridis) is attractive year-round and provides food, cover and nest sites for songbirds.

Green hawthorn produces clusters of white flowers in mid-May and has lustrous, medium-green foliage that turns purple or scarlet in fall. Best of all, bright red berries form in autumn and last well into winter. Even the bark is handsome. It peels back to expose an orange-brown inner bark. Unlike most hawthorns, this one is largely spineless.

Green hawthorn grows easily in rich, moist, well-drained soil in full sun. It grows 20 to 35 feet tall and 20 to 35 inches wide. It resists rust, a disease that attacks many hawthorns. It tolerates pollution and will grow on ground that floods periodically. Plant native evergreens, such as American holly (Ilex opaca), behind your green hawthorne. During the winter, they will highlight the tree's red berries.

There are many other landscape-worthy native trees and shrubs from which to choose. For a list of Grow Native! nurseries and more information about gardening with native plants, visit Grow Native! online, or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Grow Native!, P.O. Box 104671, Jefferson City, MO 65110.

Illegal Hunters Pay for Killing Gray Bats

Two Wright County residents have learned how foolish it is to wantonly kill a protected species. The pair recently appeared in Wright County Associate Circuit Court and pled guilty to charges of killing numerous gray bats in late September.

A caller notified Conservation Agent Keith Wollard about hearing a barrage of shots on John Alva Fuson Conservation Area. The caller described the amount of shots as "significant" and that over-harvest was possible. The caller supplied Wollard with a vehicle description but little else. When Wollard arrived at the area, he found numerous spent shotgun shells on and near the road, as well as several dead or crippled gray bats.

The following day, Wollard found a vehicle matching the description parked at a residence near the area. After an interview, the suspect confessed and provided the name of an accomplice. The pair provided Wollard with enough information to return to the scene, where he found a total of 27 spent shotgun shells that matched shells seized from the suspects.

The pair said they had entered the area to hunt doves. While returning to the vehicle, they saw bats flying from Smittle Cave, which is located on the area. First one and then the other began shooting at the bats.

Wright County Associate Judge Noble Leighton assessed a $1,000 fine to each of the defendants. They were also ordered to perform 40 hours of community service. If the pair meets the community service requirement, $750 of the fine will be suspended.

Think "Safe" When Turkey Hunting

Spring turkey season offers some of the most exciting hunting opportunities of the year. Make this season the safest ever by following a few simple suggestions.

  • For a backrest, choose a tree, rock, stump or blowdown that is taller than your head and wider than your shoulders. This will help eliminate accidental shootings in the event another hunter approaches you from behind.
  • Avoid wearing clothing that displays any shade of red, white, blue or black. These colors in a woodland setting could be mistaken for the head of a male turkey.
  • Avoid calling from thick brush. Instead, call from open timber.
  • If crows, songbirds or turkeys suddenly go silent, it could mean that another person is approaching. Be especially careful and watchful.
  • If another hunter is present, don't move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert him or her to your presence. Instead, remain still and address the hunter in a loud, clear voice.
  • Thanks to hunter education efforts, spring turkey hunting accidents have decreased from a high of 8.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to a low of 2.95 in 2001. Statistically, turkey hunting is safer than ping-pong, basketball or golf.

New Test Identifies CWD in White-tailed Deer

In the campaign against chronic wasting disease, wildlife researchers in Colorado have developed the first live test to detect the disease in white-tailed deer.

The test detects early CWD infection in deer tonsils, which are removed from live deer for biopsy. The mutant proteins that cause the disease concentrate in deer tonsils during its early stages.The test does not work on elk.

Because of its cost, the new test will never replace hunter surveys as the primary method for detecting the always-fatal brain malady. However, it could be a valuable tool to increase the sampling pool available to researchers.

"It's a gigantic step," said Terry Messmer, a professor at the University of Utah. Anything that will help us develop long-term control measures is significant."

The new test was developed jointly by the Colorado Department of Wildlife and the Colorado State University Natural Resource Ecology Lab with the aid of a $2.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Although CWD has not been documented in Missouri, the test is of considerable interest to the Missouri Department of Conservation, which is watching closely for any sign of CWD among the state's deer. Recently, the Conservation Department and the Missouri Department of Agriculture signed a formal agreement to cooperate on detecting a CWD outbreak and reducing the risk of CWD entering Missouri. The agencies share information and resources regarding CWD's possible implications in Missouri.

Under the new agreement, the Conservation and Agriculture departments will develop a voluntary surveillance program for people raising captive deer and elk, a public information program, new regulations to prevent introduction of the disease and guidelines for action should CWD be found in the state.

New Program Recognizes Anglers' First Fish

Most anglers remember catching their first fish. Conservation Department has instituted the First Fish Program to officially recognize this achievement.

A companion to the Department's Master Angler Program, which recognizes catching trophy fish, the First Fish Program recognizes anglers for the first fish they catch.

To receive recognition, anglers or a family member may request a First Fish Award application form. It's available on the Department's official website www.missouriconservation.org or at any Department office. Fill the form out and send it to First Fish Award, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO, 65102-0180. If possible, please include a photo of your fish.

For more information about the First Fish or Master Angler programs, contact the Conservation Department's fisheries division at (573) 751-4115.

Federal Agency Says BB Guns Are Defective

American air rifle makers face possible federal action in what BB-gun advocates characterize as a case of political correctness run amok.

Last fall, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) filed suit against the Daisy Manufacturing Co., whose air rifles have introduced millions of youngsters to target shooting and hunting over the company's 115-year history. The suit claims that the design of the BB feeding mechanism in one of Daisy's air guns is defective and therefore dangerous. It bases this on the contention that users might point the gun at another person and shoot it, thinking the gun is unloaded.

Daisy says that guns using the same mechanism have existed for 100 years and have passed six CPSC reviews. Furthermore, the company notes that the same type of mechanism is used in dozens of air gun models made by Daisy and other manufacturers. For that matter, says Daisy, a user who thought any firearm was empty might point it at someone and pull the trigger. In such instances, they say, the problem is user negligence, not defective equipment.

The CPSC was not unanimous in its criticism of Daisy. Commissioner Mary Sheila Gall dissented from the vote to sue the company, citing irregularities in the handling of this case. The Wall Street Journal joined Gall in condemning the CPSC's move, saying, "this isn't about safety; it's about politics."

"Victory over Daisy (which along with other BB-gun makers, has a spotless record of self-regulation) would mean control over the whole market," said the Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 30 editorial.

Daisy has appealed the case to an administrative law judge who is seeking facts from both sides. For more information about the case, visit the CPSC Web site, the Daisy Web site,  or the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Web site. You can contact the CPSC at U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207-0001, (301) 504-0990, info@cpsc.gov.

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