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Smart Art

I enjoy so much the Conservationist, and especially the Outside In for kids. Even though I am one of Missouri's senior full-time RVers who travels the state and others, this section teaches me so much.

It was a treat to see the wonderful artwork in your article "Duck Art is Smart for Kids." Thank God for teachers and parents who encourage their children to use their extra time this way. They made me want to paint, too!

Jeannette Kralemann, O'Fallon

Champions

I enjoyed your article on champion trees in the December issue. I was once the caretaker of a huge old white oak between St. James and Maramac Spring. The tree, a local landmark, is on property once owned by the James family of the old Maramac Ironworks. There is still a home on the site that was built in the late 1800s. The tree sits in the front yard.

When I lived in its shadow, the tree had frequent visitors. It was common for families on vacation or workers at the ironworks to stop at the spring under the big oak for water and a picnic. In those days, trees were scarce, as most had been harvested for the furnaces at the ironworks. The shade of the big tree was greatly appreciated.

Older legends speak of the area being a camping spot for Indians on the Trail of Tears. I spent many an evening deer watching, as the deer seemed to prefer the acorns from this tree. I once counted a dozen deer grazing under it's branches.

My old friend, who has new caretakers, may well be a contender for your list. Thanks for recognizing these old trees.

Julie Snook, Cook Station

Rooting For Natives

In your Habitat Hints, as well as in your "Wildlife Management for Missouri Landowners," you endorse the non-native Korean lespedeza, a tenacious invasive weed from Asia with a seed viability of up to 20 years. There must be a creative, native alternative that won't compromise what we have left our diminishing botanical heritage.

Eric Jensen, Eureka

Editor's note: Korean lespedeza (Lespedeza stipulaceae) is an annual -- not a perennial -- plant that was introduced into the U.S. in 1919. It generally does not compete with well-maintained native communities. While we would prefer that landowners plant native lespedezas, we realize that doing so isn't always practical. We, therefore, recommend some non-aggressive exotics that are readily available, financially feasible and beneficial for wildlife. We do not recommend that people seed these exotics into native remnants but, rather, into old fields, where the native community essentially has been eliminated.

Gargantuan

That was an interesting article on gator gar. A fish like the one on the wall of Schindler's Tavern in New Hamburg is a rarity in this age and time since alligator gar are no longer seen or caught above Cairo, Ill. My research reveals that maybe--just maybe--some can still be found in the Red River and the Lower Mississippi River.

Joseph H. Bisher, St. Louis

What a surprise to see an old friend in your magazine. The gator gar guide with a pistol in the photo on page 21 is John Fox. We lived next to each other in Memphis, Tennessee, during WWII. We moved to St. Louis in 1945, and I have not seem him since his father died in about 1950.

John went on to become a famous gar guide, and he later had a fishing program on television. He now lives in Florida.

David A. Stephens, St. Louis

Tangled Sight

We enjoy winter float trips, but while floating on the upper Meramec in January, we came upon a distressing sight. A belted kingfisher was tangled in fishing line and hanging down from a sycamore limb. Evidently, it had struggled until exhausted and then drowned.

We anglers need to make every effort to retrieve fishing line that could be a hazard to wildlife.

Tom Jamboretz, Webster Groves

On the Watch

I enjoyed "The Accidental Birdwatcher" tremendously because I have always felt that serious bird watchers looked down on people like myself who enjoy birds but cannot identify all of the rare ones. Living on Lake Taneycomo, I have an opportunity to see many birds and other wildlife. A red fox was in my yard just this morning.

However, the article did raise a question which I have wondered about for more than 15 years. What is a group of pelicans called? In the picture caption, the term "a raft of white pelicans" was used. In the article you refer to "a flock of white pelicans." Is there a technical term which is correct?

Bill Cornette, via Internet

Editor's note: Collective nouns are often used to convey a poetic image. One source documents the use of "pod" for a group of pelicans Another suggests "scoop." The word "raft" is often used for ducks, especially teal. It also has been used for turkey and otters, although "flock" and "family" are more often encountered. You will find a nice list of collective nouns at <http://users.tinyonline.co.uk/gswithenbank/collnoun.htm>.

Long Term

Regarding "Endangered Isn’t Forever," DDT is still being found, even though it was banned in 1972. Some 2 billion pounds of the pesticide were used per year in the U.S. Thanks for continuing to educate readers on how the misuse and overuse of toxins can affect wildlife, food supplies and water.

Jim Robinson, Grain Valley

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: The hunting and fishing permits are too big and bulky. Can't you do something to make them more user-friendly?

image of ombudsmanA: After people complained that hunting and fishing permits were too thick to put into a wallet, the Conservation Department has redesigned our permits and included some new features that we hope will be helpful.

The new permits have the same format and adhesive backing as the old ones, but they are smaller (credit card size when folded) and are printed on thinner paper.

Those who buy all their privileges at one time can have them all rolled into one permit. If you buy privileges separately, you'll have to carry multiple permits. Deer/turkey permits also must be separate because of the transportation tag requirement. The Migratory Bird Hunting Permit will still be a separate permit because of season dates and concern for permit-holder survey accuracy. However, it now has a place to paste your federal waterfowl stamp.

With the exception of deer/turkey, trapping and the Migratory Bird Hunting permits, permits are good from March 1 through the end of the following February. The new style permits are available this month and are valid from the date of purchase.

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>.

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