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Lewis & Clark birds show up at conservation areas

Birdwatchers flocked to two conservation areas last winter to see a Clark's nutcracker and a Lewis' woodpecker, species rarely seen in Missouri.

The two bird species are among the 122 animals first described by the Corps of Discovery in its 1804-06 epic journey to the West Coast. The woodpecker spent several weeks at Schell-Osage Conservation Area late last year. The nutcracker visited August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area early in January.

Conservationist wildlife photographer Jim Rathert joined other avid "birders" to document the two rare migrants.

Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) belongs to the same family as crows and magpies. It normally isn't seen much outside the Rocky Mountains, where it inhabits pine forests. Its habit of stockpiling acorns in hollow trees makes it an important agent of reforestation after forest fires or avalanches.

William Clark first recorded the nutcracker in his journal on Aug. 22, 1805, when the party was near Idaho's Lemhi Pass. He wrote: "I saw today a Bird of the woodpecker kind which fed on Pine Burs--its bill and tale white, the wings black, every other part of a light brown, and about the size of a robin."

Lewis' woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) is the only woodpecker in the United States with wings that are entirely solid in color. Its flight is distinguished by crow-like flapping, instead of the undulating flight pattern of Missouri's native woodpeckers. Its normally lives in forests from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast. Meriwether Lewis first reported seeing it July 20, 1805, at the Gates of the Mountains in central Montana. He described "a black woodpecker . . . about the size of the lark woodpecker as black as a crow . . . it has a long tail and flys a good deel like the jay bird."

Website helps deal with urban deer problems

Suburban landowners can find practical advice on how to deal with nuisance deer at the website of "People for Ecological Balance." The site provides information about deer management methods, legal issues and communities with successful deer management programs.

Town and Country residents Joe and Janet Williamson formed PEBL primarily to inform residents and communities in St. Louis County about the adverse effects of wildlife overpopulation, ways to reduce damage and ways to reduce overpopulation. The information presented is the result of years spent finding what works and what doesn't work, and how to work with government agencies and private contractors to solve deer problems.

Wildlife Code Corrected

The inadvertent omission of some restrictions on commercial fishing from the 2003 Wildlife Code of Missouri could cause confusion and lead some people to violate the law.

In the "Commercial Fishing: Seasons Methods" section of the Wildlife Code book, both Paragraph 9 and Paragraph 10 on pages 135 and 136 outline restrictions against possessing game fish while using commercial fishing gear or aboard a boat transporting fish taken by commercial fishing gear. Paragraph 10 of that section, however, incorrectly repeats information contained in paragraph 9.

Paragraph 10 should read: "The possession of extracted egg of any fish species, except as provided in section (7) of this rule is prohibited while on waters of the state and adjacent banks."

For more information about these or other Wildlife Code regulations, contact any Conservation Department office.

Forest nursery still has trees

If you forgot to order tree seedlings from the George O. White State Forest Nursery, last fall, don't fret. You still have time. Nursery Manager Greg Hoss says the nursery still has the following plants available:

  • Pines--eastern white, Austrian, red, jack and shortleaf.
  • Oaks--white, black, pin and Shumard.
  • Other hardwoods--pecan, green and white ash, Osage orange, tulip poplar, bald cypress, sweet gum, black gum, Kentucky coffee, persimmon and others.
  • Wildlife trees and shrubs--flowering dogwood, redbud, smooth sumac, deciduous holly, rough leaf, silky and gray dogwoods, wild plum, witch hazel, false indigo and others.

Also available are Conservation Bundles, Quail Cover Bundles, Wildlife Cover Bundles and the Walnut Variety Bundle.

You have until April 15 to order. Details about bundle contents, photos and descriptions of seedlings and ordering information are available by calling (800) 392-3111 or (573) 674-3229 or online.

You can learn how best to care for your trees at workshops offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation and Forest ReLeaf. Workshops for beginning Forestkeepers will be offered April 5 at the Conservation Nature Center in Springfield, and May 3 at the Conservation Department's office in Sedalia. These workshops will present an overview of the Forestkeepers program and prepare participants to start monitoring forest health immediately. Participants will learn how to use the free Forestkeeper kit to identify trees, conduct a tree inventory and assess tree health. The workshops are free. For more information or to register, call (888) 936-7378.

Your wallet just got a little bigger

Missouri hunters and anglers will find more room in their wallets this year because hunting and fishing permits are smaller and thinner.

Responding to suggestions from permit buyers, the Conservation Department reduced the size of the basic permit form by 20 percent. The size of deer and turkey transportation tags that accompany deer and turkey hunting permits had to remain unchanged. As in the past, however, the transportation tags can be removed from permits other than deer and turkey, substantially reducing the bulk of the permit.

The permits also are made of thinner material, reducing bulk. In addition to saving space in your wallet, the new permits will save the Conservation Department money on material costs.

Walleye now legal in the St. Francis River

Anglers who have been waiting to catch and keep walleye in the St. Francis River are about to reap a reward for their years of patience.

The St. Francis once was famous for its walleye fishing. In fact, the state pole, line and lure record, a 20.5-pounder caught in 1961, came from the clear waters of the St. Francis. For unknown reasons, walleye virtually disappeared from the river by the 1970s.

Starting in 1996, the Conservation Department stocked nearly 200,000 small walleye in the river above Wappapello Lake. To give the fish time to grow, walleye fishing in the upper St. Francis River has been limited to catch and-release only. As of March 1, anglers can keep four fish daily. The fish have to be at least 18 inches long, but surveys show that some of walleyes stocked have already grown to 5 pounds. Check the 2003 fishing regulation guide for details of regulations.

St. Louis garden symposium set for March 22

National horticulture experts will convene in St. Louis March 22 to conduct a day-long symposium titled "Midwest Gardening: Challenges and Opportunities." Registration is open to the public.

The Horticulture Co-op of Metro St. Louis and the Junior League of St. Louis joined to sponsor the event at the theater auditorium on the St. Louis Community College–Meramec campus. The program is designed to interest people who garden either professionally or recreationally.

Program topics include "Planting Villages: How Gardeners Make Good Neighbors," "Winning Combinations: Perennials and Companion Ornamentals," "The Art of Pruning, Perennials" "Go Native! The Native Plant Alternative" and "A Passion for Plants--A Personal Journal."

For more information, contact the Junior League at (314) 569-3117.

Columbia FFA forestry team places first in nation

Columbia Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor Larry Henneke hoped his forestry team would make a decent showing at the national FFA forestry contest at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Ky. They did that and more, taking top honors at the event, which was held in conjunction with the 75th National FFA Convention in October. This is the first time a Missouri team has won the national forestry contest.

The team, composed of high school seniors Chris Hughes, Stephen Howard and Ed Erdel and University of Missouri freshman Jennifer Smith, placed first in competition against 35 other teams from across the country. Each member of the winning team received a $1,000 scholarship.

The team earned the honor of representing Missouri at the national contest by winning first place at the state FFA forestry contest in April. While preparing for competition, team members met with Henneke three or four days a week, logging more than 230 hours of out-of-class time.

The competition tests students' skills and knowledge of forest management. The event has several parts, including tree and forestry equipment identification, topographic map interpretation, compass and pacing, sawtimber and pulpwood cruising, a forestry knowledge exam and a forestry issues interview. - Bruce Palmer

Jennifer Smith calculates board-foot volume of a forest plot with FFA forestry team members Chris Hughes, Stephen Howard and Ed Erdel. The team won first place in the national FFA forestry contest in Clermont, Ky.

Students honored for anti-littering commercials

Three Seneca High School students are the latest winners in the No MOre Trash campaign sponsored by the departments of Conservation and Transportation. Chet Gaines, Caleb Jones and Reece Martin won $200 in the second No MOre Trash! video contest as part of a statewide litter awareness campaign that began in April.

The winning litter ad, titled "Harlem Globetrotter," showed students passing a can to the tune of "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "shooting" it into a trash can.

Three other ads received honorable mention.

Josh McKay and Jason Richards from Fort Osage High School in Independence received honorable mention for a video ad emphasizing that littering is a crime. The video shows a teenager stopped by a police officer for littering and then having to take a ride in the back seat of a police car for his offense.

Honorable mention winner Matt Russell from Ozark Technical College in Springfield emphasized the environmental hazards of littering in his submission. His video reminds viewers that litter doesn't spontaneously combust and disappear. Michael Saltzman and Sean Smith of Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis also received honorable mention. Their video, titled "The Can," shows a lonely can longing to be with other trash in a proper receptacle.

For more information about the contest or to view the winning videos, visit www.nomoretrash.org.

Agents nab wildlife violators

Caviar, cardinals and cats figured in some of the more interesting Wildlife Code violations--and arrests--during 2002.

Last spring, wildlife agents from Missouri and Oklahoma teamed up with federal agents to nab poachers who possessed 200 pounds of paddlefish eggs, which can be used to make expensive caviar. Because the violators transported the eggs across state lines, they faced charges under the federal Lacy Act, in addition to state charges.

Another man ran afoul of the Lacy Act through his involvement in the illegal trade of tigers, leopards, lions, mountain lions and black bears. The animals were purchased and killed so their meat, bones and skins could be sold on the illegal international market for animal parts. In November, a federal judge sentenced the man to a year in jail and $5,000 restitution to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund.

In September, four defendants found themselves in Springfield's U.S. District Court in connection with the use of a federally regulated chemical to kill birds. The four illegally mixed Warbex, an insecticide designed to kill grubs and lice on cattle, with grain to kill nuisance birds. The poisoned grain killed several hawks, a cardinal and a white-crowned sparrow, among other birds.

Habitat Hints

Agroforestry has been slow to catch on in Missouri, but the new federal farm bill offers incentives that could make it much more attractive to Show-Me State farmers.

Agroforestry blends traditional farming with the growing of trees and shrubs to increase farm productivity. Examples include planting trees as windbreaks and "alley cropping," which is defined as growing conventional crops between rows of trees.

For farmers, the bottom line of agroforestry is their bottom line. Will agroforestry cost money or make money, and how long will it take before agroforestry is profitable? Some Farmers believe that the techniques will cost too much to implement or require too much work to maintain.

Under the new legislation, federal agencies will share the cost of agroforestry practices. The new farm bill allows more flexibility in agroforestry practices than was possible under previous incentive programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). It also increases the number of landowners who will be eligible for programs like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), which helps livestock producers plant quail friendly forage.

In some cases, federal and state incentive programs will pay three-quarters of the cost of instituting agroforestry practices. Details are outlined in the booklet, "Funding Incentives for Agroforestry in Missouri." To receive a free copy, contact Christa Jennette, (573) 882-9866, jennettec@missouri.edu.

Mobile aquarium schedule

The Conservation Department's mobile fish aquarium is again on the road in 2003, bringing entertainment and education to communities statewide. This touring facility can teach you all about fish and their behavior. You can learn, for example, what makes largemouth bass bite and what color jigs crappie prefer. Scheduled appearances for the fish aquarium include:

Date Event/location
April 10-13 Powder Valley Nature Center, Kirkwood;
April 21-25 Earth Science Week, CMSU, Warrensburg;
May 5-9 Community and Public School Curriculum Tie-in, St. Robert;
May 16-18 Roaring River State Park Kids Fishing Day, Cassville;
June 5-8 Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, Branson;
June 12-14 Bushwhacker Days, Nevada;
June19-22 Summer Fun Days, Brookfield;
July 2-5 Tom Sawyer Days, Hannibal;
July 16-19 Sweet Springs Festival, Sweet Springs;
July 21-26 Northeast Missouri District Fair, Kirksville;
Aug. 7-17 Missouri State Fair, Sedalia;
Aug. 29-Sept. 1 St. Louis County Fair and Air Show, Chesterfield;
Sept. 6-13 Southeast Missouri District Fair, Cape Girardeau;
Sept. 18-20 Hootin' and Hollerin' Folk Festival, Gainesville;
Oct. 3-5 Gladfest Fall Family Festival, Gladstone;
Oct. 12-18 Maple Leaf Festival, Carthage;

For more information about these events or to schedule an aquarium appearance in your area, call Jeff Finley at (573) 884-6861

Road-killed bear could be Missouri record

A black bear found dead in Ozark County is among the biggest of its species seen in Missouri in modern times. Law enforcement officers found the 280 pound female bear beside Highway 5, a few miles north of Gainesville. Apparently, it had been struck by a motor vehicle. An examination by Wildlife Damage Biologist Scott McWilliams showed the animal to be about five years old.

Voss was "Judge Dread" for poachers

Ralph Voss didn't set out to be a conservation crusader, but during his 23 years as Associate Circuit Judge, Voss earned a reputation as being tough on poachers.

Voss retired Jan. 1. In a recent interview, he said he merely tried to ensure that everyone was treated fairly in his Osage County courtroom, and fairness dictates tough penalties for those who violate Missouri's Wildlife Code.

"My philosophy, "Voss said, "is that a penalty should be strong enough to reward the work that goes into making a case."

He said that a conservation agent who finds an illegal trap might have to stake out that spot for several days to catch the person who set it. "The penalty has to be pretty severe to make the agent's work worthwhile," he said. "Penalties also should be strong enough to make a person think twice before he breaks the law."

He contrasted the difficulty of catching a poacher with the relative ease of catching some other kinds of law breakers.

"Driving faster than the speed limit is just as serious, maybe more so, because a speeder could kill someone," Voss said. "But a state trooper can set up on a stretch of highway and make dozens of cases in a day."

Voss said the fine for speeding could be $25 or $500, and people would still pay it so they can keep driving.

"It's the points on their licenses that get their attention," he said. "They know that if they get too many speeding tickets, they will lose their driving privileges." Voss said the punishment that wildlife violators fear most is the loss of hunting and fishing privileges.

A soft-spoken man whose fashion preference runs to flannel shirts and faded jeans, Voss said he doesn't fault judges whose personal views of wildlife violations aren't as tough as his own.

"Every judge's attitude toward sentencing for a certain crime is influenced by his experience," he said. "My feelings about Wildlife Code violations probably have something to do with a memory of my dad. Forty-five or 50 years ago, he and some of his friends caught a 22-pound catfish. They were still talking about that fish many years later, and that impressed me.

"I wondered, what if a kid had caught that fish with his grandpa? What kind of memories would that have been? How do you put a price on that? A guy with a trammel net or an electric generator can go out and catch 10 big fish in one night. That's depriving others of a whole lot of pleasure."

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