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CONSERVATION LIFESAVERS HONORED

Conservation Department Construction Supervisor Dave Martz and Lead Equipment Operator Dwight Hamilton weren't looking for a pat on the back when they went duck hunting at Harrison County Lake Nov. 1, but they got one anyway.

The pair sprang into action when a small boat carrying another party of three hunters swamped and began to sink. They helped the victims out of the 40-degree water and into a warm vehicle in time to ward off life-threatening hypothermia, then went back and rescued the wet hunters' dog and equipment.

At its December meeting, the Conservation Commission presented Special Achievement Awards to Martz and Hamilton for their quick, heroic action.

Put a little nature on your plate

Express your love for conservation by purchasing Conservation License Plates for your vehicle.

Conservation-minded Missourians can choose from three designs featuring a largemouth bass, a whitetailed deer or a bluebird. Along with the colorful background design, buyers can choose a personalized, six digit license plate number.

The Conservation License Plate costs $25, all of which goes to the private, non-profit Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation.The foundation uses the money for local conservation projects such as outdoor classrooms, and acquiring and protecting wildlife habitat.The Motor Vehicle Bureau charges an additional $15 for the personalized plate number.

Conservation License Plates make affordable, personalized gifts for parents, children, friends, teachers or anyone who treasures the outdoors.

For more information about the plates and the work of the Foundation, contact Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, P.O.Box 366, Jefferson City, MO 65109. Phone (800) 227-1488 or (573) 634-2080.

Place seedling and shrub orders

As the weather begins to warm our thoughts turn to spring planting! It is not too late to buy seedling trees and shrubs from the Conservation Departments' George O. White State Forest Nursery. To obtain an order form or to find out what species are still available, contact the nursery at (573) 674-3229 or visit our website.

BOBWHITE BOOSTERS get their own Web page

If you want to grow more quail on your property, the Conservation Department's Website has a page just for you. Visit online and learn what resources are available to bobwhite boosters.

It's an intricate world

If you think resource management problems half a world away don't concern you, think again. Global trade affects more than just the stock market.

For instance, the People's Republic of China currently faces a long-term water shortage.This limits agricultural productivity, which may eventually require China to buy more wheat from the United States.This, in turn, will influence whether farmers enroll or keep land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).The CRP is an important part of efforts to restore bobwhite quail populations in the eastern United States. For upland bird hunters, China's water shortage is important news.

Check those fishing regulations!

Missouri anglers will find that 2004 fishing regulations include some changes that went into effect March 1.These include:

  • Expanded reciprocal fishing privileges on the Mississippi River bordering Kentucky.
  • An 8-inch minimum length limit on rock bass (goggle-eye) on the Big Piney River from Hwy 17 to the Gasconade River.
  • Extending the 15-inch minimum length limit and one fish daily limit on smallmouth bass on the Big River to include the stretch from its mouth upstream to Leadwood Access in St. Francois County.
  • A 15-inch minimum length limit and two fish daily limit on black bass on the Elk River in McDonald County.
  • A 24-inch minimum length limit and one fish daily limit on flathead catfish on Longview Lake.
  • Opening the James River from Lake Springfield Dam to the Highway 160 bridge to snagging, snaring and grabbing, and permitting paddlefish to be harvested and possessed on this portion of the river.

For details of these and other changes, see the 2004 Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations, available wherever fishing permits are sold.

EXPIRATION INFORMATION

Missouri hunting and fishing permits expire the last day of February. A chance meeting with a conservation agent is no time to remember that you're carrying expired permits. Replace your permits now, before March 1, and avoid expiration exasperation later.

Urban hunt helps control city deer

During the state's first urban deer hunting season, held Oct. 25-26, hunters using bows, crossbows or muzzle-loading rifles killed 91 deer in and around St. Louis and Kansas City.

The urban deer portion of firearms deer season is our best tool for managing burgeoning urban deer populations. Giving hunters with short-range weapons an opportunity to harvest deer in developed areas gives local governments a way to reduce property damage, as well as injuries and deaths that result from deer-automobile collisions.

As more municipalities and counties pass laws allowing hunters to take deer, the season should help reduce deer numbers in urban areas. It also provides additional opportunities for people to enjoy lean, healthy Missouri venison.

ATTENTION DISABLED HUNTERS!

The Randolph County Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is giving away a two day turkey hunt with Gunn Creek Outfitters to a disabled hunter. If you would like to be included in the drawing, contact Jason Shannon at (660) 291-4724.

Forest management is critical to quail coveys

Landowners who leave timbered acres out of their quail management strategy are missing a big opportunity. With careful, active management, brushy forest borders and openings can greatly enhance quail habitat.

Quail, rabbits and a variety of other wildlife depend heavily on "early successional habitat"--areas where disturbance sets back vegetation to square one. Although forest land alone is not good for quail, certain forest management practices can dramatically enhance quail habitat. Anything that creates openings in the forest canopy and allows sunlight to reach the ground will encourage herbaceous plants such as sticktights, buck brush, blackberries and wild grapes. These plants create cover and food for quail.

Cutting down trees is most beneficial when done along the edge between forest and pastures or crop fields. Another highly beneficial strategy is cutting trees to create travel corridors between fields that are separated by forest.

When cutting trees, leave chinquapin and post oaks, which produce small acorns that quail eat. Fell trees on top of each other and leave them in place to create durable, open brush piles that quail can use as home bases for their daily activities.

Early successional habitat doesn't last. Brushy edges and forest openings grow up, and brush piles deteriorate, reducing their value to quail.You have to cut new openings every two or three years to ensure continued food and shelter for quail.

NO OBSTACLES IN SPECIAL TURKEY HUNT

Mobility-impaired hunters can enjoy Missouri's world class turkey hunting at the annual Mark Twain Lake Turkey Hunt for the Physically Challenged May 1-2 at Indian Creek Recreation Area.

The U.S.Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and manages Mark Twain Lake, works with local community groups to make the hunt memorable. Twenty physically challenged hunters get VIP service normally associated with expensive guided hunts.

Participants supply their own guns and ammunition, 20-gauge or larger. A limited number of guides are available, but participants are encouraged to bring their own helpers.

To qualify, applicants must be permanently disabled (non-ambulatory or semi-ambulatory), have valid hunter safety certification cards and valid spring turkey hunting permits.

For application materials, contact the Corps of Engineers, Mark Twain Lake, Rt. 2, Box 20A, Monroe City, MO 63456, (573) 735-4097. Applications must be received by April 2. Reservations will be awarded by random drawing.

Sign on now for Lewis & Clark adventures

Two-hundred years ago this month, officials of France and Spain met in St. Louis to transfer ownership of the Louisiana Territory to the fledgling United States of America.Two months later, the Corps of Discovery, under the command of Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Lt. William Clark, set out to explore the newly acquired land, which doubled the size of our nation.

These events and much more will be memorialized in "signature events" organized by the national Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission.Art exhibits, demonstrations of pioneer skills, period music, historical programs and galas will be part of bicentennial events in St. Louis, St. Charles, Kansas City and virtually every community between. For more information on signature events, contact:

  • St. Louis--Wendell Smith, (314) 515-5255, wsmith@umsl.edu;
  • St. Charles --Venetia McEntire, (636) 946-7776, info@booneslick.com;
  • Kansas City--Emilie Jester, (816) 691-3846, ejester@visitkc.com.

Or visit www.lewisandclark.state.mo.us/.

Habitat Hints: Prescribed Fire Can Help Your Prairie

Fire is one of the best tools you can use to make your prairie landscape "grow native."

Prairies,glades and savannahs evolved with fire, and fire can actually increase their vigor and diversity.Prescribed burning can produce more forage for cattle in native warm-season grass plantings and prairies and control woody plants and exotic grasses in fallow fields.It also retards exotic grasses and encourages the annual weeds that provide food for wildlife.

Prescribed burning can be more economical and environmentally sensitive than cutting trees or using herbicides to control invasive plant species, especially if you use it regularly.

To burn safely, it's best to prepare yourself with a burn workshop.Check with your local Conservation Department office for dates of burn workshops in your area.If you'd rather hire a trained professional to do the job, check out the list of conservation contractors or "habitat helpers"at www.mdc.mo.gov.Click on "Private Land Assistance,"then "Conservation Assistance Contractors."You can also visit the Grow Native! Landscape Services online under "Where to Buy."

A trained professional can take the guesswork out of conducting a safe prescribed burn, giving you get the landscape effects you want,with fewer worries.

Health issues lurk beneath raccoons' "cute" exterior

Raccoons may look cuddly, but beneath their fuzzy exterior they are dangerous. Besides being fierce fighters when cornered, and potentially ill-tempered when mature, raccoons carry health hazards for people and domestic pets.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., recently reported the first documented human death from raccoon rabies. It involved a 25-year-old Virginia man.

Raccoons also carry a parasite that can be deadly for humans or pets.The roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) is found in as many as eight out of 10 raccoons in some areas.It does not harm raccoons, which spread the worms' eggs in their feces. People, dogs and other pets that contact the eggs around areas frequented by raccoons can become infected.

In humans, the worms migrate to the central nervous system, eyes and other organs. Symptoms include lack of energy, nausea, loss of muscle control, liver enlargement and coma. Treatment is difficult.

To avoid problems, don't feed raccoons or keep them as pets. Discourage them from hanging around homes by making sure potential food items are out of their reach.For information about relocating raccoons and sanitizing areas they have used, visit the CDC Web site.

CALL *OGT TO REPORT POACHERS

Reporting poachers is easier than ever. Cell phone users served by Southwestern Bell can touch *OGT to get a toll-free connection to Missouri's Operation Game Thief hot line.The increasing number of people who carry cellular phones constitute a huge network of mobile observers. Some hunters even carry cellular phones to their deer stands, making it possible to report illegal activities from perches in trees.

Coming soon to a location near you--FISH!

The Conservation Department's Mobile Fish Aquarium is on the road, bringing entertainment and education to communities statewide. Whether you are interested in learning what makes largemouth bass bite or what color of jigs crappie prefer, you'll love this touring educational facility. Upcoming appearances include:

  • Jan. 16-18 - St. Joseph Sport, Boat and RV Show
  • Jan. 23-24 - Black River Agriculture Expo, Poplar Bluff
  • Feb. 3-8 - Ozark Mountain Anglers All Sports Show, Columbia
  • Feb. 20-22 - Springfield Sport, Boat and RV Show
  • March 31-April 3 - Pioneer Ridge Science Education Center, Independence
  • April 22-25 - Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, Kirkwood
  • April 30-May 2 - Roaring Rivers Kids Fishing Day, Cassville
  • May 6-8 - Serendipity Days, St. Clair
  • June 11-13 - Army Birthday Celebration at the Lake, Wappapello
  • June 25-27 - Ballwin Days Festival, Ballwin
  • July 3-4 - Lewis & Clark National Signature Event, Kansas City
  • July 21-27 - Boone County Fair, Columbia
  • July 30-Aug. 8 - Ozark Empire Fair, Springfield
  • Aug. 12-22 - Missouri State Fair, Sedalia
  • Sept. 2-5 - Northwest Missouri District Fair, Bethany
  • Sept. 6-10 - Putnam County Fair, Unionville
  • Sept. 11-19 - Southeast Missouri District Fair, Cape Girardeau
  • Sept.24-26 - National Hunting and Fishing Day, Westfield Mall, Chesterfield

For more information abut these events or to schedule an aquarium appearance in your area, call Jeff Finley at (573) 884-6861, ext. 225.

A whole lot of teachin' goin' on

Teaching hunter education classes becomes a team sport when Joe Crites is involved. In recent years, his classes have grown until it takes a dozen instructors and helpers to run them.More than 300 people age 11-60 registered for a class at the Anheuser Busch Natural Resources Building on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus last November.Of those, 245 graduated.One benefit of the team teaching required by a class this size is that students get the benefit of several instructors' styles and viewpoints.

When poaching gets personal

I got the call sometime after 11 p.m. The report from the sheriff's office was that a deer had just been shot by three men in a truck using a spotlight. I called the eyewitness, who had very good information, including a license plate number. A short search turned up the dead doe, and the next day we were able to round up the three men involved in killing it.

The case sticks in my mind because, when I talked to the witness, she told me that this kind of activity happened all the time around her house.When I asked why she hadn't called before, she said she figured it was none of her business. What made this night different for her, however, was that one of the bullets the poachers had fired at the deer missed, traveled over a quarter of a mile and went through a window in her house. It lodged in the wall just a few feet above her sleeping baby.

That's when poaching became personal for her.

People who take wildlife from motor vehicles, public roadways or with an artificial light are a black eye on all hunters and constitute a public hazard. Conservation Agents make every effort to stop this illegal behavior, and we are grateful for all the help we can get.

Citizen input combined with timely information can thwart poachers. Don't wait for a bullet go through your window before you decide to call your local conservation agent or Operation Game Thief at (800) 392-1111.-- Jeff Scott

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