As a forensic crime scene investigator for the Columbia Police Department, I have investigated a variety of crime scenes. Each one presents new challenges.
I'm currently working on a scene, however, that is totally different from the criminal cases I investigate at work. This on-going investigation takes place in my own backyard.
Before I opened this case file, I had to do some background research on the subjects I may encounter. As with any investigation, it is important to learn as much as I can about the characters that are involved. Knowing where the suspects live, their survival needs and where they spend their time is valuable in any case. I also need to know where to get the answers to these questions.
Ten years ago, my wife and I purchased five acres bordering the Columbia city limits where we would build our home. The scene was thick with cedar trees and underbrush, typical of regenerated farmland.
As I investigated the acreage, I found clues indicating high potential for improving wildlife habitat. As I made my way through the underbrush, I found red cedar, persimmon, black walnut, white and black oak trees, wild plum, and a variety of native grasses. I envisioned clover strips, winter wheat plots, brush piles and wild blackberry thickets along nature trails. I couldn't wait to start my case work.
Over the years, I have accumulated many issues of the Missouri Conservationist magazine. I don't throw them away because they help me with habitat improvement, wildlife identification and many other conservation topics. I often visit the Conservation Department's web site.
Another site, Outdoor Endeavors, links to state fish and wildlife departments all around the country. Of course, you can always contact your local conservation agent, private land conservationist or county extension office for advice.
During my case investigation, I frequently used information from all these resources for guidance. A good detective should have lots of sources.
I began clearing the underbrush with a chain saw for our first food plot. It was late winter, so I didn't have to contend with chiggers and ticks. Remember, you don't need acres of row crops to attract a variety of wildlife. You just need to supply a diversity of food and habitat.
As cedar posts accumulated, I crisscrossed them and piled cedar boughs on top. These brushpiles provide rabbits refuge from most predators. By late summer, I used our garden tiller to break up soil until it