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Venison donated to needy tops 137 tons

Missouri deer hunters' generosity just keeps growing. Last year, firearms and archery deer hunters donated 275,886 pounds of protein-rich venison to food banks statewide through the Share the Harvest Program.

That translates into tremendous nutritional benefits for Missourians in need. It also bolsters cashstrapped private and public social-assistance programs.

Last year's venison donations were nearly triple what they were just two years earlier. The Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM), which administers the program, hopes to boost donations to more than half a million pounds in the next few years.

The strength of Share the Harvest is in its community-based approach. Sponsoring organizations, such as civic clubs or churches, cooperate with meat lockers to collect and process meat with conservation agents' approval. In many cases, local donors provide cash to pay for deer processing, making it inexpensive or even free for hunters to donate whole deer.

For more information about Share the Harvest, contact the CFM at (573) 634-2322, <mofed@socket.net>, or visit online.

Shepherd of the Hills hosts family fishing event

Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery in Branson will sponsor a Family Fishing Fair from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. June 11. Visitors will learn how to cast, what bait to use for different fish and how to clean and cook fish. The Fishin' Magicians comedy team will perform at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and other family-oriented activities and crafts will provide entertainment for every age. The program is free. No reservations are needed. The hatchery is 5 miles south of Branson on Highway 165. For more information, call (417) 334-4865, ext. 0.

APPLY NOW FOR TREE MAINTENANCE GRANTS

Missouri communities can get help with tree maintenance through Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) grants. The TRIM program offers cost-sharing for tree inventory, planting and pruning, as well as for removal of hazardous trees. Training also is available to teach city or county workers how to care for community forests.

The Conservation Department and the Missouri Community Forest Council sponsor the program. It provides reimbursement for up to 60 percent of the cost of tree conservation work on public land. Projects located in communities with Tree City USA designation are eligible for an additional 15 percent cost share.

The application deadline is June 1. For grant applications and more information, write to Community Forestry Coordinator, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

LEWIS & CLARK celebration resumes

Lewis and Clark buffs who were sorry to see the modern-day Corps of Discovery disappear up the Missouri River last summer will be glad to know that Lewis and Clark events are resuming this spring.

The fun started April 28-30, when the keelboat crewed by the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles made its first Missouri appearance in St. Joseph. Events follow in Lexington May 4-5, Waverly May 5-6, Brunswick May 6-7, Glasgow May 7-8, Rocheport May 8-9, Lupus May 9-10, Chamois May 14-15, Hermann May 15-16, Washington May 16-21 and St. Charles May 21.

The keelboat will be on display on the south lawn of the State Capitol in Jefferson City May 11-14. Storytellers, dugout canoe makers, food and souvenir vendors, displays of Lewis and Clark era artifacts and children's games all will enliven the event.

Want a memento of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial? Order a commemorative coin from the Conservation Department's Nature Shop. The silver dollar-sized, gold-colored coins are reproductions of the peace medallions that Lewis and Clark gave to Native Americans. The coins are available for $4 plus shipping online, or by calling (877) 521-8632.

BRONZEBACKS AND BUSHYTAILS ARE LEGAL MAY 28

Hunters who are itching to get back into the woods and anglers who relish frying up a mess of smallmouth bass should mark May 28 on their calendars. That's opening day for squirrel season statewide and for keeping black bass on streams in most of southern Missouri.

The daily limit for squirrels is six fox and gray squirrels in the aggregate. The possession limit is 12. The daily limit on black bass is six smallmouth, largemouth or spotted bass in the aggregate in most waters. The possession limit is 12. Black bass must be at least 12 inches long to be legal in Ozark streams. Some lakes and streams have special length or creel limits. Check the 2005 fishing regulations summary for detailed information and regulations for the waters where you plan to fish.

Gypsy moth trapping resumes

May is the month when Missouri foresters' thoughts turn to gypsy moths, the winged pests that have devastated forests in the eastern and north-central United States. The moth is slowly extending its range west and south.

The infested area is northeast of a line extending from Wisconsin to North Carolina. Gypsy moth populations in Wisconsin, northeastern Illinois and northern Indiana are expected to expand over the next few years.

Gypsy moths can leapfrog to new areas by laying eggs on motor homes or other vehicles and equipment used by interstate travelers. To prevent a leapfrog infestation from getting out of hand in Missouri, agriculture and forestry officials set out traps baited with female moth pheromones. The discovery of gypsy moths in an area gives an early warning to mobilize eradication efforts.

Starting this month, agriculture and forestry officials will hang triangular orange cardboard traps on trees statewide. They will monitor the traps through August. If you see a trap, leave it in place, so that it will be effective in detecting this damaging forest pest.

For more information, call (573) 751-5505 or (573) 882-9909, ext. 3303, or send e-mail to <michael.brown@mdc.mo.gov> or <foresthealth@mdc.mo.gov>.

Celebrate National Trails Day at conservation areas

Missourians looking for places to celebrate National Trails Day should visit a nearby conservation area. Missouri has hundreds of miles of hiking trails on these areas and other conservation facilities statewide.

  • Columbia Bottom CA in north St. Louis County has more than 10 miles of paved roads suitable for walking, in addition to trails and a viewing platform overlooking the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Interpretive signs help visitors enjoy the natural features of the area. Stop at the visitor center for information before hitting the trails.
  • Grand Bluffs CA has a 1-mile trail to the top of a scenic dolomite bluff mentioned in the journals of Lewis and Clark. The steep hike to the top of the bluff takes you through woods and fields to a grand Missouri River vista.
  • James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area, within minutes of downtown Kansas City, has 17.5 miles of trails through 2,600 acres of forest, prairie, glade, grassland and wetlands.
  • Mark Youngdahl Urban CA in St. Joseph has more than 2 miles of hiking trails. Most of the trails are wheelchair accessible.
  • Springfield Conservation Nature Center has 2.8 miles of trails through forest, savanna, fields and marsh. Stop at the nature center before hiking to learn about current natural events.
  • Pilot Knob CA in Stone County has a 2.7-mile Ridge Top Trail that leads hikers past impressive rock ledges. Patches of oak-hickory forest on steep hillsides punctuate the austere beauty of a rocky Ozark glade landscape. Spring visitors are treated to displays of native wildflowers. The trail is a leisurely three-hour hike.

For more information about trails on conservation areas, check the Conservation Department's online atlas, <www.missouriconservation. org/atlas/>, or order a copy of Conservation Trails ($5) by calling The Nature Shop toll-free at (877) 521-8632, or writing to The Nature Shop, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102. You also can order online.

BREAKING BAD HABITAT HABITS

Sometimes what you don't do is as important to good wildlife management as what you do. Take mowing, for example. When crop planting and haying are done and food plots are in, we sometimes go in search of more jobs. This can lead to “recreational mowing.” It is a great way to keep busy, but mowing idle field edges and corners destroys productive transition habitat between woods and fields. It can set back hard-won habitat progress.

Instead of mowing, disk pastures where dense, rank grass excludes ground-nesting birds. Another useful job is spraying herbicide to eradicate serecia lespedeza, exotic cool-season grasses and other plants that contribute little to wildlife.

Another habit that hurts wildlife habitat is brush burning. Tree tops and branches left over after cutting firewood or timber stand improvement cuts may look like trash, but they can be a key habitat element. Instead of setting fire to this material to “clean up” an area, pile slash in out-of-the-way spots between woods and open ground. Rabbits, quail and other birds will flock there to escape predators and harsh weather.

Report ground bats

Not all bats roost in belfries, caves, attics or barns. Missouri's common red bat is one of several bat species that spends most of its days under loose tree bark or among leaves on the forest floor. This habit makes counting them or learning about them difficult. Lack of knowledge about their distribution and natural history makes it difficult to ensure they aren't hurt by human activities, such as prescribed burning.

Professor Lynn Robbins at Southwest Missouri State University would like to change that. He is asking Missourians to be on the lookout for non-cave bats and to report sightings online.

Late winter and early spring are the best times to observe the bats, which sometimes fly up from leaf litter when disturbed by passing people. They also can be seen flying on warm winter evenings when cave bats are still dormant.

FISHING IS FREE JUNE 14 & 15

Anglers don't need a fishing permit the first weekend in June. June 14 and 15 are Free Fishing Days in Missouri; you can fish without having to buy a fishing permit, daily trout tags or trout permits at any conservation area and most other places in the state. Requirements for special permits still may apply at some county, city or private areas. Normal regulations, such as size and daily limits, still apply everywhere.

Nature plates dish up support for conservation

Last year, Missourians contributed $75,000 for nature-themed automobile license plates and in doing so helped make their state a more natural place. The Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization, took the money and reinvested it in projects ranging from disabled-accessible fishing facilities and archery ranges to educational programs for youths and surveillance equipment to catch poachers.

Conservation license plates require a $25 annual donation. You can choose from artwork of a white-tailed deer, a bluebird or a largemouth bass. The Missouri Motor Vehicle Bureau charges an additional $15 for either the personalized plate or a stock plate. For more information about conservation license plates and the work of the foundation, contact the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, MO 65102, (573) 634-2080 or (800) 227-1488.

Connected to conservation

You might be surprised how often conservation helps community-based programs. For example, $210,000 in matching grants obtained through the Conservation Department helped fund 16 local bird conservation programs sponsored by Audubon Societies, county parks and recreation departments, a Girl Scout troop, sportsmen's clubs, private landowners and a power cooperative. Another $25,000 grant from the Conservation Department helped support Kansas City Wildlands' volunteer habitat restoration program.

Conservation also contributes more than money to communities. Youngsters in the Kansas City area, for example, now experience hands-on learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition in a full-sized, authentic dugout canoe handcrafted by Conservation Department employees in their spare time.

For more information about support for community-based conservation programs, visit online.

ZEBRA MUSSELS EDGE CLOSER

With the discovery of zebra mussels in Grand Lake, Okla., and adult mussels and larvae at El Dorado and Cheney lakes in Kansas, Missouri boaters, anglers and other water enthusiasts need to be on the lookout to prevent the spread of this destructive pest.

Since arriving in North America in 1988, this Caspian Sea native has hitchhiked to many areas of the country, including the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, causing economic, ecological and human health problems along the way.

Transporting boats, motors, trailers and aquatic plants from one body of water to another poses one of the biggest risks for spreading zebra mussels. Adults can live for several days out of water, and their microscopic larvae can survive in boat bilge water, live wells, engine cooling water systems and bait buckets.

To help prevent the spread of zebra mussels, remember to:

  • Inspect your boat and trailer thoroughly, and remove any trash, mussels or aquatic weeds after each outing.
  • Drain water from the motor, live well, bilge and transom wells and other parts of your boat.
  • Dump leftover bait on land, away from the water.
  • Rinse boat, trailer and equipment (including live wells, bilge and cooling systems) thoroughly with hard spray from a garden hose, and allow to dry for at least 48 hours. If your boat or equipment was used in zebra mussel-infested waters, use a commercial car wash with hot water.
  • Dry boat, motor, trailer and equipment thoroughly in the hot sun before using again.
  • Learn to identify zebra mussels. Adults have a distinct triangularshaped shell, with a variable striped color pattern. They can reach 2 inches, but most are fingernail-sized.

To report a potential zebra mussel sighting or for additional information, go to <www.missouriconservation.org/nathis/exotic/zebra/> or contact a Conservation Department office.

Waterfowl survey: 50 years and counting

Visiting 2 million square miles of isolated prairie ponds and northern wilderness to count waterfowl is a daunting challenge. In fact, it was impossible until 50 years ago, when the first U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) pilot-biologists climbed into small aircraft to assess numbers of ducks, geese and swans and the condition of their nesting areas.

Each May, 12 teams of biologist-pilots and trained observers fly standardized routes, covering 400 to 500 miles a day. They fly a mere 150 feet above ground to get accurate counts of waterfowl.

Global positioning systems and other technological innovations make the job easier and the data more accurate today, but the challenge of flying 80,000 miles (more than three times around the globe) in a few weeks remains unchanged.

Without the information gathered in this way, biologists could not set hunting seasons and bag limits that ensure healthy waterfowl populations for the future.

Until last year, the FWS also conducted aerial surveys each July to measure waterfowl nesting success. Budget cuts caused cancellation of that survey in 2004 and again this year.

SCHOLARSHIP AVAILABLE FOR STUDENT COMMUNICATORS

The Missouri Outdoor Communicators (MOC) is accepting applications for a $1,500 scholarship.

MOC awards the E.L. “Buck” Rogers Memorial Scholarship to Missouri college students who are interested in careers in outdoor communications. The scholarship comes with a one-year MOC membership and an expense-paid trip to the group's annual conference in September. Applications are due by June 1. For application forms and additional information, visit online.

Rogers, a long-time Columbia resident and newspaper columnist, was a founding member of MOC and a past president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He died in 1997.

AGENT NOTEBOOK

Can an angler take a limit of crappie off of the Lake of the Ozarks and then on the same day go to the Gasconade River and take more crappie? Can a trout fisherman take a limit of trout at the trout park at Maramec Springs and on the same day go to Montauk, buy a second daily tag and take another limit of trout? The answer to these questions might surprise you.

There is a statewide daily limit for each of Missouri's fish species. Some areas, like major impoundments, might have special regulations setting a more restrictive daily limit, but at no time are anglers allowed to exceed the statewide limit in a single day.

The statewide daily limit on crappie is 30. This also is the limit on the Gasconade River, but on Lake of the Ozarks the daily crappie limit is 15. If an angler limited out on Lake of the Ozarks, he or she could go to the Gasconade River on the same day and catch up to 15 more crappie.

The angler in the trout park is finished after catching his four trout, however. That's because the statewide daily limit of four trout applies even to the trout parks. Once the angler reached the limit of four trout at Maramec Springs, he or she would be prohibited from keeping any more trout on that day anywhere in the state of Missouri, even in one of the other trout parks.

Remember, the statewide daily limit can never be exceeded.— Steve Zap, Phelps County

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