Agents in Action
way home they observed several bats emerging on their evening flight from the cave. The men stopped and started shooting.
Agent Wollard couldn’t locate the second person involved that day, but he did run into him later that evening when he arrested him spotlighting and killing deer out of hunting season.
Both men were found guilty of taking endangered species, for which they received stiff fines, a year of probation and 40 hours of community service work. The second man also was found guilty of spotlighting, received additional penalties, and his hunting privileges were revoked for a period of time.
A few years ago, while making a routine fishing permit check on a man camped on the Eleven Point River, Oregon County Conservation Agent Paul Veatch discovered a live Ozark hellbender in the fisherman’s live basket.
Hellbenders are long-lived aquatic salamanders that don’t reproduce until they are several years old. They are found only in high-quality, clear-water streams and have little tolerance for habitat alteration or degradation. At the time, Ozark hellbenders were a protected species of conservation concern, but they are now listed as endangered in the state.
In court, the fisherman plead guilty but told the judge he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. He had just wanted to show the hellbender to some friends. The judge in this case was very knowledgeable about hellbenders and gave the entire court a discourse about them. After assessing a small fine, he told all present that the new rule in Oregon County is “… if you catch something that is real ugly and you don’t know what it is, you must release it as soon as possible.”
Mussels are another aquatic critter of special conservation concern. Because they are essentially unable to move about in nature and are filter feeders, they are good indicator species for overall stream health. Many species are listed on Missouri’s Conservation Concern Checklist as critically imperiled, and 11 are listed as endangered.
Pulaski County Conservation Agent Aaron Pondrom was patrolling the Gasconade River one summer day when he noticed two people loading a boat and fishing gear into the back of a pickup. When he contacted them to check their fishing permits, he discovered they were in possession of 72 mussels—62 over the daily limit of 5 per person. Both pleaded guilty.
Also in Pulaski County, conservation agents Casey Simmons and Pondrom were patrolling the Big Piney River when they