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A walk in the snow reveals quality quail habitat

Quail, rabbits and other ground-nesting wildlife need several things to thrive. High on the list of needs is “escape cover”—places where they can hide from predators. Shrubby thickets are among the best escape cover. Wild plum, blackberry, aromatic sumac, hazelnut and elderberry all can provide excellent escape cover, but not just any thicket will do. If the growth is too thin on top, hawks and other airborne predators can get at their prey. Also, an open top allows sunlight to reach the ground, producing thick undergrowth that makes it hard for prey animals to get inside and move around. The best time to see how a thicket stacks up is when there is snow on the ground. You should be able to see open ground at quail- or rabbit-eye level. For information about how to “build” a quail and rabbit thicket, see below.

Conservation partners work to make Missouri Firewise

State and federal agencies are working together to protect Missourians’ lives and property from wildfire. A grant from the USDA Forest Service, in conjunction with the Conservation Department and the Southwest Missouri Resource Conservation and Development Councils, will enable the state to implement Firewise. This program focuses on teaching people how to live more safely with the threat of wildfire.

Program participants learn that the “fire environment” consists of three factors that influence how a fire burns. These are weather, topography and fuels. Of these factors, only one—fuels—can be modified. Fuels can be treated, cleared or removed to slow wildfires. An area that has been modified to reduce fire is called a defensible space.

Firewise teaches homeowners how to create defensible spaces around homes. Homes with defensible spaces have a greater chance of surviving wildfires. Such spaces also reduce the chances of structure fires moving from buildings to surrounding forest.

The Forest Service grant permits the hiring of a fire protection specialist for two years to help communities implement Firewise. For more information, contact Todd Chlanda, (417) 439-0218, or the nearest Conservation Department office (see page 1 for a list of regional office phone numbers).

Missouri cleans up in State Fish Art Contest

Missouri’s state fish, the channel catfish, is enjoying some extra fame these days, courtesy of three budding artists. The trio of Missouri youths brought their state’s finny icon to new prominence with winning entries in Wildlife Forever’s State Fish Art Contest. Sisters Brie and Tiara Jenkins of Pittsburg won Best of Show in their grade levels for paintings of channel catfish pursuing a frog and a crayfish. Brie won first place nationally in 7th through 9th grades, while Tiara won second in 10th through 12th grades. Meanwhile, Brenden McKeon of Desoto, Mo., won first place in the state competition in 4th through 6th grades with a pencil drawing of a channel catfish. Tiara’s winning artwork appears on the Art of Conservation commemorative stamp sheet. The winners received prizes, including rods and reels and art supplies. The entry deadline for the 2007 contest is March 31. For more information about the contest, visit online or contact Brett Richardson, brichardson@wildlifeforever.org, (763) 253-0222.

Poachers soon to have nowhere to hide

There was a time when poachers could escape the consequences of their illegal activities just by crossing a state line. Those days are gone, thanks to the Interstate Wildlife Violator’s Compact. The compact is an agreement between 22 states to honor one another’s hunting and fishing privilege suspensions. Wildlife offenders whose crimes get them suspended in one state lose the same privileges in all 22.

Nearly 4,000 hunters and anglers nationwide have received suspensions by compact member states. Missouri ranked seventh in the number of suspensions with 89. Top states were Idaho (294), Iowa (251) and Minnesota (240). In 2005 alone, member states suspended 1,650 hunters and anglers. In Missouri, suspension durations depend on the number and severity of violations. One year is the most common period, but a life suspension is possible.

The only people affected are repeat offenders or those who commit very serious violations. The average outdoors person who gets a ticket for a wildlife violation actually benefits from the compact. Before the agreement was in place, member states had trouble collecting fines from nonresidents. To ensure compliance, states often required offenders to post bonds or appear in court before leaving the state where the violation occurred. Now officers issue citations knowing that if violators try to evade penalties, they will lose hunting and fishing privileges in their home states.

Compact states have ultimate discretion in observing other states’ suspensions. Although it is in each state’s interest to honor most suspensions, they can evaluate the merit of every suspension and choose which to honor.

Missourians can turn in poachers by calling the toll-free Operation Game Thief Hot Line (800) 392-1111.

Member States

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

States with enabling legislation in progress

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Duck bands are more than just cool souvenirs

Waterfowl hunters who are lucky enough to shoot ducks or geese wearing leg bands proudly display the trophies on duck call lanyards. But these bands are much more than fashion accessories. Hunters who report retrieving bands can learn the life stories of the birds that carried them.

Bird bands are important tools for biologists in making management decisions about waterfowl. State and federal officials band thousands of ducks and geese each year. Most are never seen again. But hunters take some of the birds, enabling scientists to retrieve valuable information about birds’ lifespan and travels.

For this to happen, the hunter has to read the inscription etched on the band and report it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In return, the FWS sends back information about where and when the bird was banded.

Each band bears a serial number and information about how to report its recovery. For information about the history of bird banding and the use of bird-band data, visit online.

Nature lover Gail Oehrke leaves legacy

For some, a lifetime love affair with nature ends with their deaths. That is not the case with the late Gail Oehrke, who created a living legacy through volunteer service at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City. Oehrke, a retired educator from Owensville, joined the nature center’s cadre of dedicated volunteer naturalists in 1993, the same year the facility opened. In the ensuing 13 years, he invested more than 5,000 hours sharing his passion for the natural world with thousands of children at special events and off-site exhibits and through the Conservation Kids Club. Oehrke died July 10. He will be missed, but the influence he exerted on young hearts and minds is a legacy that no amount of money could ever buy.

Midway kids launch housing project for birds

Cass Midway Elementary students were busy pounding nails and building houses last April 28, and it was all for the birds. Students in grades K through 6 built more than 50 birdhouses. School Resource Officer Cpl. Kevin Tieman of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office organized the event, and the Harrisonville Family Center donated hammers and hardware for the project. Home Depot of Belton donated the lumber. The Conservation Department, which supplied house plans, will put up the houses at conservation areas around Cass County. Cass Midway High School students cut the lumber and organized materials before the event and helped supervise the younger students’ work. A naturalist from the Lakeside Nature Center presented a program about birds of prey. The project was part of Cass Midway’s Characterplus program that brings together schools, parents and businesses to develop the character of young people.

Missourians dominate Youth Hunter Education Challenge

Missouri youths brought home dozens of awards from the International Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) in Mansfield, Pa., in July. The Show-Me State’s Junior Sharpshooters—consisting of Matthew Brooks, Kyle Dunda, Logan Gerloff, Mason Horstman and Derek Wilson—won the archery, rifle, huntersafety and responsibility exam competitions. They placed second in the wildlife identification exam and third in shotgun shooting and placed second overall in the team competition.

Brooks, from Fair Grove, won the Junior Championship, and Wilson, of Jefferson City, came in second. Brooks won the hunter-safety trail competition and placed second in archery. Wilson won the archery competition and placed second in the rifle and hunter-safety trail competition.

More than 50,000 youths ages 11 to 18 take part in state and provincial YHEC programs each year. The best of those qualify for the international competition. They compete in marksmanship contests with rifles, shotguns, bows and arrows and muzzle-loading rifles, in addition to events that test their grasp of hunting safety and responsibility and their ability to identify wildlife by tracks and other signs.

To learn more about the program, contact Missouri YHEC Coordinator Jan Morris, JGMorris@aol.com, (636) 464-6214 or visit online.

Grant program targets urban open space

With the supply of open space dwindling in urban areas, the Conservation Department wants to encourage the stewardship of what remains. That is the goal of the Community Stewardship Grant Program in the St. Louis area. The existence of several groups dedicated to preserving and enhancing the value of urban open space in the metropolitan area is a tremendous asset to the effort.

The program seeks to support volunteer efforts to manage open space to encourage wildlife in St. Louis City, St. Louis and St. Charles counties and northern Jefferson County. Funding is available to nonprofit groups, parks departments and other land-management entities and volunteer groups in the metro area.

Projects that could qualify for grants include restoring native plants to areas that previously were mowed or unmaintained, planting trees, controlling exotic plants and building trails. Grants of up to $10,000 will be available, with preference given to projects with local cost-sharing or in-kind contributions. The application deadline is Dec. 22. For more information, call Erin Shank, (314) 301-1500.

Help monitor the deer herd

Missourians, and especially deer hunters, are asked to report sick deer as part of an ongoing statewide Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) monitoring program. Between 2002 and 2004, the Department, with the help of deer hunters, tested 22,000 deer from across the state for CWD. All tests were negative. With the conclusion of the sampling program in 2004, our surveillance efforts shifted to sampling sick deer reported by the public. This strategy has been successful in other states.

Hunters who harvest a deer that appears sick should contact a Department regional office. In some cases, the hunter may receive a replacement permit.

If you see a sick deer, make detailed notes about where and when the animal was observed and pass these along to Department staff (see page 1 for a list of our regional office phone numbers).

While CWD has not been found in Missouri, it is a concern in the management of white-tailed deer at the national level. Research continues to show no links to human or livestock diseases. The Missouri State CWD Task Force, a coordinated effort between the Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a variety of other governmental and conservation organizations, continues to monitor CWD issues and develop recommended actions as needed.

Long-time agent goes out with a wail

Laclede County Conservation Agent Betty Stricklen didn’t want her 26-year career to end in a whimper, so she went out with a wail. The agent, much of whose career was spent in and around Bennett Spring State Park, ended her tour of duty there by sounding the siren to mark the end of fishing hours on July 31.

When Stricklen began her agent training in 1980, Missouri had only one woman working as a conservation agent. She is the first woman to retire from the job. She came to Laclede County during deer season in 1981 and has worked there ever since. Although she hardly knew where Lebanon, Mo., was back then, she and her husband, Herman, have sunk roots in the community and plan to stay there in retirement.

Stricklen overcame gender stereotypes, paving the way for women who would follow her. She was known for her businesslike approach when making contacts in the field, her methodical record-keeping and her dogged determination in pursuing cases.

More than 100 people attended Stricklen’s retirement dinner Aug. 27. Protection Regional Supervisor Kurt Kysar said the crowd was a direct reflection on Stricklen’s career.

“Normally about 99 percent of the people at these retirement parties are from the Conservation Department,” said Kysar. “At this one, it was just about the opposite. Betty won a lot of support for conservation during her career. She was a fantastic agent with excellent community support.”

Agent Notebook

Conservation agents sometimes come across situations that leave an impression on us. This happened to me on opening morning of the youth deer season.

While on patrol, a fellow agent and I came upon an 11-year-old boy and his father. The youngster was very excited and said he had just shot at a big buck, but the buck had run into a field of standing corn.

Having on many occasions experienced cases in which a young hunter had fired a shot at a big buck and missed, I quietly asked the father if he thought his son had hit the deer. He said he thought it looked like a good shot. We searched and, sure enough, found a spot of blood on the ground. We followed the blood trail into the field of standing corn and, about 50 yards in, we came upon the dead buck. The young hunter had made a perfect shot.

I know this sounds like any other youth hunt, but this one was special because both the boy and his father were handicapped. Yet, here they were on opening morning of youth deer season having a great time.

I was exceptionally proud of the Conservation Department for making it possible for this young man to hunt with his father.

—Conservation Agent Russ Shifflett, Holt County

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