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Ask the Ombudsman

Q: Why are seedling orders from the Department of Conservation always taken in the fall with delivery for planting in late February to April? Why not take orders in July, with delivery in October or November?

A: I checked with the Department’s nursery in Licking and learned that potted or balled-and-burlaped trees or seedlings do very well with fall planting, but bare-root seedlings don’t. Bare-root seedlings need temperatures below 25 to 27 degrees before they go dormant. And several days of this is best to ensure dormancy. We usually don’t get this kind of weather until the first or second week of November. Often at the end of October, especially if we have had very little frost, there will be a lot of green leaves on the seedlings. Lifting these trees with green leaves, before hardening off, would make seedling survival very difficult.

Another problem we have with fall lifting of seedlings, even after hard freezes, are the brown, dead leaves that are still clinging to seedlings—especially oak. When we lift seedlings that have brown leaves and bring them into our cold storage, these leaves mold and then rot, often resulting in dead seedlings. We have our best results lifting trees after January.

The Department provides seedlings to Missouri residents for a nominal fee. For details please see the links listed below or request a seedling order form from your local Department office.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov.

Agent Notes

Conservation agents enforce laws that protect caves.

Missouri, the “Cave State,” has more than 5,700 recorded caves. That is more caves per square mile than any other state. Nearly 800 different species of animals, including some that are federally endangered, have been found in Missouri caves.

Most of these caves are on private land. To enter any cave on private land—even if it’s along a river—you must have permission of the landowner. Otherwise, you are trespassing. Other offenses relating to caves are littering, graffiti, removal of mineral formations, artifact digging, vandalism and entering closed caves. Statutes protect both public and private caves in Missouri from these destructive activities. Enter caves only if you have proper safety equipment and training.

Many bat species hibernate in caves during the winter months or use them as nurseries for rearing young. Caves also provide refuge from cold, drought and predators for other wildlife. Many caves on Conservation Department areas require a permit to enter. The entrances to sensitive caves on conservation areas often have specially engineered gates that allow bats to enter and exit, but not humans. Landowners should not allow entrance to caves on their land if bats use them for hibernation or as nurseries.

Robin Brandenburg is the conservation agent for Crawford County, which is in the St. Louis region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

December 1977

Missouri's Not So Dull by Jon L. Hawker explains why Missouri, a state of moderate size, has such an impressive array of species and natural wonders and the challenge this arrangement offers botanists, zoologists and ecologists. One reason is that centrally located Missouri is considered an “ecotone,” a zone of blending between two or more plant and animal communities. While states in the north, south, east and west have their own species, an ecotone, such as in Missouri, will have species common to each of these neighboring areas, and thus will have species that not all of those areas can have. In addition, the Missouri Ozarks are home to many unique species found nowhere else on earth.—Contributed by the Circulation staff.

Behind the Code

Waterfowl hunting regulations

by Tom Cwynar

Making Missouri’s waterfowl hunting regulations takes up a good portion of the year and involves a lot of people and energy. Because ducks and geese are migratory, state and federal agencies cooperate in creating waterfowl seasons and bag limits.

The country is divided into four flyways that correspond to the routes waterfowl regularly take to and from their breeding grounds. Missouri is in the Mississippi Flyway.

The Mississippi Flyway Council consists of representatives and biologists from 14 states and three Canadian provinces. The council provides input into a rules framework that applies to all states in the flyway.

Spring surveys to estimate waterfowl numbers and wetland conditions in Canada guide decisions about season length and bag limits. Every state in the flyway is allowed the same maximum number of days and maximum bag limits, but they may choose to impose smaller bag limits and allow fewer hunting days.

After learning the federal framework, Missouri biologists recommend season dates based on hunter preferences, habitat conditions, harvest information and weather patterns to the Conservation Commission.

Missouri waterfowl hunting regulations are not finalized until late August, too late to be included in the current year’s Wildlife Code. Instead, they are included in the Waterfowl Hunting Digest booklet, available from permit sellers around Sept. 1.

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