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Ask the Ombudsman

Q: We had a lot of flooding earlier this year. I was wondering what happens to the fish during high water and swift currents?

A: Fish have been contending with floods forever and seem to weather the events well. However, floodwaters can be helpful or harmful, depending on severity and timing.

In general, fish, and the habitats in which they live, depend on a natural cycle of high and low water. For example, a spring flood might reduce the spawning success of smallmouth bass this year, but it might also remove accumulations of silt, or add the cover of new logs or boulders that benefit the population for years to come. High water at spawning time can be harmful to some species, but may help other species of fish access new areas. Sometimes fish travel great distances during high water. One flathead catfish tagged in the Missouri River was recovered 30 days later 90 miles upstream in a tributary of the Nodaway River. Of course, pollution and debris can be negative aspects of floodwater. Current isn’t too much of a concern as fish are built to deal with fast water. We think they probably seek protection in sheltered areas if/when things get too intense.

Rising water generally triggers fish movement and active feeding. A general rise of several inches or a foot or two can provide great fishing, but be aware of weather conditions and don’t take chances during flood events. Safety should be your first priority. Check out MDC’s weekly fishing report at www.MissouriConservation.org for Web sites providing stream and lake water levels.

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

Hunters and trappers prevent striped skunks from bedeviling homeowners.

People call Conservation Agents for help in dealing with raccoons in garbage, opossums on back porches and bats in attics. Some of the trickiest “nuisance wildlife” calls we get, however, deal with striped skunks.

The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis—which literally translates to foul smell), gets its bad rap from the unpleasant odor it emits when it feels threatened. Skunks may live in a ground burrow, or beneath a building or rock pile. Skunks do not truly hibernate so you will see them year-round, but they are primarily nocturnal. When these critters become overpopulated, they cause more problems around homes.

Agents are thankful that there are hunters and trappers to help to keep these animals from becoming too numerous and causing even more problems. They pursue these skunks because their pelts can be sold to fur buyers, making a good thing out of a potential nuisance.

For more information on nuisance animal prevention and damage control, go to http://www.MissouriConservation.org/257, or contact your regional Conservation Department office to receive a free brochure. Of course, you can always contact your local conservation agent for help with any nuisance animal problem.

Kelly Knowles is the District Supervisor for the Protection Division in the Central Region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

June 1978

Missouri’s Mountain Boomer by Tom R. Johnson is about the Eastern collared lizard, also known as “mountain boomer.” The collared lizard is a member of the iguana family. It is one of the most colorful lizards and has a large chunky head, long tail and long powerful hind legs. They range from 10 to 12 inches in total length. Eastern collared lizards are restricted to the sandstone glades and dry limestone of the Ozarks. Out of the 12 kinds of lizards in Missouri, the collared lizard is the only one that can walk on its hind legs and is known to run as fast as 16 miles per hour. They are not venomous, but if captured will bite to defend themselves.—Contributed by the Circulation staff

Behind the Code

The Wildlife Code has protected endangered species since 1973.

by Tom Cwynar

The Wildlife Code protects 67 endangered species. Of that number, 30 are federally endangered and are subject to federal penalties. The remainder are state endangered only.

The process for adding a species to the list begins with a Conservation Department biologist writing a status report defining threats to a species and recommending protection. If listing is supported by the Department’s Regulations Committee, it is then up to the Conservation Commission to give their approval. The public then has a chance to voice support or opposition before it is included in the Wildlife Code.

Removing a species from the list requires the same process.

The endangered species list is a slow-moving one. Only a handful of species have been added this decade and only one has been removed. That’s because threats to species, such as climate changes and habitat loss, do not fluctuate much over time, and populations recover slowly.

Conservation Department biologists do all they can to improve habitat and alleviate threats to endangered species. The Next Generation strategic plan sets a goal of removing five species from the state endangered species list by 2015 through habitat management, threat reduction, education and monitoring.

The Department is well on its way to achieving this goal. Two species on the state endangered list are presently being considered for removal.

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