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Ask the Ombudsman

When the Department of Conservation began the ombudsman column, one of the first questions was: What is an ombudsman?

Ombudsman is a Scandinavian term for a person who distributes information and helps mediate disputes. That’s been my job for a little more than 10 years. I’ve probably learned more about people and conservation in the past 10 years than I did during my first 25 years with the Department. Bugs, plants, animals, fish, regulations and a host of other topics are far more than I could ever hope to keep up with, but with the patient help of knowledgeable conservation professionals, my coworkers, we’ve rarely failed to make an identification or get a correct answer to a question.

I wish I could say we were able to meet everyone’s expectations regarding the issues we’ve tackled. I know that’s not the case in every circumstance. But, almost without exception, exchanges have been conducted with mutual respect, and they’ve usually resulted in progress, or at least a better understanding of one another’s views.

The Department of Conservation faces a daunting challenge working for 5.8 million employers, but Missouri is truly fortunate to have folks who value our fish, forests and wildlife enough to amend our state constitution, not once, but twice, in order to protect those resources. The Department is often touted as the nation’s premier conservation department. In my opinion, that is a direct result of the actions of those the Department serves.

Being ombudsman has been a very rewarding assignment, but now it’s time to pass the reins to another. As I begin retirement, I wish all my employers and coworkers well, and I’ll conclude my final piece with a tribute to my wife and our daughters, whose love, support and encouragement mean so much to me.

Thanks for your interest in conservation. —Ken Drenon

Agent Notes

Identifying ducks on the wing is fun and it will help you stay legal.

The hiss of wings cutting the air filled the still morning as a group of “blackjacks” passed over my head, made a wide circle over the water and headed toward a duck blind that I had been observing. As the group of tightly bunched ducks passed low over their decoys, the two hunters in the blind fired a volley, dropping four birds from the flock. I winced as I watched this because I knew that when I checked these hunters there was a chance they were in violation.

Limits for different species of ducks vary greatly. To stay within the law, hunters need to be able to identify which species of ducks they are shooting. For example, “blackjack” is a name that some hunters use to describe two species of ducks: ring-necked and scaup. These birds are somewhat difficult to distinguish from each other as both are mainly black and white. However, the limits are very different. Hunters may take one scaup per day as opposed to six ring-necked ducks. Another two species that give hunters pause are canvasbacks and redheads. Both have red heads and an overall gray and white appearance, but the limit for redheads is two per day while the canvasback season is closed for 2008. Reduced limits or closed seasons are in place to give some species of waterfowl time to recover from low production years.

There are marks that help identify these species in the air. Hunters should brush up on their waterfowl identification skills prior to heading to the blind. For a free publication, write to MDC, Ducks at a Distance, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180 or e-mail pubstaff@mdc.mo.gov.

Matt Wolken is the protection regional supervisor for the Northeast region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

November 1978

Window Into Time was written by Rich Guyette about Missouri’s eastern red cedar trees. In Missouri, red cedar trees show a variety of shapes based on different environments. In the grasslands, they have a “teardrop silhouette.” They produce tall trees on dry and southwest slopes. In fence rows and pastures they can reflect the “periods of grazing in the shapes of their crowns.” In river bluffs and creeks, the trees grow slowly, twisted and gnarled in the harsh environment of the bluffs. Trees accumulate a layer of wood on their branches and trunk every year. Two kinds of wood that make up their growth are summerwood, a darker and denser color, and springwood, a lighter color wood. —Contributed by the Circulation staff

Behind the Code

Spotlighting game is banned to protect property and wildlife.

by Tom Cwynar

Shining a light into farm fields and forest openings to spot deer and other wildlife that are more active at night seems like innocent fun. The practice, however, has the potential to disturb rural landowners—perhaps even frighten them. It also could interfere with wildlife activities, and it increases the difficulty of enforcing the regulation that prohibits the use of lights to illegally take wildlife.

The Wildlife Code, therefore, comprehensively prohibits the use of artificial lights, including headlights and spotlights, to search for or disturb in any manner any wildlife, except raccoons or other furbearers treed with the aid of dogs.

The prohibition applies to all roadways, fields, woodland or forests, whether public or private. Landowners or lessees may use lights on property under their control, but not while in the possession of any weapon.

That’s because the Wildlife Code prohibits anyone from casting rays of artificial light to spot, search for or take any game animal, or to use night-vision equipment for those purposes, while in the possession of any firearm, bow or other implement that could be used to kill game. Again, raccoon and furbearers hunters may use lights to search for animals treed by dogs.

The complete ban on spotlighting, which even extends to altering the position of a vehicle so as to use its headlights to observe wildlife, may seem excessive, but it is necessary to protect landowners and their property, and our wildlife resources.

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