Have you requested vacation time and started making plans for this year’s spring turkey and fall deer hunting seasons? This year’s turkey season dates are April 18 through May 8 for the regular season and April 9 and 10 for the youth season. Most of the dates for deer season will be set later this year. However, the opening date for the main event—the November firearms deer season—is Nov. 12. The length and timing of deer-hunting seasons are based on a careful review of the previous year’s harvest data, hunter and landowner surveys. The remaining deer season dates should be available by late April. These and other regulations will be incorporated into the 2011 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, which should be available around July 1.
Turkey hunters have until Feb. 28 to apply for managed hunts during the 2011 spring turkey season. This year’s offerings include managed hunts for archers, youths and people with disabilities. Managed turkey hunts are listed in the 2011 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, which is available at www.mdc.mo.gov/7498. A print version will be available from hunting permit vendors statewide in mid-February. Missouri has some of the best turkey hunting in the nation, thanks to the cooperation of MDC, citizens and landowners in a 25-year restoration program. Today Missouri’s fall turkey population averages between 500,000 and 600,000 birds. To learn more about wild turkeys in Missouri, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/node/4105.
Youths posted a strong performance during their two-part deer season, checking the second largest number of deer in the youth hunt’s 10 year history. Great youth hunting opportunities are another example of how conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt.
Hunters age 6 through 15 checked 1,292 deer during the late youth portion of Missouri’s firearms deer season Jan. 1 and 2, bringing the total harvest for the 2010-2011 firearms deer season to 231,513.
The combined early and late youth season harvests totaled 14,555, or 6.2 percent of the firearms deer harvest. Top counties during the late youth hunt were Osage with 27 deer checked, Macon with 26 and Adair with 24.
If you would like to get your youth involved in hunting, a great place to start is a hunter education course. To learn more about hunter education in Missouri or to find a course near you, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/node/3477.
Missouri recorded its 12th confirmed mountain lion sighting Jan. 3, after a man shot a 115-pound cougar that he believed posed a threat to his safety.
The male mountain lion still had dark stripes on its legs, suggesting it was three years or younger. It measured 6.5 feet from nose to tip of tail. The cat showed no signs of having been a captive animal. Results of DNA testing will provide further information about the animal’s origins.
In most cases where biologists have been able to evaluate the age and sex of mountain lions seen in Missouri, they have been young males. This supports the theory that they are arriving here through natural dispersal from states to the west. Northwestern Nebraska is the area nearest Missouri known to have a breeding population of mountain lions.
To date, MDC has found no evidence of a breeding population of mountain lions in Missouri. MDC has never radio collared, microchipped or released mountain lions into the wild and has no plans to do so.
MDC monitors reports of mountain lion sightings and attempts to verify reports that involve physical evidence, such as photos, video, tracks, hair or droppings. If future evidence would ever indicate that mountain lions are establishing a breeding population in Missouri, MDC will develop strategies to address potential problems.
MDC does not allow indiscriminate killing of mountain lions or any other wildlife, but the Wildlife Code allows people to kill mountain lions without prior permission if they attack or kill livestock or domestic animals or threaten human safety.
Anyone who kills a mountain lion must report the incident to MDC immediately and turn over the intact carcass, including the pelt, within 24 hours. The man complied with these requirements, and conservation agents concluded that no charges were appropriate.
Mountain lions are believed to have been eliminated from Missouri early in the 20th century. A cougar killed in the Bootheel in 1927 was the last known case until 1994. Further information about mountain lions in Missouri is available at www.mdc.mo.gov/node/3505.
The Conservation Department has great ways for you to discover nature and outdoor recreation in Missouri online. Our website, www.mdc.mo.gov, has a wealth of information, but here are a few more suggestions:
Missourians who want to buy tree and shrub seedlings for wildlife habitat have until the end of April to place orders with the George O. White State Forest Nursery.
Tree species still available as this issue of the Conservationist went to press included shortleaf pine, white pine, Norway spruce, black walnut, native pecan, northern red oak, river birch and pin oak. Shrubs still in stock included flowering dogwood, redbud, wild plum, witch hazel, hazelnut, ninebark, black chokeberry and elderberry. Limited supplies of other trees and shrubs also were available at press time.
Seedling bundles still in stock included the Wetlands Bundle (new this year), Quail Cover Bundle, Conservation Bundle and Wildlife Cover Bundle. The Conservation bundle has six species, four of which (American beech, white fringetree, Ohio buckeye and arrowwood) are only available in this bundle. The Wildlife Cover Bundle has five species, four of which (nannyberry, chinkapin oak, red cedar and chokecherry) are available only if you buy this bundle.
For details, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/7294, or call 563-674-3229 for an order form.
By Candice Davis
Before elk can be brought to Missouri from Kentucky this spring, MDC construction workers had to build an extensive trap, corral and pen system in Kentucky. Despite single-digit temperatures, a 14-inch snowfall, and freezing rain, the construction crew turned the site over to the MDC elk trapping team the first week of the year.
Construction of the corral-type elk trap, holding pens and other facilities began Dec. 8 in Bell County, Ky. According to Construction Superintendent Richard Grishow, who supervised the MDC construction crew at the Kentucky site, the crew completed work on a perimeter fence and holding corral that is capable of holding up to 50 elk at a time. The holding pen was constructed with funds provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
A 16-member construction crew battled harsh winter weather on eastern Kentucky’s Cumberland Plateau to build the majority of the system before the Christmas holiday. A four-person team returned after Christmas to complete the construction.
Grishow said frequent sightings of elk kept construction crews excited about their work.
Trapping crews arrived at the site the first week of January and began baiting the trap with a mixture of corn, oats and molasses. Soon after, MDC construction workers began building the holding pen at Peck Ranch Conservation Area. The Missouri holding pen will consist of a single 12-foot chain-link fence covered with burlap so the elk cannot see out or be disturbed by activities outside the pen.
On Jan. 7, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources captured the first elk for Missouri’s restoration program and placed it in a holding pen near Pineville, Ky. Two herds of elk have been feeding on bait at the trap sites.
Six trapping teams worked weekly shifts in Kentucky until enough elk were detained for transfer. MDC Wildlife Management Biologist Travis Mills supervised the first four-person trapping team to arrive in Kentucky. Mills is the Wildlife Management Biologist for Shannon, Carter, Ripley and Oregon counties.
“To me this is a career highlight,” Mills said. “I’ve spent over 20 years professionally in conservation and I’m excited to play such an integral part of reintroducing elk to Missouri.”
The elk will travel to Peck Ranch CA in tractor-trailer trucks after disease testing and a three month, precautionary quarantine in Kentucky. The MDC team is working closely with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources elk biologists and state veterinarian throughout the disease testing and quarantine period.
“We couldn’t do this project successfully without the assistance of the Kentucky team,” Mills said. “They’ve been through their own elk reintroduction in Kentucky and they’re putting their expertise to work helping us to take every precaution to ensure we bring in a healthy elk herd to Missouri.”
Once in Missouri, the elk will be housed temporarily in a holding pen at Peck Ranch CA. MDC plans to close the refuge area at Peck Ranch to hunting as long as elk remain in the holding pen. This is not likely to have a significant affect on area users with the exception of a small number of turkey hunters.
MDC personnel have received significant help from the staffs and volunteers from the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation. Virginia plans to conduct its own elk-restoration program with elk from Kentucky and will benefit from helping set up the trapping operation.
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