Missourians care deeply about our state’s forests, fish and wildlife. To ensure these resources are protected, the Conservation Department’s regulations committee reviews the Wildlife Code of Missouri each year. In doing so, the committee considers hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls from hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts who have suggestions about resource management and regulations. Although every suggestion cannot be adopted, all are carefully reviewed. Following is a summary of key changes to the Wildlife Code. Most will go into effect March 1, 2011, unless noted. Each is a reflection of the Department’s commitment to work with you and for you to sustain healthy plant and animal communities, increase opportunities for Missourians to experience nature, and promote public safety.
Many regulations are designed to sustain healthy plant and animal communities. Some rules involve harvest regulations; others are set to curtail the spread of invasive plants and animals that threaten Missouri’s native species.
Thanks to restoration efforts by the Conservation Department in the 1960s, ruffed grouse were once locally common in areas that had been logged and subsequently overgrown with brush. As these brushy patches matured into forests, grouse populations began to decline. Today, grouse populations have dropped to the point that they risk disappearing from the Show-Me State. Biologists are working to reverse this trend. In the meantime, the hunting season for ruffed grouse has been closed.
Although the upstream and downstream boundaries for the Black Bass Special Management Area on the James River were not changed, the Wildlife Code was updated to reflect current road names. The Wildlife Code now reads that the management area stretches from the Hooten Town Bridge (The Loop Road at Route O) to the Highway 413/Highway 265 bridge at Galena. The purpose of the management area is to increase the numbers and sizes of smallmouth bass in that stretch of river.
Commercial anglers who harvest roe-bearing fish should be aware of several changes. First, to protect endangered pallid sturgeon, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has ruled that similar-looking shovelnose sturgeon may only be harvested in the commercial waters of the Mississippi River above Melvin Price Locks and Dam (Replaced Locks and Dam 26). Second, for several years, commercial anglers have been required to have a Resident Roe Fish Commercial Harvest Permit in addition to a Commercial Fishing Permit to catch and keep bowfin and paddlefish on the Mississippi River. Now, the Wildlife Code has been clarified to indicate that those permits are required to take, possess and sell roe from these fish. Last, to curtail the illegal sale of caviar, the Wildlife Code was rewritten to clarify that fish eggs may be sold only at retail by resident commercial establishments.
Researchers who band birds for scientific study must now obtain both a federal bird banding permit and a Missouri Wildlife Collector’s Permit.
Several changes have been made to Missouri’s falconry regulations to align them with federal guidelines. A complete listing of the changes is available upon request from the Conservation Department. They also can be found online in Chapter 9 of the Wildlife Code at www.sos.mo.gov/adrules/csr/current/3csr/3csr.asp.
Marbled crayfish have been added to the list of species that are prohibited from being imported, transported, sold, purchased or possessed in Missouri. These non-native crustaceans reproduce rapidly, become established quickly and can survive out of water long enough to travel overland. There is evidence they endanger not only native crayfish but also fish and other aquatic organisms.
Missouri is a worldclass place to hunt, trap, fish and experience nature. The following regulation changes increase opportunities for Missourians to engage in these activities.
Online permit buying has been available in Missouri since 2002, but buyers had to wait up to two weeks for their actual permits to arrive by mail. Beginning March 1, the new e-Permits System will enable sport hunters, trappers and anglers to buy their permits online, print them out at home and use them immediately. Folks will still be able to buy permits from traditional vendors and by using the telephone if they prefer.
Deer and turkey permits will no longer include a removable transportation tag. Instead, the permit itself will be the transportation tag. Each permit will have months printed along one edge and dates along another. Hunters will notch the month and day that they shot their game, then attach the permit to the animal. The animal still must be reported to Telecheck as before. An easy way to remember the new procedure is: Bag it, notch it, tag it, and check it.
At the request of anglers, the Conservation Department will allow the use of underwater lights for bow fishing on lakes, ponds and other impoundments. Underwater lights will improve the ability of bow fishers to identify their targets. The lights will also provide more opportunity for anglers. This is because unlike traditional above-water lights that must be mounted to a boat, underwater lights are available as portable drop cords that can be used with a variety of water craft.
Hunters who enjoy pursuing game using primitive methods will have additional opportunities. Atlatls may now be used to take bullfrogs and green frogs with a hunting permit. They also may be used to take deer during the firearms deer season except for the muzzleloader portion. An atlatl is a rod or board-like device used to launch, through a throwing motion of the hand, a dart 5 to 8 feet in length.
To allow trappers and hunters more opportunities to sell their furs at national and international auctions, the Resident Fur Handlers Permit will be rescinded July 1, 2011. On and after this date, hunters and trappers with valid permits that allow the taking of furbearers may possess, transport and sell furs throughout the year.
Trappers who use cable restraint devices should be aware of two changes. Cable restraints can now be used for the duration of the furbearer trapping season, which runs from Nov. 15 to Jan. 31. In addition, the Wildlife Code was rewritten to clarify that only coyotes, red foxes and gray foxes may be taken alive with cable restraints from Feb. 1 through the last day of February.
Some regulations are developed to foster public safety or the personal safety of individual hunters, trappers and anglers.
To protect the personal information of sportsmen and women, the Conservation Department now allows the collars of hunting dogs and most hunting, fishing and trapping equipment to be labeled with the owner’s name and address, or Conservation Number. Conservation Numbers, which can be found on all permits, do not reveal personal information, but they give conservation agents what is needed to identify who owns the dog or equipment.
The Conservation Department has more than 1,000 conservation areas in the state. To keep plant and animal communities healthy and provide quality hunting, fishing and other outdoor experiences, area managers sometimes request regulation changes. You can see all the regulations for a specific conservation area by searching the online Conservation Atlas at www.MissouriConservation.org/2930.
How Regulations Are Set
Each year, the Conservation Department’s Regulations Committee reviews the Wildlife Code to ensure Missouri’s forests, fish and wildlife are protected. Here’s how the process works.
- Changes proposed by the public and staff are brought to the committee to review.
- The committee researches the effects of the proposed regulation changes. Information reviewed may include costs to taxpayers, effects on wildlife populations, user group surveys, public comments and feasibility studies.
- When research shows a change would improve management of a natural resource or provide more opportunities for Missourians to enjoy nature, a proposed regulation change is sent to the Conservation Department’s director.
- If the director approves the change, the proposal is submitted to the Conservation Commission, four citizens appointed by the governor.
- If passed by the Commission, the proposed changes are filed with the secretary of state and published in the Missouri Register. A link to the Register can be found at www.mdc.mo.gov/node/4871.
- The filing begins a 30-day public comment period. If no comments are received, the final regulation is filed and becomes effective either 30 days after publication in the Missouri Code of State Regulations or on the date specified in the proposal.
- When comments are received, the proposal is reviewed. Based on the public’s comments, the Commission may decide to drop, modify or implement the regulation.