Ask the Ombudsman
Q: Is it best to clean out bird nest boxes that were used last year or leave the old material there so that the birds don’t have to replace it?
A: Early March is a good time to clean and repair your nest boxes for the coming nesting season. Cleaning out and disposing of the old nesting material is recommended. It can be a source of parasites or disease that could kill this year’s hatch of chicks. Also clean debris from any drain or ventilation holes in the box that have become clogged. As an added precaution, you can spray the inside and outside of the cleaned nest box with a 10 percent solution of bleach in water to kill any lingering pests or disease.
Q: Why are paddlefish the only Missouri game fish that can be taken by snagging?
A: Snagging is not considered a sporting method for taking game fish that can be taken by pole and line or other methods using artificial or live bait. Paddlefish are not normally susceptible to catching with live or artificial bait. Instead, they feed on microscopic plants and animals in the water by swimming with their mouths wide open, similar to the way that whales filter plankton from ocean waters. They can feed without the use of eyesight or smell and utilize a rich resource that is unavailable to other native fish. In early spring, paddlefish swim upstream and may congregate near dams on some of our larger rivers. There are also significant runs up the major tributaries of some reservoirs. The spring paddlefish season runs from March 15 through April 30, except on the Mississippi River where the two-part season is March 15 through May 15 and September 15 through December 15. For complete regulations, see: www.mdc.mo.gov/node/11414.
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Department of Conservation programs. Write him at PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at 573-522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.
Morel madness does not authorize trespass
With spring around the corner, my taste buds are watering for Missouri’s magnificent morel mushrooms. When I was a child, mushroom hunting was a fun springtime activity for my family. Now, I take my children mushroom hunting and make sure they know all the tricks to finding mushrooms, although many times we still come home with empty bags.
Once the first warm days of spring hit, many people start looking for morels. While a small stand of timber or fence row may look tempting to check for mushrooms, doing so without permission is against the law. Conservation Agents receive several calls from landowners each spring regarding an unauthorized person, or persons, present on their land. Often these individuals believe they are harmlessly hunting morels, but by not obtaining permission, they have committed the crime of trespass. According to the Revised Statutes of Missouri, a person commits the offense of trespass when they enter unlawfully upon real property of another. Simply stated, trespassing is the act of being present on private land without permission from the landowner.
Spring morel hunting is a fun family activity, but you should always remember to get permission before entering property that does not belong to you. If a landowner does not give you permission, thank him/her and respect their decision. If you do receive permission from the landowner, offer to share what you find.
Matt Bergfield is the conservation agent for Macon County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office listed on Page 3.