Ask the Ombudsman
Q: My brother’s son told him that he saw “red eyes” in the woods. My brother didn’t believe him at first, but he later saw the same thing himself. What kind of animal has a red eyeshine from reflected light?
A: Likely Missouri candidates for red eyeshine are rodents or opossums. Some birds can produce a red eye reflection that is similar to eyeshine. Eyeshine comes from a layer of tissue in the back of the eyes of some vertebrate animals, called the tapetum lucidum. Animals with eyeshine are usually species that hunt at night, including cats, dogs, spiders and bullfrogs. The fact that light goes through the retina and then is reflected back through it again lets them make better use of available light to see better in the dark. The observed color of eyeshine can vary with the angle of reflection and with the source of the reflected light. Humans don’t have a tapetum lucidum or eyeshine; the red-eye effect in photos is from a different process.
Q: Why do many of the bird species that use my winter bird feeder show up at the same time? In early morning there is little activity, but in late morning they all converge and fight over the food. If some would vary their routine, they could avoid the rush.
A: During the winter, birds tend to stay in foraging flocks, even flocks of mixed species. Their territorial instinct of the breeding season is temporarily forgotten during the winter. Flocks will move together, so when they are at your feeder they are all there together, and they leave together, too. The basis of the flock assembly is surely “safety in numbers” because it lowers the probability of an individual bird being caught by a predator. Flocking also increases the efficiency of the birds in locating food sources.
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 email him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.
Resolutions to benefit conservation
January is the time when most of us are reflecting on the past year and making some resolutions for the upcoming year. The most common resolutions generally concern getting into better physical condition. For those of us whose lives revolve around the outdoors, our resolutions might be a little different. If conserving wildlife is important to you, then you might consider some New Year’s resolutions to benefit that aspect of your life.
Whether it is putting in a new food plot on your hunting ground, building an extra brush pile for rabbits and quail, or adding some recycled Christmas trees to your favorite fishing hole, there are always a few things you can resolve to do to benefit wildlife.
Because most of us do at least part of our hunting and fishing activity on private property, maintaining good ties with the landowner is also a significant resolution.
You might consider a thank-you note or greeting card for the landowner whose property you hunt on, or bring them some summer sausage from the deer you killed last year. Any little extra effort on your part can help maintain a good relationship with the landowner.
For those of you who enjoy some outdoor-related travel, you might resolve to save some extra money each week toward that long hunting or fishing trip. Even the old standby resolutions of weight loss and getting in better shape can be a benefit to conservation and your hunting and fishing activities. Building a brush pile, planting a food plot or hauling Christmas trees are great sources of physical activity. Improving your physical condition will make it easier to hike into your favorite hunting spot and drag out the deer you harvested, and it might even add a few more hunting seasons to your life.
Good luck with your resolutions this year, and I hope at least some of them benefit your outdoor activities and wildlife conservation.
Michael Lancaster is the Protection District Supervisor in the Southeast Region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
To view fishing and hunting seasons, visit http://mdc.mo.gov/seasons
For complete information about seasons, limits, methods and restrictions, consult the Wildlife Code and the current summaries of “Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations” and “Missouri Fishing Regulations,” the “Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information,” the “Waterfowl Hunting Digest” and the “Migratory Bird Hunting Digest.” This information is listed below and at permit vendors.
The Conservation Department’s computerized point-of-sale system allows you to purchase or replace your permits through local vendors or by phone. The toll-free number is 800/392-4115. Allow 10 days for delivery of telephone purchases. To purchase permits online visit the links listed below.