Q: Will a skink with a blue tail poison my dog if she ate one? I found the still-moving tail but not the body of the skink. Can the skink still live if my dog didn’t eat it?
A: Hatchlings and young adults of the five-lined skink can have bright blue tails. That species, as well as Missouri’s other five species of skinks, have the ability to quickly break off their tails when grasped by a predator. The still-wiggling tail will often distract the predator and allow the skink to escape. The skink should live, and it is able to regenerate a new tail that is usually dull gray-brown. I do not have any information to indicate that Missouri’s skinks are poisonous. They are eaten by a variety of birds, snakes and mammals, including wild and domesticated canines.
Q: We were in Forest Park recently and took a photo of a duck with a black body, black and white head, and red face and bill. What kind of bird is it?
A: That is a domesticated duck called a muscovy duck. Domesticated ducks are usually not included in bird field guides, so it’s not uncommon for them to confuse observers. The red facial skin on the male is a useful characteristic for identifying the muscovy duck. Native to Mexico, Central and South America, it is one of only a few duck species to have been domesticated. The colors are variable and there is often more white on the body and wings than on the bird in your photo.
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.
Missouri landowners often ask how to improve wildlife habitat on their property. I can remember, as a child, being on my grandfather’s farm in Morgan County and having the local conservation agent pull up to visit with us. The agent would ask how hunting was going and if anyone had much luck. We would then ask him what we could do to improve the property for better hunting or pond management.
Now that I am an agent, I feel privileged to be able to work with landowners and continue the tradition. MDC staff work with more than 70,000 landowners annually to improve habitat and sustain healthy fish, forests and wildlife in a variety of ways. Conservation agents continue to play a vital role in this area as they visit with landowners on a daily basis, and help to foster a healthy cooperative relationship. Some of our visits may be brief phone conversations, while others can last many hours walking a property to provide suggestions or insight.
More than 90 percent of the land in Missouri is privately owned. This is an important factor when it comes to sustaining healthy habitat. When landowners get involved in building a healthy habitat for wildlife it helps agents as well, because of the mutual rapport we have developed with these cooperators who are more likely to contact an agent and report suspected wildlife violations. For help managing your land for wildlife, contact your regional MDC office (see Page 3), or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3676.
Derek Warnke is the conservation agent for Washington County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
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