Missouri’s elk herd doubled May 19 with the arrival of 22 mature cows, three 1-year-old cows, three 2-year-old bulls, six 1-year-old bulls and one newborn bull at Peck Ranch Conservation Area (CA). The new arrivals join 36 elk from last year’s restoration effort.
Tests conducted earlier this month revealed that 19 of the newly arrived adult cows were pregnant. Most of the mature cows brought to Missouri from Kentucky last year will produce calves this year, and some of the 2-year-old cows from last year are likely to produce calves also. Most calves should be born by late June.
Ongoing habitat work on private and public land not only helps ensure that elk remain in and around the 221,000-acre restoration zone, it also benefits other wildlife, such as deer, turkey and quail.
The 12,000-acre central refuge area of Peck Ranch CA was closed to the public prior to the elks’ arrival to minimize disturbance of cow-calf pairs as they settle into their new surroundings. The refuge will reopen later this summer. More information about elk restoration in Missouri is available at mdc.mo.gov/node/9182.
Starting July 1, cast your vote in the 75th anniversary of conservation photo contest. From Feb. 1 through May 15, MDC received 12,923 entries from 1,886 different people. Photos were submitted into seven different categories. Those categories are:
A panel of judges selected the best entry in each category. We are now asking Missourians to vote for which of these seven photos they consider “Best of Show.”
Please go to mdc.mo.gov/node/16689, and chose your favorite photo. All seven winners will be displayed in the October Conservationist.
Measures approved by the Conservation Commission should help contain chronic wasting disease (CWD) in north-central Missouri. Over the past two and a half years, the Missouri and U.S. departments of agriculture have detected 11 CWD-infected deer at private hunting preserves in Macon and Linn counties. In response to these discoveries, MDC conducted intensive sampling of free-ranging white-tailed deer in the surrounding area and found five deer that tested positive for the disease.
MDC is working to limit the disease to a CWD Containment Zone consisting of Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties. MDC and agriculture officials supervised the removal of deer from the affected hunting preserves. MDC will continue testing free-ranging deer from the CWD Containment Zone to determine how far the disease has spread and how prevalent it is within the containment zone.
At its May meeting, the Conservation Commission approved regulation changes aimed at limiting the spread of CWD in free-ranging deer. These include restricting the placement of grain, salt, minerals and other deer attractants in the CWD Containment Zone, effective Oct. 30. Such attractants bring deer together in artificially hunting season.
MDC urges hunters and landowners to remove existing attractants or make them inaccessible through removal, fencing or covering. Landowners and farmers are encouraged to make mineral blocks inaccessible to deer when not being used for livestock.
The Conservation Commission also approved rescinding the antler-point restrictions in containment-zone counties during the 2012–2013 except those in the deer family, including deer, elk and moose. The disease progresses slowly, but it is always fatal. It has the potential to seriously damage Missouri’s world-class deer hunting and the economic benefits that go with it. Antler-point restrictions, commonly called the “four-point rule,” are designed to protect yearling bucks, allowing them to mature before they are harvested. Yearling and mature bucks are more susceptible to CWD than female deer. Yearling bucks also are more likely to spread the disease, because they leave their birth areas, often traveling many miles.
To further reduce the chances of spreading CWD, MDC is asking hunters who shoot deer within the CWD Containment Zone not to take whole deer carcasses or certain parts of deer out of the zone. Hunters should make every attempt to avoid moving deer heads or backbones out of the CWD-Containment Zone. CWD prions are concentrated in brain and spinal tissues. Moving these items to other areas could spread the disease by contaminating soil and water.
Boned-out meat, hides, capes and finished taxidermy mounts carry no threat of CWD contamination. Quarters or other portions of deer can safely be moved if they do not contain any part of the spine or head. Antlers, antlers with skull plates and skulls that have been cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue are safe to take out of the containment zone, too.
Even within the CWD Containment Zone, it is important to properly dispose of deer carcasses, including bones and trimmings, to minimize the risk of spreading CWD. Carcasses should be taken to approved landfills or buried deep enough to prevent scavengers from digging them up.
CWD is caused by abnormal proteins known as prions. It is not known to affect any animals high numbers, allowing CWD to spread more easily. The ban has exceptions for backyard feeding of birds and other wildlife within 100 feet of a residence or occupied building or if feed is placed in a way that prevents access by deer. The regulation also includes exceptions for normal agricultural, forest-management, crop and wildlife food production practices.
To learn more about Missouri’s CWD management strategy and express your opinions on the subject, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/16478.
Four fishing records fell in a brief period this spring. David Warren of Sikeston hauled in an 11-pound, 4-ounce bowfin while bowfishing at Duck Creek Conservation Area March 23. Rachel Davis of Climax Springs hooked a 1-pound, 12-ounce goldeye with her brand-new Zebco 202 fishing outfit at Lake of the Ozarks April 14. Dylan Gilmore of Perry set a trotline at Ka-Tonka Lake in Ralls County on April 27, using goldfish as bait. He hoped to catch some catfish. Instead, he got a 9-pound, 2-ounce largemouth bass. He kept the fish in an aerated live well until it could be weighed, then released it.
Nicholas J. Wray of Harrisonville caught a 5-pound, 6-ounce river carpsucker May 6 on a trotline set in the South Grand River. Wray also holds the pole-and-line record for a 2-pound, 3-ounce river carpsucker he caught in almost the same spot in 2008.
Twenty-six Missouri fishing records currently are open—meaning that no one has ever entered a fish for that species and category. These range from common fish, such as the white and hybrid striped bass, to uncommon ones, such as burbot and northern pike. Details of Missouri fishing records are available at mdc.mo.gov/node/2476.
Hunters checked 40,447 turkeys during Missouri’s regular spring turkey season. That is up 5.5 percent from 2011. This year’s top harvest counties were Franklin with 852, Texas with 803 and Greene with 698. The youth-season harvest was 4,319, bringing the 2012 spring harvest total to 44,766. That is up about 6 percent from 2011, reflecting improved nesting success in 2011. Turkey harvest totals by county are available online at mdc.mo.gov/node/17396.
The formation of Missouri’s conservation department was part of a national conservation awakening that also led to the formation of Ducks Unlimited. DU has been instrumental in establishing the annual census of wild duck populations, federal duck-stamp programs that raise money for waterfowl conservation, treaties that coordinate international waterfowl hunting regulations and management and protection of more than 15 million acres of wetland habitat. These and other achievements lend credence to DU’s 75th anniversary theme, “Conservation for Generations.” For more information about Ducks Unlimited, visit http://www.ducks.org/.
The Promise Continues: The Missouri Department of Conservation’s 75th Anniversary premiered on television stations statewide in April. Now, a DVD combines the original program with bonus features. The 28-minute program features historic photos, film footage and audio files, along with the first film produced by MDC in 1940. Other vignettes focus on some of Missouri’s memorable conservation pioneers. The DVD is available at MDC nature centers and regional offices for $8 plus sales tax. You also can purchase copies through MDC’s online Nature Shop (mdcnatureshop.com) or by calling 877-521-8632. Shipping and handling fees apply to phone and online purchases. The Nature Shop is one way MDC helps Missourians discover nature.
Deer hunters have until Aug. 15 to apply online for most managed hunts. For more information, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3867. Hunters may apply individually or as a group of up to six, except for youth-only hunts. For these, youths may apply singly or with one other youth. Be sure to have the nine-digit Conservation ID number for each hunter. Contact your local MDC office if you don’t have Internet access. All successful applicants will be mailed an area map and other information regarding their hunt. Resident or nonresident managed deer hunting permits are required. Permits will be available to successful applicants anywhere permits are sold.
The Kirkpatrick State Information Center in Jefferson City is hosting an exhibit focusing on Missouri’s conservation history. The exhibit consists of 36 large panels, including reproductions of murals from the state Capitol and MDC headquarters. They trace Missouri’s conservation history from abundance through depletion and restoration. The exhibit will be on display in the lobby of the state archives building through Dec. 31. For more information, contact the Missouri Secretary of State’s office.
The Department of Conservation continues to gather information to make an informed scientific decision on invasive crayfish. The Department has listened and consulted with bait producers and dealers on invasive crayfish. Education efforts have worked to inform anglers and bait sellers about how to prevent invasive crayfish from damaging the state’s sport-fishing industry.
A proposed course of action would prohibit the importation, purchase or sale of live crayfish, commonly called crawdads, for use as fish bait. It would not prevent anglers from catching crayfish and using them as bait. This action is intended to prevent damage to stream and lake ecology, species losses and protect recreational and economic values associated with fishing. More than 1.1 million Missourians enjoy sport fishing, which generates more than $2 billion in economic activity in the state annually.
Surveys conducted in 2010 and 2011 showed crayfish sales were minor for most Missouri bait shops, pet shops and aquaculture operations, typically representing only about 1 percent of their income. Nevertheless, Deputy Director Tom Draper, who chairs MDC’s Regulations Committee, says the decision to consider banning commercial crayfish sales was not taken lightly.
“The Conservation Department is responsible to the citizens of Missouri for protecting fish and wildlife and the economic and recreational benefits that go with them,” says Draper. “Other states already are seeing declines in the quality of fishing because of invasive crayfish. We don’t want to get 20 or 30 years down the road and wish wehad done something to protect our fishing when we had the chance. Knowing what we do, it would be irresponsible not to take some type of action to protect Missouri’s aquatic resources.”
MDC Resource Scientist Bob DiStefano says crayfish are unlike many invasive species, because they don’t have to be far from their native areas to cause trouble. A crayfish species whose population is in balance with other species in its native waters can cause ecological problems when introduced to a neighboring watershed.
“Many crayfish species can become invasive if moved into the wrong setting,” says DiStefano. Imported crayfish also can carry diseases with the potential of decimating native crayfish populations. Crayfish are a staple food for black bass, sunfish and many other sport fish.
What MDC knows about invasive crayfish comes from dozens of studies in Missouri and other states. DiStefano says those studies show that the danger posed by commercial trade in crayfish is real and serious.
For example, spot checks conducted by MDC before passage of the crayfish sales ban showed that more than one-quarter of bait shops were selling crayfish species that already were illegal under previous regulations. In most cases, these were not willful violations. Bait shop owners simply did not know the difference between crayfish species including the invasive species. Even if dealers could tell the difference, they could not be expected to detect a few individuals of an invasive species mixed in with a shipment of thousands of less-destructive crayfish.
MDC inspections also found that many bait shops were selling crayfish obtained from outside of Missouri and that some shops were illegally selling crayfish collected from the wild.
Invasive crayfish already are impacting Missouri waters. DiStefano said field studies have documented 25 instances of crayfish invasions in Missouri. Those invasions have caused declines of six native species.
DiStefano says invasive crayfish have been shown to out-compete native crayfish, compete with game fish for food, destroy aquatic plant beds used as spawning grounds and nurseries for game fish, and are known to also eat fish eggs. This combined with reduced spawning habitat and food means fewer and smaller fish. A study of lakes in Vilas County, Wisc., documented resource damage from invasions of rusty crayfish of more than $1 million annually.
Draper noted that Missouri anglers would still be allowed to catch crayfish and use them for bait if the Department implemented a regulation. A ban would only prohibit commercial trade in live crayfish bait. Bait shops would still be permitted to sell dead or preserved crayfish for bait. He says delaying implementation of a ban would give MDC time to inform anglers The red swamp crayfish is an invasive species. about the risks associated with moving crayfish from one place to another.
“The Department needs anglers’ help to protect Missouri’s lake and stream fishing,” says Draper. “It is critical for anglers to know the danger posed by moving crayfish and other bait from one place to another. How well we do our job of educating the public will make a huge difference for the future of fishing in Missouri.”
A recent survey of anglers showed that 40 percent of Missouri anglers release live bait into fishing waters. DiStefano urges anglers to use crayfish for bait only if they are caught in the same body of water where they will be used. He also asks anglers not to release commercially purchased live bait, including minnows and worms, at the end of a fishing trip. He says this has serious potential consequences, because both commercially sold live bait and bait caught by anglers often is transported across natural or state borders.
“The world is a lot smaller today than it was even a few decades ago,” says DiStefano. “In the past, we didn’t have to worry as much about introduction of exotic species, but those days are gone. We have to change our habits if we want to protect Missouri’s fisheries and other aquatic resources.”
Besides allowing anglers to use crayfish that they catch themselves, a crayfish ban would include two exceptions for commercial sales. One is for human consumption. The other is for crayfish used for scientific research or for food for confined animals held by authorized representatives of universities, colleges, schools, incorporated city, state or federal agencies, publicly-owned zoo or other qualified individuals. Anyone who imports, sells or buys crayfish under these exceptions must meet certain record-keeping requirements. Buying or selling live crayfish taken from waters of the state already was prohibited.
July 2 is the 75th anniversary of the Missouri Conservation Commission’s first meeting. The historic event was the culmination of tireless work by the Restoration and Conservation Federation of Missouri, the precursor of today’s Conservation Federation of Missouri. The sportsmen who comprised the Federation were dismayed by the steep decline in forests, fish and wildlife. They proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 4, establishing the Conservation Commission. Seventy-one percent of voters approved the amendment in November 1936. It went into effect on July 1, 1937. Gov. Lloyd C. Stark had the distinction of appointing the first four conservation commissioners.
First, he met with prospective commissioners and sportsmen to discuss the agency’s future. The careful thought that went into his appointments is reflected in the diversity of that first commission.
Supreme Court Judge George Robb Ellison swore in the four men in the governor’s office on July 2, 1937. They held their first meeting immediately after taking their oaths. Seventy-five years of conservation history have confirmed the wisdom of Missouri voters in establishing a system of conservation governance that continues to be the touchstone for citizen-led science-based conservation programs.
YouTube offers a great and easy way for MDC to share more than 270 videos. We hope these videos provide education and enjoyment and inspire you to go outside. From land management tips to bears to archival footage of Woody Bledsoe, “The Singing Forester,” there’s something for everyone to watch. Here are seven of the featured playlists you will find:
It takes nearly 25 years to turn a lake sturgeon egg into a spawning adult. For a fish that can live more than 100 years and weigh more than 200 pounds, 25 years is just a good start. But for a fisheries biologist, it’s a career.
I am the fourth person to serve as the Department’s lake sturgeon recovery team leader. Of the previous three, one has retired and another has passed away. But I know all of them would be smiling about an event that happened at the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) lab in Columbia on April 4, 2012: We spawned lake sturgeon outside of the wild for the first time in Missouri!
The spawning event was only one portion of a cooperative project with the USGS lab.
The lab needed lake sturgeon eggs and fry to study the effects of various environmental contaminants on egg and fry development and survival. Various amounts of these contaminants are currently found in our big rivers and several have been known to affect growth, survival and even the reproductive organs of fish.
In order to help fulfill the USGS’s need, Department biologists began sampling specifically for large lake sturgeon. Fish from 35 to almost 90 pounds were scanned with a sonogram machine and an endoscope to see if any were ripe males or females. Several fish were held over in large tanks for the project. They turned out to be some of the first fish stocked by the Department in the mid-1980s.
Lake sturgeon spawn in several bouts in the wild. As females ripen, multiple males begin
striking the female, forcing the eggs out. At the same time, the males release milt, which contains sperm that fertilizes the eggs. The eggs stick to any object in the area and remain there until they hatch, about nine days later.
The initial harvest from the first fish yielded approximately 19,000 eggs. She released similar amounts several more times, releasing more than 225,000 eggs. As the first fish finished, a second one was ready and the crew harvested some of her eggs as well. The third and final fish was spawned a few days later. All fish were released back to the waters from which they were captured later that week.
While most of the eggs were used for the USGS project, some of them were sent to a Department facility, where biologists are examining the feeding habits of lake sturgeon fry.
This project provided a great opportunity for both Department and USGS staff to learn how to catch and spawn large adult lake sturgeon. The knowledge and experience gained through these efforts will be useful as we continue to recover Missouri’s largest and longest-lived fish species. — by Travis Moore
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
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