Conservation Department’s early fish, forest and wildlife management programs were based on a 1937 wildlife survey by biologists Rudolf Bennitt and Werner Nagel. Their findings were grim. Only 2,500 turkeys and 2,000 deer remained in the state. Prairie chickens, ruffed grouse, beavers, otters and raccoons also were scarce. Other species, such as elk and buffalo, were gone from the state. This early survey laid the groundwork for the conservation tasks ahead, including restocking programs, closed seasons for deer and turkey, and extensive habitat improvement work.
“When we first started to work, there wasn’t a deer season, and deer had to be transported and introduced into new areas. And there was no turkey hunting,” says Libby Schwartz, retired MDC resource scientist. “Each of us was given a project to work on. And we feel like we did see a lot of progress in a lot of species. So, I’m real proud of that.”
Partnerships Advance Science
In 1937, the first official act of the Conservation Commission was to support the creation of a Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Missouri– Columbia, which worked hand-in-hand with early Department biologists to advance the newly formed discipline of wildlife management.
Today, the Coop Unit is a partnership between MDC, the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Management Institute. This collaborative relationship, with its emphasis on good science to inform natural resources management, benefits all partners in many different ways.
“The partnership between MDC and the University of Missouri’s (MU) Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences Department, in generating the science upon which conservation decisions are made, goes back to the very beginning of wildlife management as a profession,” says Mark Ryan, director of MU’s School of Natural Resources. “This partnership between a state agency and a land-grant university was among the first anywhere and remains a model for other states and nations.”
Because of the diversity of fish and wildlife resources in Missouri, the Coop Unit pursues a broad focus of research, although it has long emphasized waterfowl ecology, big river ecology and management, and stream fishery resources.
“The Missouri Unit has a strong record of serving the science and education of its university, state and federal partners,” says Ken Williams, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cooperative Research Units national program. “The success of the Coop Unit has relied