animals. The Department of Conservation intensively manages 15 of these areas throughout the state. These remnants of what was once a continuous chain of wetlands stretching thousands of miles are essential to sustain the wildlife that depends on wetlands.
Wildlife Management on MDC Wetlands
A basic understanding of biology, ecology, geology, and water chemistry — the processes that make life work — is needed to manage our wetland areas. We must also consider the timing of migration events, reproductive events, and area-use needs as we plan our activities. Often these plans get reworked several times in a year as conditions change. Each of our intensively managed wetland areas has its own unique combination of factors that managers must learn. Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in Boone County, for example, is dominated by the Missouri River. When the river is high, ground water levels are also high, making it easier to flood pools and more difficult to drain them. If the river is low, the sandy soils of the river bottom that dominate Eagle Bluffs makes it impossible to flood pools to their full level — the soils will not hold enough water to make it happen. These are the basic conditions that dictate what we can accomplish at any point in the year — and throughout the year, wetland area managers find themselves doing many different things.
Wetland managers spend a lot of time observing the land for signs of how management decisions are affecting habitat and wildlife populations, or for signals that intervention is needed to cause or prevent a certain condition. There could be changes to trees or plants, or we might detect an invasive species. Unfortunately, most of our wetlands do have some invasives, species such as purple loosestrife, Eurasian water milfoil, and phragmites. Most wetlands near larger rivers also have populations of Asian carp. We work to reduce nonnative species whenever we can.
Other activities take place on wetland areas that tie into our essential management duties. We contract farming on our conservation areas and coordinate MDC crop shares with farmers to ensure that wildlife species benefit. (Having local farmers plant and harvest crops saves time and money and helps achieve management goals.) We also manage water levels for important fisheries resources, help mark and monitor waterfowl populations, provide feedback to biologists responsible for managing deer, turkey, quail, dove, and waterfowl populations, and assist with counts of