What Is It?
Ask the Ombudsman
Q. Can you tell me what kind of beetle I found in my yard? It is black with white specks and has two unusually large eyes or spots on the top of it.
A. It sounds like you found the eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus), an unusual and interesting insect. They do catch one’s attention because of their size (1.5 – 1.75 inches long) and their prominent eye-like markings. The two white-rimmed black spots on the thorax are actually false eyespots that are intended to deter predators. Located on the head, in front of the thorax, the real eyes are much smaller and less intimidating. The neatest thing about the click beetle is the “click.” As with some other beetles, its reaction when threatened is to drop to the ground and lay motionless on its back. But this beetle can arch its back and then snap it back, which makes an audible clicking sound and propels it several inches into the air. The adult beetles may feed on plant juices but the larval stage, known as wireworms, feed on the larvae of other beetles that feed on hardwood trees.
Q. I killed a spike buck that had a straight spike on one side and a curved or spiraling spike on the other side. Do you know what might have caused the one antler to be curved?
A. Antler shape and size are determined by a number of factors such as genetics, nutrition, and the age of the deer. Usually the two opposing antlers on a rack are similar to each other, making a symmetric rack. The areas on a deer’s skull that produce antler growth are called pedicles. Injuries and/or infection to one pedicle can cause that antler to grow differently. Damaged pedicles are more common in older bucks where head injuries result from fighting with other bucks. Additional skeletal injuries or poor body condition may affect antler growth. I cannot say with certainty what factors were involved in producing the asymmetric antlers on your deer.
Q. A cardinal keeps pecking on the windows of my house. Why is it doing that, and how can I stop it?
A. Your question is one that I receive frequently. During the breeding season, birds become territorial as they try to defend their breeding and nesting territory from other birds. The cardinal, usually a male, is seeing his own reflection in the glass and thinks that it is another male cardinal. He’s trying to run that “other” bird out of his territory.
To discourage the behavior, you need to do something to the glass to break up the reflection. Smearing some liquid soap (dish soap) on the glass will often do the trick. Or you could cover that part of the glass with something nonreflective. Defensive birds will also attack mirrors and shiny chrome on vehicles. The annoying behavior usually only occurs in the spring or early summer because the instinct to defend a territory diminishes as the nestlings are fledged.
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions, or complaints concerning the Conservation Department. Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180 Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848 Email: Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov
The Gift of Fishing
Not long ago, I was working on the Niangua River, and I pulled my boat up to a father and son who were fishing from their canoe. I could not ignore their huge smiles. Before I could even introduce myself, the son loudly said to me, “You just missed it. I just caught my first fish!”
I was reminded of how my father introduced me to the outdoors. During trips floating and fishing the clear Ozark streams of southern Missouri, he taught me how to navigate a canoe, cast a fishing rod, and identify different fish. Those trips together influenced my future profession as a conservation agent. June is a great month to go fishing. During Free Fishing Days June 8–9, anyone can fish in Missouri without buying a fishing permit, trout stamp, or trout park daily tag. Normal regulations, such as limits on size and number of fish an angler can keep, remain in effect during Free Fishing Days. Some private fishing areas still require fees on free fishing days, and trespass laws remain in effect on private property. Public fishing areas are available in every county in Missouri. Contact your local MDC office for Free Fishing Days near you, or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3675.
Whether you spend your time at a city lake, a large reservoir, or floating one of Missouri’s rivers, take a first-time angler with you. With a little luck, you’ll leave with smiles on your faces. You may change a life forever.
Matt Hitchings is the conservation agent in Dallas County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office listed on Page 3.
What Is It?
Hyla cinerea Green treefrogs have round adhesive pads on all digits and have a body length of about 1 ¼ to 2 ¼ inches. They primarily live in the swamps, sloughs, and oxbow lakes of southeastern Missouri. Males chorus in the evenings from May to early August; together, they sound something like distant Canada geese. Females lay 500–1,000 eggs in June or early July and often produce more than one clutch per season. Eggs hatch in 2–3 days, and the tadpoles transform into froglets between late June and early September. Green treefrogs eat insects, which helps to keep those populations in check. On the other hand, this frog becomes food for other predators such as birds, snakes, and mammals. —photo by Jim Rathert