Missouri has been named the “Best Trails State” by American Trails, a national, nonprofit organization. American Trails announced the award at the International Trails Symposium in Arizona in April. The award is presented every two years to the state with the most-improved trails. The announcement came in time for the National Trails Day celebration June 1.
The Conservation Department maintains more than 700 miles of foot, bicycle, and equestrian trails on 136 conservation areas and 10 nature and education centers statewide. You can find a trail near you by using the conservation-area database, mdc.mo.gov/node/3392.
Missouri’s world-class trails system is one way that conservation pays, both by enriching Missourians’ lives and by attracting tourist dollars.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced Fiscal Year 2013 apportionments of federal aid to wildlife and sport fish restoration funds totaling $882 million. Missouri’s share is $14.1 million for wildlife and $8.3 million for fisheries.
The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act) is funded by excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition, pistols, and certain archery equipment. The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1951 (aka the Dingell-Johnson Act) is funded by excise taxes on fishing equipment. The Sport Fish Restoration Fund is augmented by the Wallop-Breaux Act of 1984, from excise taxes on motor-boat fuels.
Since these two programs’ inception, Missouri has received approximately $370 million for fish- and wildlife-related activities. The funds were established at the urging of hunters and anglers.
“P-R” and “D-J” money supports a wide range of conservation programs, including boat accesses, hatchery improvements, land acquisition, research, population monitoring, and habitat management. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service divides these funds among states based on geographic size and the number of hunting and fishing permits sold. States must match federal funds with at least 25 percent of project costs. For every dollar Missouri spends for P-R or D-J projects, hunters and anglers receive $11 in return, and the state’s economy gets a $22 boost.
If you don’t believe the best things in life are free, you haven’t taken advantage of Free Fishing Days in Missouri. The Conservation Department suspends resident and nonresident fishing permit requirements on the Saturday and Sunday after the first Monday in June each year. This year’s dates are June 8 and 9.
The idea is to encourage people to explore the state’s fishing opportunities without having to purchase permits or daily tags at trout parks. The Conservation Department makes fishing easy by providing more than 900 fishing lakes, ponds, and stream accesses. Many offer disabled-accessible facilities. For more information about places to fish, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/2478 or contact the nearest MDC office.
Other fishing regulations, such as limits on size and number of fish, remain in effect during Free Fishing Days. Regulations are outlined in the 2012 Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations, which is available wherever fishing permits are sold, or online at mdc.mo.gov/node/6108. Special permits may still be required at county, city, and private fishing areas.
The Conservation Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the shooting deaths of two bald eagles earlier this year. Tipsters with information that leads to convictions in those cases can get cash rewards.
A citizen tip in January led Conservation Agent Vincent Crawford to one of the eagles. He found the bird dead of a gunshot wound near Panther Creek in Caldwell County. In February, a rider on horseback found a dead eagle on Jack Rabbit Bend Trail at Smithville Lake and reported it to Clay County Conservation Agent Daniel Schepis.
Both cases are under joint investigation by the Conservation Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since eagles and other birds of prey are protected by federal law. Cash rewards for tips leading to convictions are available through Missouri’s Operation Game Thief Hotline. Tips can be made anonymously by calling 800-392-1111.
Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the unlawful shooting of eagles is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and not more than one year incarceration or both.
Hunters shot 42,220 turkeys during Missouri’s regular spring turkey season. That is an increase of 1,773, or 4 percent, from 2012.
Top harvest counties during the regular spring turkey season April 15 through May 5 were Franklin with 996 birds checked, Texas with 879, and Callaway with 710.
This year’s spring turkey season was the safest on record, with only one firearms-related hunting incident reported. That incident was nonfatal and occurred during the regular season.
Hunting conditions were far from ideal, with frequent rain and below-average temperatures during much of the three-week season. In central Missouri, nighttime low temperatures averaged about 10 degrees colder than in 2012. The same weather station in Boone County reported approximately 1.5 inches more rainfall during this year’s spring turkey season than in 2012..
Jason Isabelle, a resource scientist who oversees turkey management for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says this year’s increased harvest is the result of both improved turkey production and hunters’ dedication.
“We knew from last year’s field surveys that wild turkeys had the second year in a row of good production,” says Isabelle, “so the outlook was pretty good going into the season. But you have to hand it to hunters for getting out there under some challenging conditions. That just goes to show you how much enjoyment folks get from spring turkey hunting in Missouri.”
Adding the harvest of 3,915 turkeys during this year’s spring youth season April 6 and 7 brings the 2013 spring turkey harvest to 46,135. This is 1,335 more than in 2012, a 3-percent increase.
County-by-county spring turkey harvest totals are available at mdc.mo.gov/node/263.
The Conservation Department’s First Turkey Program lets turkey hunters commemorate their first turkey with a certificate suitable for framing. You can even add a photo of the proud hunter with his or her bird. To create a first-turkey certificate, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/10469. The same site has forms for a youth’s first deer, as well as first deer/turkey certificates for adults.
Missouri recorded two fishing records in less than two weeks this spring. Joshua Ross, Cedar Hill, was snagging on the Meramec River in Jefferson County March 23 when he hooked a 1-pound, 14-ounce gizzard shad. The fish tied the existing alternative-methods record set by Brian Taylor, Poplar Bluff, on Jan. 9 on the Black River. Chris Kimble of Thomas, Okla., shot a 35-pound, 9-ounce longnose gar while bowfishing on Bull Shoals Lake April 5. The previous alternative-methods record was 34 pounds, 7 ounces. More information about Missouri fishing records and the Master Angler Award program is available at mdc.mo.gov/node/2476.
The latest round of testing in February found four more cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in free-ranging deer. The good news is that all four came from the 29-square-mile CWD Core Area in Linn and Macon counties where the first case of CWD in free-ranging deer was detected in 2012.
The new cases bring the total confirmed CWD cases in Missouri’s free-ranging deer herd to 10, all from the Core Area. The Conservation Department tested 3,225 deer statewide for CWD last year, including 196 from the CWD Core Area and 1,783 from the larger CWD Containment Zone consisting of Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph, and Sullivan counties. MDC has tested more than 38,000 deer for the disease since 2001.
“Our extensive CWD testing indicates we caught the disease while it is still limited to a small number of deer in a very concentrated area,” says MDC State Deer Biologist Jason Sumners. “We hope that by reducing deer numbers in the Core Area, we can remove those with CWD. This will help reduce the spread of the disease to other deer in the area or at least slow the spread to other areas of Missouri.
”For more information about CWD in Missouri and what you can do to help contain it, see mdc.mo.gov/node/16478.
By now, many Missourians know that all ash trees in forests, suburban yards, and urban landscapes are threatened by a handsome green insect called the emerald ash borer (EAB). However, most of us still have questions about the threat. That’s why the Missouri EAB Program recently came out with five Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) brochures. Separate brochures focus on the concerns of homeowners, wood-products industries, firewood producers/users, cities and towns, and general audiences. The publications are available at eab.missouri.edu under “FAQs.”
Missouri is home to approximately 225 black bears. Four breeding populations exist in a 10-county area of south-central Missouri. Female bears den earlier than males, and some bears found in Missouri today probably are remnants of the state’s historic bear population, rather than recent arrivals from Arkansas.
Those are a few of the insights emerging from ongoing studies to gather detailed information necessary to manage a growing bear population wisely. The work includes capturing and tagging bears, fitting them with radio tracking collars, and even attaching video cameras to see what they eat and what they do. Biologists also are using bear DNA to unlock secrets about where Missouri’s bears came from. These studies are helping answer important questions, such as:
Missourians care about conserving forests, fish, and wildlife, but sometimes fascination with bears overrides common sense. Deliberately feeding bears, failing to secure pet or livestock feed, or trying to lure bears close enough for photos all can rob bears of their natural fear of people and result in conflicts. The number of complaints about nuisance bears has increased in recent years. Most of these situations could be avoided by denying bears access to food or garbage. For more information on black bears in Missouri, including the research project, sightings, and preventing and dealing with black bears around potential food sources, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/973.
A struggling flock of prairie chickens in Harrison County got a boost in April with the arrival of 34 prairie chickens from Nebraska. The hens were released at Dunn Ranch Prairie to bolster a flock that was hard hit by cold, rainy weather during their nesting season in recent years. Besides increasing the number of prairie chickens at Dunn Ranch, the new birds will provide a much-needed infusion of genetic diversity to the struggling flock.
Dunn Ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Its 4,000 acres of remnant and restored native grasses and wildflowers make it the keystone property for restoring prairie chickens to the Grand River Grasslands Conservation Opportunity Area (COA). This tall-grass prairie restoration effort is a partnership of government and citizen conservationists in Missouri and Iowa.
Once home to hundreds of thousands of prairie chickens, Missouri now counts its isolated flocks of the birds in the dozens. Dunn Ranch had lost its native prairie chickens. The restored flock got its start when birds released as part of restoration efforts in southwestern Iowa crossed the state line to repopulate Dunn Ranch. As many as 60 prairie chickens inhabited Dunn Ranch a few years ago, but recently their numbers dwindled to fewer than 10.
Recently 16 hens were released as part of Missouri’s reintroduction work. The newly arrived birds carry radio transmitters that will enable biologists to monitor the hens’ movements. TNC managers use grazing by bison and prescribed burning to provide the variety of habitat types prairie chickens need.
Dunn Ranch is adjacent to the Conservation Department’s 476-acre Pawnee Prairie Natural Area, which is another critical piece of the 70,000-acre grasslands COA.
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