News & Events

by Jim Low

Forest Nursery Offers More Ordering Flexibility

Winter is prime time for planning habitat improvement projects, and George O. White State Forest Nursery now offers more flexibility than ever in ordering seedlings for wildlife plantings. As always, the Conservation Department’s nursery at Licking has a wide variety of tree and shrub species. This year’s offerings include 14 oak species, seven evergreens, black walnut, pecan, tulip poplar, bald cypress, black cherry, persimmon, pawpaw, dogwoods, deciduous holly, plum, ninebark, witch hazel, mulberry, elderberry, and much more. Prices range from 16 cents to 80 cents each, depending on species, size, and quantity. Seedlings are available in bundles of 10 of one species, as they were last year. This year, however, in response to customer requests, you also can order bundles of 25 plants of one species.

Couple Donates Land in Dunklin County

A donation of 44 acres to the Missouri Department of Conservation made by Dan and Pam Haynes of Roscoe, Ill., is an addition to Wilhelmina Conservation Area (CA) in Dunklin County. Dan’s parents, Curtis and Louise Haynes, bought the tract and other land in Dunklin County in the mid-50s and moved their young family to Missouri from Arkansas.

“I just think it’s a good fit for the 40 acres to be in the hands of the Conservation Department and a way to honor my folks,” Dan said. “It was hard for us to access some of the property because of the Wilhelmina Cutoff and this way the land can be under the stewardship of the Department. When I was a kid the surrounding land that was later acquired by the Conservation Department was known as the ‘Armstrong Cork’ property. I have good memories of hunting and walking the property. This will be a chance for the 44 acres to be used and enjoyed by others.”

“This generous donation will allow the tract to be returned to the native bottomland hardwoods it once was and will provide valuable forest wildlife habitat that is sorely lacking in much of Dunklin County,” said Wilhelmina CA manager Mark Pelton. “Folks coming to the property might see deer, beaver, waterfowl, and a lot of songbirds. Signage has been erected on the tract to acknowledge that the property was donated by the family of Curtis and Louise Haynes in their memory.”

Wilhelmina CA is north of Campbell on Highway 53, then 4.5 miles west on Route DD, and west again on County Road 203.

Visit mdc.mo.gov/node/23263 for more information on land donations that are helping conserve Missouri’s natural resources.

Wanted: Your Ideas

Do you have ideas about how your conservation areas are managed or what should be done to protect Missouri’s deer herd? We want to hear them.

The Conservation Department is working to update management plans for all its areas.

New plans are posted monthly at mdc.mo.gov/node/19573. They remain there for 30 days, when a new batch is posted. After reviewing a plan, you can leave comments by following the link provided for that purpose. Your comments will be considered before plans are finalized. You can sign up at mdc.mo.gov/user_mailman_register to receive email notification when new plans are posted for comment or finalized.

We also want to know what you think should be done to protect Missouri’s white-tailed deer from infectious diseases, such as chronic wasting disease. This is important, not only because of the $1 billion in economic activity that deer hunting and watching generate annually in Missouri, but because of the treasured traditions associated with deer. Background information is available at mdc.mo.gov/node/17901. The same page has a comment form so you can weigh in on this important subject. Comments will help the Conservation Department develop policies supported by citizens like you.

Topeka Shiner Restoration

Biologists watched with hope as 3,300 hatchery-reared minnows of the endangered Topeka shiner swam away in ponds and a creek in Harrison County in northwest Missouri. A decades-long effort to protect and restore a fish that evolved in prairie streams now has fresh fins in the water.

“Our goal is for them to eventually not be endangered,” said Jerry Wiechman, a fisheries management biologist for the Conservation Department.

Department fisheries crews and conservation partners released the Topeka shiners Nov. 6, 2013, at Dunn Ranch and at the Department’s Pawnee Prairie Natural Area. Both are in the Grand River Grasslands, a combined public and private prairie restoration effort spanning 70,000 acres in Missouri and Iowa.

Prairies nurture fish as well as birds, wildlife, wildflowers, and native grasses. Topeka shiners were once common in waters in prairie states. Their numbers are in sharp decline for reasons biologists don’t fully understand, though they know most native prairie is gone and development has greatly changed the habitat.

For the past two decades, the Department has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a recovery plan for Topeka shiners because fish are part of a prairie’s natural web of life. The shiner restoration is also a partnership with The Nature Conservancy of Missouri, which owns Dunn Ranch.

“This restores another piece of a functioning prairie ecosystem,” Todd Sampsell, the Conservancy’s Missouri director, said. “We’re thrilled. To us it’s a testament to how a healthy prairie can keep a prairie stream healthy.”

Topeka shiners, silvery and growing up to 3 inches long, can survive in creek pools during drought, Wiechman said. But they’ve dwindled to populations in only two streams in Missouri. Topeka shiners are on the state’s endangered species list but also federally endangered due to declines in other states. Those released in November were raised at the Department’s Lost Valley Fish Hatchery at Warsaw, but the parent stock came from a surviving native population in Sugar Creek in Harrison County.

The hatchery-raised shiners are considered a nonessential, experimental population by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That designation means there will be no restrictions or regulations that affect property owners in areas where they are released. Future plans call for additional Topeka shiner releases until the state has seven watersheds with self-sustaining populations. Those releases will also be nonessential, experimental populations.

Natural life is interconnected — species, land, and water. Conservation saves those connections for future generations of people to enjoy.

“It’s our job to protect diversity for all species in Missouri,” Wiechman said. — by Bill Graham

Monster Trout Haunts Lake Taneycomo

Anglers looking for a state-record fish might catch a state-record fish almost anywhere in the Show-Me State. But dozens of anglers who witnessed the catch and release of a 31-inch rainbow trout on Nov. 2 can attest to the fact that a state record still almost certainly haunts the tailwaters of Lake Taneycomo.

Oklahoman Mark Clemishire travels to Forsyth, Mo., during the first week of November each year to fish below Powersite Dam with guide Brett Rader. They “sight-fish,” casting to big trout, whose fall spawning run brings them into shallow water below the dam. Clemishire reportedly tempted the hook-nosed rainbow trout with a tiny fresh-water shrimp imitation. That launched a 20-minute battle, during which Clemishire followed the fish up, down, and across the stream, begging other anglers’ indulgence as he tried desperately to prevent the fish from breaking the 3.5-pound-test leader that connected him to his prize. Applause broke out when Clemishire brought the fish to net. He and Rader rushed to measure the fish so they could release it alive. The vital statistics: 31 inches long, with a girth of 23 inches.

A formula for calculating approximate weight of large fish indicates the fish weighed around 20.5 pounds, well over the current pole-and-line state record of 18 pounds, 1 ounce.

Clemishire knew that not weighing his fish meant he would not qualify for a state record. But he also knew the fish was unlikely to survive if he kept it out of water long enough to get it to a certified scale. The fish seemed strong as it swam away, and if another angler manages to tie into it, he or she can thank Clemishire.

Clemishire can receive a Master Angler certificate, however, and he has a once-in-a-lifetime memory. To find out about the State Fishing Records and Master Angler programs, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/2476.

In 2005, the Conservation Commission approved a new protective slot limit and creel limit for rainbow and brown trout on parts of Lake Taneycomo. The benefits of the regulation are beginning to surface in Department surveys and angler creel surveys. Anglers, guides, and bait shops have also noticed an increase in larger trout at Lake Taneycomo.

Missouri offers world-class trout fishing at four trout parks, 120 miles of spring-fed trout streams, Lake Taneycomo, and winter trout areas in nine cities. Nearly 2 million trout, produced by Department hatcheries and the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, are stocked each year. Lake Taneycomo receives 700,000 catchable trout per year from the Conservation Department’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery and the Neosho National Fish Hatchery.

More Good News for Hellbenders

Missouri hellbenders have been on a roll, and the good news just keeps on coming.

Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamanders, growing to lengths approaching 2 feet. Missouri has two hellbender species, the Ozark hellbender and the eastern hellbender. The eastern hellbender inhabits streams in the Ozark Plateau region that drain into the Missouri or Meramec river drainages. The Ozark hellbender inhabits streams of the White River drainage. Numbers of Ozark hellbenders have decreased by 70 percent since the 1980s, leading to its being added the list of federally endangered species.

The Conservation Department has been working with the St. Louis Zoo to raise young hellbenders bred in captivity and collected from eggs in the wild. Because lack of suitable nesting sites may be one of the problems facing hellbenders, propagation efforts included designing and installing artificial next boxes in streams. When hellbenders use these structures, researchers are able to remove some of the eggs to boost genetic diversity of stock used in captive-breeding efforts.

From 2010 through 2012, they succeeded in rearing three clutches of hellbenders in artificial nest boxes. This year, they nearly tripled that number, bringing off eight clutches. This program is successful based on the number of hellbender nests found in the wild. 2012 was a banner year, with 15 nests found. In 2013, the number jumped to 20.

In 2012, the St. Louis Zoo had five clutches deposited in the outdoor raceways at the zoo. They also succeeded for the first time in getting hellbenders to lay eggs in the indoor raceway. All eggs deposited in the raceways were in the artificial nest boxes.

Probable causes of the Ozark hellbender’s decline include degraded water quality, habitat loss, predation, and illegal collection for the pet trade. Also threatening the Ozark hellbender are a fungal disease and physical deformities. The average age of Ozark hellbender populations is increasing and few young are being found, indicating problems with juvenile survival since we know the animals are successfully producing eggs in the wild.

Discover Nature Schools Goes to the Science Fair

Recognition for outstanding nature-related science fair projects is available again this year through the Discover Nature Schools (DNS) program. No extra work or travel is involved. Teachers simply email photos and descriptions of projects for judging. Winners receive ribbons, medals, or plaques for their achievements, and four state winners will receive classroom equipment used to deliver DNS at their school.

Teachers, not students, must submit entries for the DNS Science Fair competition. Submission criteria have been simplified and shortened this year. To qualify, students must be enrolled in a class teaching a science unit that is part of the Conservation Department’s DNS. Entries must show a connection to at least one DNS activity. DNS does not have to be mentioned in the project. However, entries must meet criteria listed on the Academy of Science-St. Louis Science Fair website, sciencefairstl.org.

The competition takes place in three rounds. Round 1 is judged by teachers at participating schools. Teachers submit winning entries for Round 2 by March 15. Conservation Department education consultants judge Round 2 and send winners on to Round 3, which is judged at the Conservation Department’s Central Office in Jefferson City by May 1.

The Discover Nature Schools Program is taught in nearly three-quarters of Missouri school districts, and the program continues to grow every year. To more, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/19569.

Did You Know?

Conservation makes Missouri a great place to trap.

Trapping in Missouri

Trapping provides recreation, is a research tool, and helps manage Missouri’s wildlife in a manner that is safe, wise, and humane.

Trapping regulations are determined by the Conservation Department and published each year in the Wildlife Code of Missouri or in A Summary of Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations or online. To view copies of these regulations or to purchase permits, visit your regional Department office or visit mdc.mo.gov.

Trapping ethics guide responsible trappers, and those are:

  • Obtain landowners’ permission to trap on their land.
  • Avoid setting traps in areas where domestic animals may be caught.
  • Set traps to target animals in the most humane way possible.
  • Check traps regularly and preferably in the early morning.
  • Identify and record trap locations carefully and accurately.
  • Dispose of animals properly so as not to offend others.
  • Make an effort to trap only the surplus animals from each habitat.
  • Promptly report the presence of diseased animals to wildlife authorities.
  • Assist landowners who are having wildlife damage problems.
  • Support the training of new trappers and the enforcement of trapping regulations.
  • Obtain all required licenses, tags, and permits from the Missouri Department of Conservation before setting traps.

Trapping seasons include:

Season Opens Closes

  • Badger - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Beaver and Nutria - 11/15/13 - 3/31/14
  • Bobcat - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Coyote - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Fox (Red or Gray) - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Mink - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Opossum - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Otters and Muskrats - 11/15/13 - 2/20/14
  • Rabbit - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Raccoon - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14
  • Striped Skunk - 11/15/13 - 1/31/14

For more information about trapping, please visit your regional department office or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3097.

Conservation Commission Actions

The October Commission meeting featured presentations and discussions regarding wild-turkey harvest management, permit sales trends, small-lake management in northeast Missouri, spring turkey hunting regulations, and Union Ridge Conservation Area. A summary of actions taken during the Oct. 3–4 meeting for the benefit and protection of forest, fish, and wildlife, and the citizens who enjoy them includes:

Land Changes

  • Approved the designation of a new natural area in Vernon County as Prairie View Natural Area (NA) and an addition to Dark Hollow NA in Sullivan County.
  • Approved the sale of land in Washington, Franklin, and Grundy counties that totaled 10.64 acres.
  • Approved the purchase of land in Shannon, Christian, Morgan, and Benton counties that totaled 661 acres as additions to existing conservation areas.

The next Conservation Commission meeting is Jan. 23 and 24. For more information, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3430 or call your regional Conservation office.

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