What Is It?
Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of the Missouri outdoors. See if you can guess this month's natural wonder.
Ask the Ombudsman
Q. I found a strange-looking growth on the wood chip mulch of my flowerbeds. Can you identify it and tell me how to get rid of it?
A. That organism is a type of slime mold that is commonly referred to as “dog vomit.” Formerly considered a type of fungus, the many species of slime molds are now classified in a different kingdom than fungi. They feed on microorganisms such as bacteria that are associated with decaying vegetation. Normally single-celled organisms, when food or moisture is in short supply, slime molds will join together and move en mass on a layer of slime. As with snails and slugs, a residue of slime indicates their travel path. Like other organisms that reproduce by wind-blown spores, the slime mold’s spores are widespread and await suitable conditions to begin growing. I don’t know how to get rid of a slime mold other than physical removal of the mass that is visible, which may only work temporarily. Slime molds tend to frequent wood mulch for a few seasons as the wood chips begin to decompose. They will eventually stop appearing unless you continue to add fresh wood chips to restart the decomposition process.
Q. Is it legal to keep a fox as a pet in Missouri?
A. It depends on the species of fox and where it is obtained. The Wildlife Code of Missouri contains regulations primarily for wildlife native to Missouri, which includes red fox, gray fox, and variants of those species, such as the silver fox. It is not legal to bring a live red, gray, or silver fox into Missouri. They may only be purchased from a licensed Missouri wildlife breeder and cannot be taken from the wild to hold in captivity. An annual permit is required to obtain a native fox and requirements for holding the animal in captivity must be met prior to being issued the permit. They are not allowed to run free like a pet. Nonnative species, such as arctic fox, are not regulated by this department. Other state and federal agencies have regulations regarding nonnative foxes. Depending on where you live, there May also be county or municipal restrictions on keeping a fox as a pet.
Q. Can wild-collected morel mushrooms be legally sold in Missouri?
A. That depends on where the morels were collected. Most public lands where mushrooms may be collected specify that collecting is allowed only for personal consumption. It is unlawful to collect in those areas for commercial purposes, such as for selling the mushrooms. Morels collected from private land with the permission of the landowner may be legally sold.
Babies in the Backyard
Conservation Agents receive hundreds of calls each spring and summer from people who find young birds, raccoons, opossums, deer (fawns), and a variety of other wildlife they believe have been abandoned. Most young animals found in the wild aren’t deserted. Their parents simply are not visible. For instance, a doe will usually visit her fawns only long enough to nurse them. By staying away the rest of the time, they avoid drawing predators’ attention to their young.
Birds often grow too large for their nests before they are able to fly. They fall or jump from the nest and the parents continue to bring food for them on the ground until they can fly. If you have a flightless baby bird in your backyard, help it by keeping your pets indoors. If a child brings home a baby bird or rabbit, return the animal as quickly as possible to the place where it was found. If young are raised in captivity and released back into the wild, their chance of survival is slim.
When you remove young animals, they are more likely to die, and it is also illegal. With a few exceptions, wildlife cannot be removed from the wild and kept in captivity. Only wildlife rehabilitators are legally able to possess sick or injured wildlife.
Unfortunately, every spring many young animals do die; victims of predators, inclement weather, or just bad luck. Predators need food to survive, and nature produces more offspring than needed to sustain wildlife populations. Remember, the best way to help these young animals is to look but don’t touch.
Don Clever is the conservation agent in Marion County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
What Is It?
Above is a photo of a killdeer egg, and left is a newly hatched killdeer chick. Killdeer babies peck out of their eggs with coats of wet, downy feathers and eyes wide open. After their feathers dry, the fuzzy chicks are on the move. They leave their nest, which is on the ground, and follow their parents to grassy areas to catch their own dinner — a beakful of juicy insects. The chicks learn to fly when they are about 3 weeks old, but stay with their parents all summer. In order to lure predators away from their young, killdeer parents thrash about and pretend that their wings are broken. Once the threat is lured a safe distance from the nest, the killdeer flies off to safety.