Was the enormous brown trout that went belly-up at Lake Taneycomo a potential world record? That's the question that fisheries biologists and anglers are asking. The answer may never be known.
A wildlife photographer spotted the bloated behemoth Sept. 10 about 100 yards upstream from Lilley's Landing Resort in Branson. Dock Manager Mike Adams motored out to see the fish and was astonished by what he found.
"When the guy who told me about it said it was 'big,' I thought I'd find a 10- or 12-pounder. I had no idea it would be that big. I tried to bring it into the boat with a dip net, but no way was it going to fit. So I hooked it with the big hook on my fish scale."
The fish tugged the scale down to the 37.1-pound mark. Back at the dock, Adams put a measuring tape to the fish and found it was 41.75 inches long.
The all-tackle world record recognized by the International Game Fish Association is 40.25 pounds. But that fish measured just 40.5 inches.
Conservation Department officials say the Taneycomo trout appeared to have been dead at least 24 hours when found and could have lost considerable weight between the time it died and when it was weighed.
The big trout bore no signs of injury. Biologists will perform a necropsy to try to learn why it died. Old age is the leading theory at present.
A mystery that came to light when a youngster found a five-legged frog remains unsolved. But State Herpetologist Tom Johnson says the small number of reported amphibian deformities leads him to believe the phenomenon is not the result of widespread environmental factors in Missouri.
In October, 1996, a student found a green frog with an extra hind leg in a pond near Gentry Middle School in Columbia. The discovery concerned Johnson, because it came on the heels of reports involving hundreds of deformed amphibians at several sites in Minnesota, Wisconsin and other Upper Midwest states.
After examining the frog found in Columbia, Johnson issued a statewide call for Missourians to report similar sightings. Now, more than a year later, he has received only a handful of such reports. They are widely scattered, with no common thread.
"There is some natural incidence of deformities among amphibians, even under normal conditions," says Johnson. "Frogs' and other amphibians' tissues are more changeable than those of birds and mammals."
He says some amphibians can even regenerate lost limbs. Reports of frogs with extra legs aren't unusual, even going back a hundred years. What is unusual is the occurrence of many deformed amphibians in one place.
"Judging from the reports we have received, it doesn't appear that is happening here," he says.
In all, Johnson has received 19 reports of deformed amphibians, mostly frogs. The reports came from Holt, Clay, Adair, Schuyler, Marion, Boone, Osage, Lincoln, St. Charles, Franklin, Washington, Laclede, Christian, Greene, Benton and Barry counties. Twelve were current sightings. The other five were from previous years, dating as far back as 1964.
Johnson has sent the specimens he received to a researcher who is exploring the possibility that the deformities are caused by a parasitic worm known as a "fluke."
"Investigations of big outbreaks of deformed frogs in California have shown that parasites were the cause," said Johnson. "In other cases, chemical pollution is a possible explanation.
"A few people have written me, obviously alarmed and convinced that pollution is causing this. For the most part, it has been youngsters who are interested in protecting our environment from chemicals. If this were the result of chemicals, I would expect to see more than just one or two frogs in a given area with the problem. The fact that isn't happening should be reassuring to those who are worried about it."
Johnson still is interested in reports of amphibian deformities. If he learns of multiple sightings of abnormal frogs, a team of experts will respond.
Johnson asks that anyone who finds a deformed frog or toad to call him at (573) 751-4115, ext. 201. Or they can E-mail him at <Tom.Johnson@mdc.mo.gov>.
The discovery of adult Niangua darters in one new location and young of the endangered species in a previously known site is good news for Missouri for several reasons.
In September, Conservation Department workers looking for Niangua darters found four of the adult fish at a new site in Brush Creek, north of Springfield. Niangua darters were last seen in Brush Creek in 1981.
The find is evidence of good water quality and healthy, diverse plant and animal communities in the Southwest Missouri stream basin. It also indicates success of cooperative efforts by private landowners and the Conservation Department to prevent the extinction of this tiny and colorful fish, which is found only in Missouri.
Also in September, Conservation Department workers found 10 young-of the-year and several adult Niangua darters at a conservation area in Hickory County.
Conservation Department officials are working to expand an existing incentive program to encourage more landowners to manage stream-side property for better water quality and fish habitat.
For more information about stream incentive programs in southwest Missouri, call Marv Boyer at the Conservation Department district fisheries office at (573) 346-2210.
As the chill of autumn turns into the crisp cold of winter, thoughts of what to plant next spring probably aren't foremost in your mind. But now is a great time for considering such things, especially if you want plants native to Missouri.
George O. White Forest Nursery offers a large variety of tree and shrub seedlings for reforestation or wildlife habitat improvement. Missouri landowners can order nursery stock from the nursery from mid-November through Feb. 1.
Most seedlings are sold in bundles of 25, priced from $2 to $6. Two special bundles are available for those who want a variety of plants in smaller quantities. The Conservation Bundle contains five plants each of six species for $10. The Wildlife Cover Bundle, an assortment of 10 plants each of five species, is priced at $12. State sales tax and a $5 handling fee are added to all orders.
Nursery stock application forms are available at Conservation Department forestry district offices throughout the state or from Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.
Orders are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so it's best to order early. Besides spelling out which plants you want, the order form allows you to specify when you want the plants delivered by mail, or whether you prefer to pick them up at the nursery.
The Conservation Department sends an acknowledgment notice stating what plants it can furnish. This notice also serves as a billing statement. Seedlings are shipped after payment is received. Deliveries take place from February through May.
In 1937, the future of American wildlife looked bleak. Incredible as it seems today, deer, turkey and a host of other wildlife faced extinction.
Then hunters did something remarkable. In the depths of the Great Depression, they asked Congress to let them pay a tax on sporting firearms and ammunition.
Congress responded by passing the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, more commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act for its two sponsors.
Since 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into research, management and habitat protection that benefits all wildlife, not just hunted species.
This year, Missouri received a Pittman-Robertson allocation of $4.28 million, which paid for wildlife population surveys, ruffed grouse and prairie chicken restoration, conservation area management and support to help private landowners make their property more productive for wildlife.
The next time you flush a covey or draw your bow on a whitetail, thank conscientious hunters like yourself for the abundant wildlife we enjoy today.
Want to know how much meat to expect from your deer? Multiply the animal's field-dressed weight (head, hooves and hide still on) by 0.65.
For example, you should get about 65 pounds of meat from an average sized buck that started with a live weight of 130 pounds and field-dressed out to 100 pounds. Actual results will vary depending on processing methods and the deer's build.
Share Your Venison With The Needy
Hunters can help feed the hungry through Share the Harvest. Last year the program provided about 20,000 pounds of lean, protein-rich venison for hungry Missourians.
Share the Harvest lets hunters team up with civic organizations, meat processors and food banks to feed the hungry in their own communities. The Conservation Department oversees the program.
To learn more about Share the Harvest, call your conservation agent or David Beffa, (573) 751-4115, ext. 819.
Want to know where and when to find scissor-tailed flycatchers in Missouri? Looking for birdwatching how-to information? Would you like tips on how to choose binoculars and other birdwatching equipment? You need Enjoying Missouri Birds.
The 40-page booklet answers frequent questions about birds. Graphics show where and when you are most likely to see each of 291 bird species found in Missouri.
To receive a copy write to Enjoying Missouri Birds, Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.
Got a burning question for Conservation Department Director Jerry Conley? Call him up and ask him on the Department's new, live radio show from 6 to 7 p.m. each Monday.
"Conservation On Call" is a blend of live call-ins, guest interviews and nature notes covering the full range of outdoor recreation and Conservation services.
Conley says he considers the show an excellent opportunity for two-way communications between Missourians and the Conservation Department's top management.
"It's hard to respond to people's needs if you never talk to them,'' says Conley. "I expect to answer a lot of questions about fishing regulations and deer permits and such, but I hope people also call in to tell us what they think of what we're doing and how we could do better. I want 'Conservation on Call' to be a place for give and take. Callers should feel free to tell us what's on their minds."
Conley and co-host Arleasha Mays started broadcasting "Conservation On Call" Sept. 15. Topics discussed on the show have included reports of deformed frogs, edible wild plants, Conservation Department shooting ranges, naturalist programs for kids and duck season.
November program topics include how to deal with nuisance wildlife, the Conservation Department's home page on the World Wide Web, deer hunting regulations, the deer season forecast, Becoming an Outdoorswoman workshops, fur trapping issues, the Forestkeepers network, landowner assistance programs and nature centers.
Some radio stations may rebroadcast the show at different times, so call your favorite station for show times in your area.
Radio stations interested in broadcasting "Conservation On Call" can contact news services coordinator Arleasha Mays at (573) 751-4115, ext. 855. E-mail: Arleasha.Mays@mdc.mo.gov.
To be part of Conservation on Call, phone (800) 973-3779 Mondays 6 to 7 p.m.
In an age when so much is known about the natural world, it's easy to assume that there is "no new thing under the sun." But an assistant professor at Truman State University recently proved otherwise, at least for botanists.
Lisa Hooper was looking around her 110-acre home property near Kirksville in the summer of 1995 when she noticed the dry flower stalk of a plant she didn't recognize. She made a mental note to come back another time when the plant was in bloom so she could identify it.
It was May of this year before she happened to visit the site at the right time to find the plants in bloom. The foot-tall spikes of tiny green flowers intrigued Hooper.
"After looking in several books, I got to be pretty sure what it was," says Hooper. "Then I went to George Yatskievych to confirm it."
Yatskievych, a Conservation Department botanist, is an expert on Missouri orchids. He confirmed that Hooper's flower was a long-bracted green orchid, Coeloglossum viride, var. virescens, a plant never before documented in Missouri.
Yatskievych had been putting the finishing touches on the orchid section for a new edition of Julian Steyermark's classic botanical text, Flora of Missouri, and was able to add a new variety for Missouri.
"It certainly is significant to find a new plant," says Yatskievych, "particularly an orchid. That's a family we thought had been pretty well researched."
On the other hand, says Yatskievych, botanists discover four or five new native plant species per year in Missouri. So keep your eyes open and your field guide handy. You could be the next to discover something new under the sun.
To learn more about Missouri's wild orchids, order a copy of Missouri Orchids, a 92-page book complete with color photos. Single copies are available for $5 plus $2.31 shipping and tax from Missouri Orchids, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City. 65102-0180.
Missouri Stream Team is now eight years old and 1,000 strong. The grass roots stream conservation organization, cosponsored by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, recently chartered its 1,000th member group, an Explorer Post in Bourbon.
The Conservation Federation's Stream Team Coordinator, Mark VanPatten, says the group has a proven commitment to stream conservation and the knack for grass-roots stewardship that typifies Stream Teams 1 through 999.
Explorer Post No. 2429 knows how to make things happen. Aggressive fundraising and community service efforts have enabled the Explorer post to conduct an annual stream cleanup, operate a recycling program and participate in the work of providing food and housing for the needy in Crawford County. This past summer, they traveled to Germany, where they met European Scouts and repelled down the sheer walls of a medieval castle. Post members also take local trips that include camping, rappelling, canoeing and other outdoor activities.
"We got involved in Operation Clean Stream in 1992," says adult leader Joan King. "This year they decided they might as well make it official and become a Stream Team."
The 100-member Explorer post is sponsored by the Bourbon Booster Club. The post has adopted the upper Meramec River in Crawford County as their special responsibility. King says the youths haven't decided what other projects to undertake. However, along with the promotion of Project Stream Team within their Scout district and council, they will work to increase awareness of recycling and water conservation among Bourbon area elementary school students.
VanPatten says the growth of Missouri Stream Teams was phenomenal from the start, and has continued to accelerate. Four years ago, program coordinators guessed there might be 750 Stream Teams by the program's 10th anniversary. Now, just eight years after the start of Missouri Stream Teams, they have far surpassed that goal. VanPatten hesitates to guess how many teams might be formed by the year 2001, for fear he may undershoot the mark again.
VanPatten attributes the program's rapid growth to two factors. One is a powerful desire among Missourians for an active role in stream stewardship. The other reason is the approach that the program's sponsors have used. Rather than trying to direct Stream Team activities, the sponsoring agencies have tried to encourage and enable teams to pursue their own interests.
"This has always been a volunteer-led program," says Joe Bachant, Conservation Department streams programs coordinator. "We haven't tried to dictate what happens at the local level. Every team has a reason for being, and that's different for every team. But when a Stream Team has an idea, a legitimate goal to pursue, we do whatever we can to help them achieve it."
Join us to watch hundreds of bald eagles at Eagle Days during December and January at four locations throughout the state.
Eagle Days are a chance for you to watch bald eagles in their natural wintering habitat and learn how our national bird has made a comeback. Each event includes staffed eagle viewing stations, videos, activities, displays and live appearances by a captive bald eagle.
Eagle Days will be held at the following locations this year:
All events are Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration is not required. Signs will direct you to program areas. Bring your camera and binoculars, and be sure to dress for the weather.
For more information and a map of each location, write: Eagle Days, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102 0180.
Other places with prime eagle watching during the winter include Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Sumner, Table Rock Lake near Branson and Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area near Columbia. Plan to visit these areas in January or early February and watch for eagles perching in large trees along the edges of rivers and lakes.
Conservationist reader Rosemary Meyer of St. Louis sent the following recipe for hunters who bring home a deer:
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