Rules of Engagement

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

only by shooting or trapping... Wildlife may be so controlled only on the owner's property to prevent further damage. Wildlife so killed or captured must be reported to an agent of the department within twenty-four hours and disposed of according to his/her instructions. Deer, turkey, black bears and endangered species that are causing damage may be killed only with the permission of an agent of the department and by methods authorized by him/her."

Many landowners are unaware of this regulation and believe that they have no recourse when the critters seem to be winning the war.


River otter depredation of fish in ponds is a good example of the kind of damage landowners suffer when they actually could be doing something to protect their property from wildlife.

At one time, river otters were classified as "endangered" in Missouri. That is no longer the case. Missouri's river otter population has increased beyond expectations since the restoration program began in the 1980s. River otters are now common and are regulated in the same manner as most resident wildlife species.

The Wildlife Code specifies that "otters which are damaging property may be captured or killed by shooting or trapping on the owner's own property." The only requirement is that they be reported to a Department agent and disposed of according to their instructions.

Ongoing river otter skirmishes can illustrate how the "rules of engagement" work. It's an early autumn day. The trees are turning brilliant shades of red, yellow, orange and bright green. The water in the lake is so calm it looks like a thin sheet of glass, and fog is slowly rising off the water as sunlight warms the cool air. Birds are singing and, at the lower end of the lake, a pair of wood ducks takes flight, startled by your presence.

You're fishing, but the fishing is very, very slow. You've only caught a few small fish, and your favorite lures aren't producing. Something is wrong.

You decide to walk the dam to inspect the drain tube and look for deer sign around the shore. You easily identify deer and raccoon tracks in the mud, but something else catches your eye!

You find some droppings that resemble raccoon feces but, instead of corn and weed seeds, they contain orange fragments as well as fish scales. Several droppings are concentrated in one area near a path where

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