Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of the Missouri outdoors. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.
Q. I saw a gray squirrel in my yard today with a bird in its mouth. Do squirrels eat birds?
A. Yes, they do, although probably not very frequently. I have received a few questions over the years from persons who observed that behavior and were usually surprised to see it. It is more common for squirrels to raid bird nests for eggs or nestlings, but they have also been observed eating adult birds. I don’t know whether they catch the adults or scavenge them when found dead. Ironically, squirrels themselves are subject to being eaten by larger birds, such as several species of hawks and owls. It’s a squirrel-eat-bird-eat-squirrel world out there.
Q. I am an avid Missouri deer hunter, and I’m concerned about the current lower number of deer in my area. How can I influence the Department’s decisions regarding deer management?
A. We are always happy to receive public input through our website, email, phone calls, letters, and scientific surveys of deer hunters and production landowners. Comments on regulations are shared with members of our Regulations Committee and summarized for the Conservation Commissioners. As you are probably aware, several regulation changes will go into effect for the 2014–2015 deer season. Those are detailed in the free 2014 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet available in July at permit vendors statewide. A more thorough review of deer regulations and season structure is in progress. A series of open house meetings around the state for citizen input is a part of that process. July meetings will be held 3–8 p.m. on the following dates and at the following locations:
Share your thoughts on limiting the spread of chronic wasting disease at mdc.mo.gov/deerhealth.
Q. I’ve heard of fish dying in lakes and ponds from lack of oxygen. What causes low oxygen?
A. The dissolved oxygen level in the water is affected by many factors including surface wind, water temperature, amount and type of vegetation in the water, time of day, water depth, and the amount of sunlight reaching the water. Sources of oxygen in the water are photosynthesis by plants, especially algae, and wind wave action at the water surface. Oxygen is lost during plant respiration at night. The decay of organic material such as aquatic plants and tree leaves also reduces the oxygen level. Fish kills are more common in summer and winter. During the summer, water is warmer and holds less oxygen. Excessive growth of aquatic plants on the water surface can lead to oxygen depletion by reducing sunlight that penetrates the water. Ice and snow cover can have a similar effect as wave action stops and the amount of light for photosynthesis is reduced. Ponds that are at least 8 feet deep are better able to maintain adequate levels of oxygen. For more information, see our Aquaguide titled Fish Kills in Ponds and Lakes at go.usa.gov/KnBR.
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions, or complaints concerning the Conservation Department.
Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180
Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848
The Missouri Department of Conservation recently adopted a new skills portion for the Hunter Education program.
This program is taught by conservation agents, outdoor skills specialists, other Department staff, and volunteers. A majority of the information is taught through a hands-on approach and application of the skills learned. By emphasizing proper techniques for handling a firearm, participants learn to respect the firearm. Successfully completing this course will help you handle a firearm in a safe manner.
Since the inception of the Hunter Education program there has been a steady decline in firearm-related hunting incidents. One of the most important concepts taught in the Hunter Education program is the Golden Rule: “Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.” Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction will prevent a hunting incident from happening. Remember that once a bullet is fired, there is no way to take it back.
Tips for staying safe while hunting include positively identifying your target and knowing what is beyond the target before even raising the firearm to take aim. There is no age restriction for safety, and hunters of all ages are encouraged to take the course.
For more information on hunter education and courses near you, as well as tips for staying safe while hunting, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3095, or call your local regional office. Remember, hunter safety begins with you. Leother Branch, Jr. is the conservation agent for Scott County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional office.
American lotus is an aquatic plant that can cover large areas. They occur in oxbow lakes, sloughs, and ponds, preferring still waters with a mud bottom. Flowers bloom June through September and grow up to 8 inches across. Large colonies of the plant are important nurseries for fish and other aquatic life as well as shelter for ducks. Although the plant regularly produces seeds, it spreads mainly through its thick rhizomes that grow along the pond bottom. Despite its ornamental qualities, American lotus should not be introduced into most fishing ponds. Lotus spreads rapidly in shallow water and can soon completely cover a pond. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong
Editor In Chief - vacant
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Brett Dufur
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler