Missourians care about forests, fish, and wildlife. To ensure these resources are protected, the Conservation Department reviews the Wildlife Code of Missouri each year. In doing so, the Department considers hundreds of suggestions from hunters, anglers, and other citizens. Every suggestion is carefully reviewed, though not all are adopted. The following is a summary of key changes to the Wildlife Code for 2015. The changes will go into effect March 1 unless noted.
Missouri is a world-class place to hunt, fish, and experience nature. The following rules offer new opportunities to engage in outdoor activities.
- Hunters will be able to take coyotes during spring turkey season beginning in 2015. Anyone pursuing coyotes during this time must use only methods allowed for spring turkey hunting and must have an unfilled spring turkey hunting permit and either a Resident Small Game Hunting Permit or a Nonresident Furbearer Hunting and Trapping Permit. As was previously the case, coyotes may not be chased, pursued, or taken during daylight hours from April 1 until spring turkey season begins.
- Beginning in 2015, pheasant hunting will be allowed statewide. In the past, pheasant hunting was restricted to areas north of Interstate 70 and a few counties in the Bootheel. Missouri’s pheasant population has not increased significantly, but because harvest is limited to males only, allowing statewide hunting should not affect the population. This rule change will offer more opportunities to hunters and simplify regulations by making season dates and bag limits the same throughout the state.
The Conservation Department strives to develop regulations that are precise, concise, and easy to understand. The annual review of the Wildlife Code offers opportunities to revise and clarify existing regulations.
- Greer Spring Branch on the Eleven Point River has always been closed to fishing. Recently, property surrounding the spring was transferred from private ownership to management by the U.S. Forest Service. Because of this, the reference in the Wildlife Code to the private property boundary was no longer correct. The Code was amended to reflect the change and now states that no fishing is allowed on Greer Spring Branch upstream from its confluence with the Eleven Point River.
- Bighead and silver carp are invasive species that have gained a toehold in Missouri’s rivers. To prevent further spread, several rules in the Wildlife Code prohibit the use of these fish as live bait. During its annual review of the Code, the Department’s Regulations Committee found a rule that wasn’t consistent with the others. The rule was amended, and now the Code states throughout that only dead bighead and silver carp may be used as bait.
Regulations are designed to sustain healthy plant and animal communities. Some rules regulate the harvest of certain species; others curtail the spread of invasive animals and plants.
- The only place in the world where one can find grotto sculpins is in and around five caves in Perry County, Missouri. Because of their limited distribution, these pale, cave-dwelling fish are vulnerable to extinction. Grotto sculpins were afforded extra protection when they were listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. In August 2014, the fish was added to Missouri’s list of endangered species to make the Wildlife Code consistent with federal regulations.
- Round and tubenose gobies are freshwater fish that were accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes by ocean-going ships. Originally from areas around the Black and Caspian seas, these invasive fish compete with native species for food and habitat, serve as hosts for several diseases and parasites, and prey on native species.
- Biologists believe these gobies would prey on smallmouth bass nests and pose particular harm to Missouri’s darters, sculpins, and mussels. To prevent the introduction of these unwanted fish into Missouri’s waters, round and tubenose gobies were added to the Department’s prohibited species list.
- The Department is concerned about all wildlife diseases and works to address these threats through timely regulation changes. Of particular concern is chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is a fatal disease that affects members of the deer family. To reduce the risk of CWD spreading beyond the limited area where it has been found in north-central Missouri, the Department enacted several rule changes affecting big game hunting preserves and deer breeding facilities. The new rules ban the importation of live white-tailed deer, mule deer, and their hybrids into Missouri; prohibit the use of imported cervids in big game hunting preserves; improve fencing requirements and record-keeping for these facilities; and prohibit new facilities from opening, for a period of five years, within 25 miles of where CWD has been found. To learn more about these rules and other steps the Department is taking to protect Missouri’s deer, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/16478.
- Feral hogs compete with native wildlife for food and habitat, destroy sensitive natural areas with their rooting behavior, and, in other states, are known to carry diseases such as swine brucellosis and trichinosis that can spread to people, pets, and livestock. Feral hogs are adept at escaping from fenced enclosures and reproduce quickly in the wild.
The Wildlife Code was amended in January 2015 to prohibit the propagation, holding in captivity, and hunting of hogs inside big game hunting preserves. Properly licensed big game preserves that offered hog hunting prior to Jan. 30, 2015, will be exempt from this rule change.
How Regulations Are Set
Each year, the Conservation Department’s Regulations Committee reviews the Wildlife Code to ensure Missouri’s forests, fish, and wildlife are protected. Here’s how the process works.
- Changes proposed by the public and Department staff are brought to the Committee to review.
- The Committee researches the effects of the proposed regulation changes. Information reviewed may include costs to citizens and government agencies, effects on wildlife populations, user group surveys, public comments, and feasibility studies.
- When research shows a change would improve a natural resource or provide more opportunities for Missourians to enjoy nature without detrimental effects to natural resources, a proposed regulation change is sent to the Conservation Department’s director.
- If the director approves the change, the proposal is submitted to the Conservation Commission, a group of four citizens who are appointed by the governor.
- If passed by the Conservation Commission, the proposed changes are filed with the secretary of state and published in the Missouri Register. A link to the Register can be found at mdc.mo.gov/node/4871.
- Publication of proposed changes in the Missouri Register begins a 30-day public comment period. If no comments are received, the final regulation is filed and becomes effective on the date specified in the proposal or 30 days after publication in the Missouri Code of State Regulations.
- When comments are received, the proposal is reviewed. Based on the public’s comments and available research data, the Commission may decide to withdraw, modify, or implement the regulation.
We Want Your Input
Citizen participation has been the cornerstone of conservation efforts in Missouri since the Department was formed in 1937. To offer input on the Wildlife Code of Missouri, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/4871.
Once there, you can:
- Read the full text of each chapter of the Wildlife Code.
- Offer suggestions for how the Department can improve existing regulations.
- See a list of regulations the Department is proposing to amend and offer comments on the proposed changes.
To sign up for email alerts about proposed regulation changes, visit sos.mo.gov/adrules/Notifications.asp.