Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of outdoor Missouri. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.
Q. We recently found dozens of these fuzzy things in our yard. They’re about 1 inch long and very lightweight — they float away on the slightest breeze. We’re guessing an insect came out of them, but have not been able to figure out what that might be.
A. This looks like a tent caterpillar cocoon. Caterpillars that built webbing in forked branches of cherry, crabapple, and other small trees in the spring have left and wandered cross-country to find places to spin cocoons in anticipation of the pupa stage. By now, many have transformed further into adult moths and emerged from their cocoons. However, the insect in this particular cocoon likely fell prey to a predator before emerging as an adult moth. Note the hole in the side of the cocoon — a moth would have emerged at the end rather than the side. Also, note the lack of a pupal exoskeleton within the cocoon. If an adult moth had exited normally, the “shell” would have been left behind.
Q. Do hawks come back to the same nests every year?
A. If you have a hawk’s nest near your home or farm, you may want to keep an eye out to see if the same birds are returning year to year. Although it varies, many of Missouri’s hawk species do reoccupy their previous aeries. For example, a breeding pair of red-tailed hawks will typically visit several nests from previous years. They will repair and decorate two or more nests with greenery before choosing a single nest. Both Swainson’s hawks and redshouldered hawks often use the same nest, or nest tree, in successive breeding seasons. Cooper’s hawks occasionally use the same nest, but more commonly build a new nest in the same area. Northern goshawks tend to maintain between one to eight nests within an area. While they may use the same nest more than once, they typically alternate between more than two nests. Scientists speculate it might be a way to avoid disease and parasites. Sharp-shinned hawks, on the other hand, rarely re-use their nests.
Q. I saw a picture of a pink katydid on Facebook. Is there such a thing?
A. Yes. Department Resource Scientist Elizabeth Middleton recently photographed this pink katydid at the Diamond Grove Prairie Natural Area in southwest Missouri, one of the largest tallgrass prairies remaining in the state. This radiant creature is a rare version of a prairie insect that is more commonly green. Scientists recently have learned the pink color is a genetically dominant trait. However, the green, leaf-like body shape provides such good camouflage from predators that many more green katydids persist in the wild. To find a public prairie near you, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/2453.
Natural resource law enforcement is a challenging but rewarding career. Taking an oath to protect the natural resources of one’s state is not an act to be taken lightly.
Regardless of the title — conservation agent, natural resource officer, or game warden — the mission remains the same: to serve citizens and protect the forests, fish, and wildlife for future generations to experience and enjoy. With roughly 8,000 sworn natural resource officers covering North America, the green line can be pretty thin.
In order to do the job effectively, natural resource officers need public support. Missouri citizens started the conservation movement more than 75 years ago and have entrusted the Department to set and enforce regulations that will help keep the state’s natural resources intact. Conservation agents are entrusted to enforce the Wildlife Code, thereby protecting and preserving Missouri’s forest, fish, and wildlife resources.
When the conservation movement began, white-tailed deer and wild turkey were nearly gone from Missouri. Now, thanks to public support, education, regulations enforcement, and the
Department’s restocking efforts, those species are thriving.
Agents continually seek out and implement new ways to further educate the public we serve on the importance of conservation. Without your continued support, the past and future successes of the conservation movement will forever be in jeopardy.
Joshua Shadwick is the conservation agent for Cedar County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster
Copperheads live on rocky hillsides and along forest edges in the northern two-thirds of the state. They also spend time among trees and brush along prairie streams and are often found near abandoned farm buildings. They rely on their camouflage pattern when resting in dead leaves and will usually remain motionless when encountered. They’re not aggressive, and they seldom strike unless provoked. Copperheads eat mice, lizards, frogs, small birds, insects, and sometimes small snakes. They are normally active from April through November. Courtship and mating occur in the spring, and young are born August through early October. Females produce live young every other year, with up to 14 in a litter. They bask on warm sunny days, especially in the morning. In the hottest months, they become nocturnal. In autumn, they gather together to overwinter at south-facing rocky ledges. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler