By Kristie Hilgedick
Heavy rains and flash flooding that paralyzed much of the state in late December also affected the Department of Conservation.
In the southwest and Ozark regions, conservation agents performed several swift-water rescues while assisting local and state law enforcement officers. One vehicle was flooded and a swift-water rescue boat also was damaged. The George O. White State Tree Nursery suffered losses when parts of the nursery’s field beds were submerged.
Across the state, several conservation areas closed due to high water and road damage. Peck Ranch, Caney Mountain, and Drury-Mincy conservation areas were closed in response to flash flooding. Although most of the major waterfowl areas in northern Missouri were spared the worst of the storm, Schell-Osage Conservation Area was almost completely flooded.
But the state’s fisheries bore the brunt of the storm. Staff at the state’s five coldwater hatcheries worked around the clock to keep the trout alive. At Maramec Spring Fish Hatchery, the dam surrounding the spring was breached. Three employees at Roaring River Fish Hatchery were unable to leave due to high water blocking the hatchery complex. At Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery where releases from Table Rock Lake were at record levels, floodwaters approached the base of the brown trout building. And at Bennett Spring Fish Hatchery, the Niangua River rose so high that the entire complex was flooded.
“Instead of having multiple production pools, we had one large pool,” Fisheries Field Operations Chief Bruce Drecktrah explained.
Several steps taken before the flooding occurred likely saved thousands of fish. At Montauk Hatchery, a recirculation system — which allows hatchery staff to block out debris-laden riverwater, while still maintaining flow — helped prevent losses, Drecktrah said. And at Maramec Spring Hatchery, screen covers kept fish in the raceways, even when they were overflowing their banks.
According to the Missouri Climate Center, 2015 was the fourth wettest on record with an average statewide annual total precipitation of just over 55 inches.
A new permit system designed to help outdoor enthusiasts purchase hunting and fishing permits with ease and speed is slated to launch by this summer.
“This new system will allow easy, online access for the purchase of permits, anytime and anywhere,” said Permit Services Supervisor Greg Jones, who retired in December.
The system serves more than 1 million customers and works with the assistance of approximately 1,000 retailers across the state.
The new system is expected to make the permitting process more convenient for permit buyers, waste less paper, and save the state money.
As part of the implementation process, the Department eliminated the $1 convenience fee formerly charged by the vendor to customers who bought their permits online. A $2 convenience fee for phone sales will remain.
Regardless of where a customer purchases a permit, each document will look the same statewide, Jones added. The new system also allows vendors to condense up to three permits on the same page, eliminating paper waste and bulk. Similar technology has been tested and embraced elsewhere, Jones said.
“Permit sales are a very important function of the Department, and we’ve carefully worked with vendors on the new system,” Jones said.
The contract was awarded to a company with Missouri ties and will be managed in state. The close-to-home contract will also lower annual costs for the Department due to reduced maintenance and equipment costs.
The Department continues to work with elected officials, community groups, partner agencies, and landowners to raise awareness of feral hogs and eradicate them from the landscape.
Experience gleaned from other states and trends in Missouri show hunting does not help to eradicate hogs. Instead, hunting results in expanded populations. Hunting and shooting scatters groups of hogs, or sounders, whereas eradication efforts, like trapping, can eliminate an entire sounder at once. Feral hogs have a high reproductive rate. Sows can have up to two litters every 12–18 months with an average of six piglets per litter, so elimination of entire sounders is necessary.
Eradication efforts, such as trapping, have increased this year, and citizens are asked to report feral hog sightings or damage as soon as possible.
“Feral hogs destroy habitat, eat wildlife, compete with native animals for food, degrade our water quality, and spread disease,” explained Wildlife Regional Supervisor Matt Bowyer. ”We ask Missourians to partner with the Department to ensure we reduce that destruction by reporting all sightings of feral hogs so we can work together to remove the threat.”
Reynolds County landowner Don Kory and his family have trapped more than 190 feral hogs on their property with the help of the Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kory said landowners who haven’t yet experienced feral hogs on their property sometimes don’t understand the damage the animals cause. But after years of trapping and responding to the wreckage they leave behind, he knows the situation all too well.
“It seems many people think it would just be great fun to have ‘wild boars’ on your property to hunt,” he said. “But if you are a landowner, I say be happy if you never see a feral pig.”
To gain ground in the feral hog fight, people must stop hunting hogs and start reporting them, Bowyer said. Other states, such as Tennessee, Michigan, and Kansas, have experienced success by using this strategy.
“Feral hogs are highly adaptable and easily avoid trapping efforts when hunters encroach into their occupied area,” explained Bowyer. “We’re learning that hog hunting actually increases the spread of populations and pushes them into new territories, making their movements less predictable.”
Bowyer asks anyone who encounters a feral hog to report the sighting to 573-522-4115, ext. 3296. Those who witness illegal release of hogs should immediately contact their local conservation agent or report it to Operation Game Thief at 1-800-392-1111. For more information about feral hog eradication efforts, visit on.mo.gov/1kqKpHC.
The Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program (MRAP), an initiative piloted by the Department last fall, provides landowners an opportunity to generate extra income by opening their property to the public for fish and wildlife related recreational activities. In addition, special incentives are available to enhance wildlife habitat on MRAP properties.
Seven northeast and southeast counties were included in the pilot, and approximately 1,500 acres were enrolled in the program.
This summer, the Department will use federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, along with Department funding, to expand the program. To be eligible, sites must have 40 contiguous acres and meet certain standards for quality wildlife habitat. The exception is land offered for fishing access, which is not subject to the minimum acreage and habitat requirements.
Annual payment rates will be determined by the type of access provided by the landowner, amount of quality habitat available, and other factors. Most landowners can expect to earn $15 to $25 per acre each year that they participate.
Examples of quality habitat targeted by MRAP include native grass fields, wildlife-friendly field buffers, restored wetlands, enhanced woodlands, and old fields. Upon enrollment, landowners will be able to choose how their land will be used.
The options include:
All MRAP lands will be open to foot traffic only, and area users must self-register at designated property entry points. Unless otherwise agreed upon by the landowner, parking will occur along roadsides, and public access will only be for the uses and activities agreed upon by the landowner.
For those who have concerns about liability, Missouri’s Recreational Use Immunity Law offers liability protection to participating landowners.
For more information, visit mdc.mo.gov/mrap. There you can find property enrollment information for landowners, area rules and procedures, and maps of enrolled properties. Landowners interested in participating should contact their local private land conservationist or MRAP Manager Jeff Esely at email@example.com.
The Missouri Conservation Commission in December approved staff recommendations for the 2016-2017 deer hunting and 2016 turkey hunting seasons.
The recommendations established season dates, changed the allowed methods for both deer and turkey hunting, and altered the deer season structure.
The Commission approved the following regulations regarding deer and turkey hunting:
The regulations will become effective March 2016.
The Commission initially approved the deer hunting regulations at its August 2015 public meeting followed by a public comment period.
Changes to the deer hunting season structure and methods come after Department efforts over the past 18 months to gather public input. That public input included hunter and landowner surveys, numerous public open houses around the state, community presentations, media communications, information in various Department publications, discussions with conservation partner organizations, and other efforts.
The approved recommendations were based on the Department’s use of deer population simulations, biological data, and harvest information.
“The goal of the Conservation Department’s deer management program is to use research based wildlife management combined with public input to maintain deer population levels throughout the state that provide quality recreational opportunities while minimizing human deer conflicts,” said Wildlife Division Chief Jason Sumners. “As deer populations in Missouri have changed over the past 75 years, so have our management strategies. In modifying the hunting season structure, our aim is to achieve a deer population that is biologically and socially acceptable, while also promoting hunter participation, recruitment, and retention.”
For more information on deer and turkey hunting, visit mdc.mo.gov and click on the Hunting/Trapping menu.
Missouri youth, archery, and firearms turkey hunters can apply online for managed hunts during the 2016 spring turkey season. The signup period ends Feb. 29.
Details and application procedures for the managed hunts are outlined on the Department’s web site at on.mo.gov/1mitQ2o. Application results will be available beginning March 14.
More information on spring turkey hunting can be found in the Department’s 2016 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available by early February at mdc.mo.gov. Printed booklets will be available from permit vendors, Department offices, and nature centers by mid-February.
They hold their wings in a V position when soaring, and they frequently tilt from side to side when in the air. They are especially fond of bluffs, where they can catch rising warm air currents. These raptors roost in large colonies, generally in large, bare trees. Breeding occurs in spring, and turkey vultures lay eggs in caves, cliffs, crevices, hollow trees, or brushy thickets. There are usually two chicks per clutch. The helpless young hatch in 30–40 days and are fed by the parents for 10–11 weeks. Families stay together until fall. Turkey vultures forage individually and are highly specialized carrion feeders, locating their food by smell as well as by sight. They are often attracted to road-killed carcasses. As scavengers, turkey vultures perform a valuable service by cleaning up the woods, grasslands, and roadsides.
—photograph by Noppadol Paothong
The December Commission meeting featured presentations and discussions regarding the
Agricultural Crop Program, the Missouri Deer Survey Program, a report of the regulations committee, recommendations for the 2016–2017 fall deer/turkey season structure, methods, and limits, 2016 Missouri wild turkey hunting regulation recommendations, upcoming waterfowl/hunter public engagement meetings, major construction projects status report, 2016 permit system vendor changes, and information technology projects status report. A summary of actions taken during the Dec. 10–11 meeting for the benefit and protection of fish, forests, and wildlife and the citizens who enjoy them includes:
The next Conservation Commission meeting is March 10 and 11. For more information, visit on.mo.gov/1Ii70Op or call your regional Conservation office (phone numbers on Page 3).
We work with you and for you to sustain healthy fish, forests, and wildlife
The Missouri Department of Conservation offers cost-share, help, and recognition for community tree care through several programs. Efforts for 2015 include the following:
To learn more about and participate in the Conservation Department’s community tree care programs, visit on.mo.gov/1NtdA4s
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
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Designer - Les Fortenberry
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Circulation - Laura Scheuler