Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of outdoor Missouri. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.
The primary work responsibility of a conservation agent is resource law enforcement — enforcing the rules and regulations of the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Agents also have a widevariety of other duties such as public relations, outreach and education, resource management, and other key Department programs.
Some duties are specific to the region or county in which an agent is assigned. For 28 years, I have been assigned to Oregon County where stocking trout on the Eleven Point River is one of my duties. Each year, I plan and conduct the stocking of 16,000 trout from Turner Mill Access to the Riverton Access downstream.
More than 50 years ago here in Oregon County, the late Conservation Agent Gene Woolverton, along with some citizen volunteers, began stocking trout throughout the entire stream reach, rather than stocking them from a truck at one location. The process involves unloading fish into float tubes attached to a boat, floating them downstream, and releasing them in numerous pools. This practice better distributes the fishing opportunities, usually within 4–5 miles per trip, making for a better quality fishing experience. It has been my pleasure to continue this practice, which is now a common procedure on many of the state’s trout streams. I hope to see you on the river.
Paul Veatch is the conservation agent for Oregon County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
Q. My son trapped this nearly all-white otter on the Maries River in early February. Do you know what might have caused the animal’s unusual coloration?
A. Otters typically are dark brown, even black, when wet. This otter could be considered “pied” or “piebald,” a term that means the animal has a spotting pattern of large, unpigmented, white fur and skin.
The underlying genetic cause likely is related to a condition known as “leucism,” a phenomenon in which there is a partial loss of pigmentation in an animal, resulting in white, pale, patchy, even bleached-looking coloration of it’s skin, fur, feathers, or scales — but not the eyes.
It’s interesting to note a key difference between being leucistic and being an albino is that albinos typically have pink or red eyes. This is due to a lack of melanin, which causes the underlying blood vessels to shine through. Unlike albinism, leucism is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin.
Otters aren’t the only animals to exhibit these tendencies. Other species — squirrels, birds, snakes, and more — exhibit them, too.
Although humans are fascinated by these arresting anomalies, their unique coloration comes at a price. Not only are leucistic or albino animals at greater risk of being seen by predators, they also may be at a disadvantage when finding mates.
Q. When do dogwoods bloom?
A. April 15–20 is a good time to look for flowering dogwoods. Blossoming normally peaks in mid-April in central Missouri. Blooming could occur a week earlier in southern Missouri or a week later in northern Missouri. However, spring weather can impact the timing, making it difficult to guarantee an exact date.
Q. I’d like to be more successful at finding morel mushrooms. Do you have any tips for me?
A. Morels begin to appear in April and early May, and the best time to go looking for them is after a few rainy days in a row. Although morels blend easily into surrounding leaf litter, anywhere from one to several will grow on the ground in deciduous woods, disturbed areas, and recently burned areas.
Black morels prefer to grow near white ash trees, while yellow morels especially like dying elms, living white ashes, and cottonwoods. But both will grow under tulip poplars, oaks, and hickories, as well.
When you are outside, go slowly, focus on details, and look closely at the ground. If you see a cache of edible mushrooms, don’t take them all. Taking everything could mean fewer spores this season and meager mushroom crops in the years to come.
Beware of false morels. All true morels are hollow from top to bottom. Poisonous, false morels are reddish and have wrinkled, lobed, or brain-shaped caps and dense stalks.
Eastern chipmunks range widely in Missouri but are most common in the Ozarks. They prefer timber borderland rather than deep forests. They select wooded banks, log heaps, stone piles, broken rocky ridges, or rubbish heaps as sites for their tunnels and nest chambers. Occasionally they live around city homes and farmhouses, where they inhabit shrubbery, stone walls, and old outbuildings. They make a variety of calls, especially “chips” and a soft “cuck-cuck.” They make a trilling “chipp-r-r-r-r” when surprised. Chipmunks are food-storing animals, mainly eating nuts, seeds, and berries, particularly hickory nuts, acorns, beechnuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts, plus corn and wheat. Perishable foods such as mushrooms and many types of berries are relished but not stored. Breeding begins when hibernation ends in early March. Most young are born in April and May, and again in July and August. Females have one or two litters a year. The young start exploring aboveground when they are 5 or 6 weeks old. —photograph by Jim Rathert
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
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Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
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