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.
Although every suggestion cannot be adopted, all are carefully reviewed. The following is a summary of key changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Unless noted otherwise, the changes have already gone into effect. For a complete listing of regulations, visit mdc.mo.gov/about-regulations.
A new rule in the Wildlife Code offers a win-win program for wildlife enthusiasts and landowners. The Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program (MRAP) provides incentive payments to landowners who volunteer to open their properties to the public for hunting, fishing, or wildlife viewing. Additional incentives also are available to enhance wildlife habitat on enrolled lands.
To enroll in MRAP, a landowner must offer at least 40 contiguous acres, and at least 20 percent of the tract must provide quality habitat, such as native grass fields, wildlife-friendly field borders, brushy fencerows, restored wetlands, or managed woodlands. Land offered for fishing access is exempt from the 40-acre requirement.
MRAP lands are open to foot traffic only, and parking generally occurs along public roadsides. Access is permitted from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset, and no equipment or gear should be left on the property outside of these hours. Participating landowners determine the type of public activities they want to allow on their property by selecting one of six options:
- All access hunting and fishing — Public users may pursue hunting and fishing under statewide regulations throughout the year.
- Archery hunting — Public users may archery hunt under statewide regulations. Access is provided from Sept. 15 to Feb. 15 and during the spring turkey seasons.
- Fishing — This option allows only fishing under statewide regulations throughout the year in waters designated by the landowner.
- Small game and turkey hunting — Public users may pursue turkeys, frogs, rabbits, squirrels, quail, pheasants, rails, snipe, doves, woodcocks, and waterfowl. Access is provided during the legal seasons for these species.
- Jefferson viewing — Public users may hike, photograph, and enjoy nature throughout the year. All hunting and fishing activities are prohibited.
- Youth hunting and fishing — Hunters and anglers 15 and younger may pursue game and fish under statewide regulations throughout the year. An adult must accompany a youth hunter or angler, but the adult is not allowed to hunt or fish.
Annual payment rates to the landowner are determined by the access type selected, the amount of quality habitat available, and other factors. Most landowners will earn $15–$25 per acre each year they participate. Payment rates for fishing-only access will be on an adjusted scale and will be based on impoundment size or stream length. Landowners are offered protection from liability under Missouri’s Recreational Use Immunity Law. For more information about MRAP, visit mdc.mo.gov/mrap.
CWD Management Zone
- Schuyler Scotland
- Knox Adair
- Macon Shelby
- Callaway Cooper
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a deadly deer disease that has been found in Missouri. According to wildlife-disease experts, CWD has the potential to greatly reduce deer numbers and deer hunting in Missouri.
To combat CWD, new regulations were put into effect in 2016 that allow counties to be added to the existing CWD Management Zone. This will help the Conservation Department act quickly in the event a new outbreak of CWD is detected.
Currently, 29 counties in northern, central, and east-central Missouri are part of the CWD Management Zone. Special regulations apply in these counties. For example, during opening weekend of the November 2016 firearms deer season, hunters were required to take any deer they harvested within the management zone to a sampling station to be tested for CWD.
Most regulations relating to the CWD Management Zone apply only during deer season and only to deer hunters. But one regulation applies year-round and to everyone. Grain, salt products, minerals, and other consumable products used to attract deer are prohibited within the CWD Management Zone.
The following exceptions are allowed:
- Feed (such as birdseed) placed within 100 feet of any residence or occupied building
- Feed placed in a manner that excludes access by deer
- Feed and minerals used solely for normal agricultural, forest management, or wildlife food plot production practices
Grain, salt, and minerals can artificially concentrate deer in a small area. Doing so increases the chance of spreading CWD from one deer to another or from the environment to deer.
Feral hogs are an invasive nuisance species in Missouri. They cause significant damage to wildlife habitat, compete for food with native species such as deer, prey upon native wildlife such as quail, destroy natural areas and agricultural lands, pollute ponds and streams, and spread diseases to livestock and people.
To help eradicate these pests, the Conservation Commission approved new regulations that prohibit feral hog hunting on conservation areas and other lands owned, leased, or managed by the Conservation Department. The new rules do not apply to private property. The Commission’s decision followed consideration of feedback received during a public comment period. Research from other states shows that hog hunting actually increases feral hog numbers because it provides an incentive for the illegal release of hogs to hunt. Releasing hogs into the wild is illegal in Missouri.
Hog hunting on conservation areas also interferes with efforts by Conservation Department biologists to trap and eliminate groups of feral hogs. This work often takes weeks and involves building a large, corral type trap; baiting the area with corn to attract hogs and get them used to the trap; and, once the hogs are concentrated inside, triggering the trap to catch the entire group. If hogs are hunted during this time, the group usually scatters and moves to a new location, making trapping difficult. Hunters usually only shoot one or two hogs instead of the entire group. Feral hogs are prolific breeders, so this strategy does not remove enough animals at once. Instead of shooting hogs, hunters are encouraged to report feral-hog sightings to their local conservation agent or Conservation Department office. Biologists can then determine how best to capture and eliminate the entire group of hogs.
For more information about feral hogs, visit mdc.mo.gov/feralhog.
Smallmouth and Rock Bass
Anglers should be aware of new rules relating to smallmouth bass and rock bass fishing. The new rules will become effective March 30. They are being put in place to provide long-term, sustainable smallmouth and rock bass populations and to simplify existing regulations for anglers.
Fishing for smallmouth and rock bass (also called goggle-eye, warmouth, Ozark bass, and shadow bass) is popular on Ozark streams. But these fish grow slowly and face high mortality. Research shows that in five years, a smallmouth will average only 12 inches in length and a rock bass only 8 inches.
For smallmouth bass, new regulations will rename existing Black Bass Special Management Areas to “Smallmouth Bass Special Management Areas.” Existing special management areas will be expanded on the Big Piney, Jacks Fork, Big, and Meramec rivers. Within the special management areas there will be a new 15-inch minimum length limit and a new daily limit of one smallmouth. On all other streams, the statewide 12-inch minimum length limit and six fish daily limit will still apply. Rock bass have a new statewide minimum length limit of 7 inches (previously, there was no length limit). In addition, the Osage Fork of the Gasconade River will be removed from the Rock Bass Special Management Areas.
The new rules are based on angler surveys, extensive research related to bass populations and harvest, and public input received during nine public meetings held by the Department throughout the state.
Two laws protect endangered and threatened species in Missouri: the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Wildlife Code of Missouri.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for administering the ESA. Under this law, an endangered species is one that is likely to become extinct, and a threatened species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
All species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA are listed as state endangered in the Wildlife Code. In addition, the Conservation Department may add other species to the state-endangered list if the survival of those species is in jeopardy within Missouri.
Effective March 1, six new animals will be added to Missouri’s endangered species list:
- Northern long-eared bat
- Spectaclecase mussel
- Neosho mucket mussel
- Rabbitsfoot mussel
- Salamander mussel
- Slippershell mussel
The Wildlife Code protects endangered species by prohibiting the importation, transportation, sale, purchase, taking, or possession of any endangered species of wildlife.
It also places the same prohibitions on the feathers, hides, or other body parts of endangered species. Endangered wildlife taken legally outside of Missouri may be imported, transported, or possessed but may not be sold or purchased without written approval of the Conservation Department director.
How Regulations Are Made
Each year, the Conservation Department’s Regulations Committee reviews the Wildlife Code of Missouri to ensure our state’s fish, forests, and wildlife are protected. Here’s how the process works.
Changes proposed by the public and Department staff are brought to the Regulations Committee for review.
The Regulations Committee researches the effects of each proposed regulation change.
Research may include costs to citizens and government agencies, effects on wildlife populations, user-group surveys, public comments, and feasibility studies.
When research shows a regulation change would improve a natural resource or provide more opportunities for Missourians to enjoy nature without detrimental effects to natural resources, a proposed regulation is sent to the Conservation Department’s director.
If the director approves the proposed regulation, it 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 regulation is filed with the secretary of state and published in the Missouri Register. A link to the Register can be found at mdc.mo.gov/ about-regulations.
Publication of proposed regulations 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, the Commission may decide to withdraw, modify, or implement the regulation as written.
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 short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJ8.
Once there, you can:
- Read the full text of each chapter of the 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.