Can you guess this month’s natural wonder?
Learn more about Missouri’s black bears and research updates at new website.
MDC recently launched a new website all about black bears in Missouri. Browse research summaries and updates, photos, videos, interactive story maps, and more at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTb.
“The new story maps show interesting black bear movements, such as how far a bear can disperse, and maps of our collared bears,” said MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee. Conlee added that spring is the time when black bears emerge from their winter dens and start searching for food, including from people. She encourages you to be bear aware and not feed them.
“Feeding bears makes them lose their natural fear of humans, and teaches them to see humans as food providers,” Conlee explained. “A bear that has gotten used to getting food from humans may become aggressive and dangerous. When this happens, the bear must be destroyed. Remember: A fed bear is a dead bear.”
Learn more about being Bear Aware at mdc.mo.gov/BearAware.
The thousands of rainbow trout housed at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery may have to take a temporary backseat to one very unique-looking reptile: a two-headed young western ratsnake.
Found by curious teenager Terry Lowery last October under the deck of his family’s home in Hurley in Stone County, the snake is on display at the hatchery’s conservation center.
Polycephaly, the condition of having more than one head, is extremely rare throughout the animal kingdom, but it occurs more frequently in snakes than in other animals. In most documented cases, two-headed snakes have lived only a few months, but some live full lives in captivity and even reproduce. They include a two-headed western ratsnake found in 2005 on display at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center in southeast Missouri.
Get directions and more information about the hatchery at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zk7. For more information about the Cape Girardeau Nature Center, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZT9.
Get the latest on what MDC and our partners are doing to combat feral hogs Wednesday, March 21, from noon to 1 p.m. during Wild Webcast: Feral Hogs. Mark McLain, feral hog elimination team leader, and Alan Leary, wildlife management coordinator, will share updates and provide background on these destructive animals and why they are a problem for landowners and others. Register at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTn .
To watch previous MDC Wild Webcasts, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTX.
March 1 marks the opening of catch-and-keep trout fishing at Missouri’s four trout parks: Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk State Park near Licking, Roaring River State Park near Cassville, and Maramec Spring Park near St. James. The catch-and-keep season at the trout parks runs through Oct. 31.
MDC operates trout hatcheries at all four parks. For each of the 2,000 anglers expected at every hatchery on opening day, staff stocks about three 1-foot-long fish and some large lunkers ranging from 3–10 pounds. We also stock trout daily at each park throughout the season.
For more information, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/Z5r.
Missouri’s annual spring paddlefish snagging season for Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, Table Rock Lake, and most other waters in the state runs March 15 through April 30. The season for the Mississippi River is March 15 through May 15, with a fall season from Sept. 15 through Dec. 15.
MDC makes paddlefish snagging possible in the Show-Me State through annual stockings of tens of thousands of paddlefish fingerlings raised at Blind Pony Hatchery near Sweet Springs. The fingerlings are released into Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, and Table Rock Lake, as well as the Black River. The annual stocking is necessary because dams and other barriers to spawning areas have eliminated sustainable natural reproduction in the lakes.
For more information about paddlefishing in Missouri, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTC.
Got a Question for Ask MDC? Send it to AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.
Q: Can you please tell me what kind of snake this is? My daughter and I were walking near a creek when I spotted it.
A. This is a midland brownsnake — a small, secretive species that prefers a moist environment.
Midland brownsnakes range in color from gray-brown to reddish-brown, with a white or yellowish belly. Each snake has a distinct tan stripe bordered by two rows of small, dark-brown spots. The top of the head is usually dark. Adults range in length from 9 to 13 inches.
Brownsnakes eat earthworms, slugs, land snails, and soft-bodied insects. One study found their diet was 75 percent slugs and 25 percent earthworms. Other researchers suggest the blunt head and elongated teeth of this snake helps it grip and tug persistently on a snail's body until the snail tires and can be pulled from its shell.
Q: Do gray wolves live in Missouri?
A. Although gray wolves once ranged across several continents, including North America, you’re not likely to see one in Missouri.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf, is listed as extirpated, or eliminated, from Missouri and seven surrounding states.
Individual wolves occasionally wander into Missouri from other states, particularly the upper Midwest. Since 2001, three gray wolves, probably from the Great Lakes states, have been confirmed in Missouri. (The one discovered in 2001 was wearing a radio collar and ear tag linking it to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, more than 600 miles away.)
Although apparently secure globally, the gray wolf is a federally endangered species in much of the United States south of Interstate 80, including Missouri.
Wolves are protected as an endangered species in much of the U.S., including Missouri.
Q: I took these photos on a rock bluff along Truman Lake. It appears to be lichen, but I’m having trouble identifying it. The leaves are 1 to 2 inches long. Can you please help me?
A. Although this specimen appears to be a lichen, it’s actually a liverwort, possibly Preissia quadrata, which often features dark-purple edges and tends to grow on vertical rock surfaces.
It is estimated that 9,000 species of liverworts are found on the planet. Considered plants, some of the more familiar ones grow flattened and leafless — such as the one you discovered — but most species are leafy with a form very much like a flattened moss.
Liverworts are nonvascular, which means they lack the structures needed to transport water, nutrients, and sugars between the roots and the leaves. Instead, they rely on simpler tissues specialized for internal transport of water.
Thallose liverworts — which are branching, like this one — grow commonly on moist soil or damp rocks. Lacking stems and leaves, their main body is flat like a green pancake, often with lobes resembling the thumb of a mitten.
One of approximately 69 species of native mussels in Missouri, the Neosho mucket is found exclusively in small to medium streams in the Neosho River system in southwest Missouri. This mussel prefers stream bottoms with gravel or a mixture of gravel and sand. The outside shell is yellow to tan with broad green rays or chevrons, while the inside is bluish-white to white and slightly iridescent. The Neosho mucket can grow up to 5 inches long.
From Zebulon Jordon, St. Clair County Conservation Agent.
Snagging season for paddlefish, the state’s official aquatic animal, opens March 15. Before you take to the water in search of this ancestral fish species, keep these tips in mind to increase your chances of success. Concentrate on deep holes in rivers and staging areas in the lakes until the water temperature rises and flow increases. Statewide, legal-sized paddlefish must be at least 24 inches from the eye to the fork of the tail. If you are on Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake, or any of their tributaries, paddlefish must be at least 34 inches. The head and tail must remain attached to paddlefish while on the water or banks thereof. Snagging paddlefish or operating a boat while snagging requires a valid fishing license. The daily limit is two paddlefish. For more information, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTz.
Missouri’s 2017–2018 deer-hunting season ended with a total harvest of 283,940, an increase from the 2016–2017, which saw 263,834 deer harvested. Top counties included Howell with 6,182 deer harvested, Franklin with 5,957, and Texas with 5,619.
Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt. Get more information at huntfish.mdc.mo.gov.
Spotlight on people and partners.
By Cliff White
An Eagle Scout from Union, Devos enjoys taking on outdoor projects that improve the environment. His career goal is to become a park ranger.
“Ukko jumped right in,” Meister said. “He got 15 people, many of them from his scout troop, to help him pull nearly 50 old tires out of the Bourbeuse River.” This stream is habitat for the winged maple leaf, an endangered freshwater mussel. Devos also led a project to stabilize the stream bank with tree plantings, Meister said.
“If you care about conservation, go and talk to people who work at MDC or parks. See if there’s anything you can do to help.”
What’s your conservation superpower?
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
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