Can you guess this month’s natural wonder?
Don’t take wildlife from their natural habitat.
Spring brings with it the birth of wild animals, such as birds, rabbits, deer, and squirrels. Kind-hearted people often want to adopt young animals they find because they think they have been orphaned or abandoned. Most times they have not.
“Young wild animals are rarely abandoned or orphaned,” said MDC State Wildlife Veterinarian Sherri Russell. “The wildlife parent is afraid of people and will retreat when you approach. If the young animal is left alone, the parent will usually return. Also, parent animals cannot constantly attend to their young and often spend many hours each day away from their young gathering food.”
Russell added that bird chicks are common animals people want to help.
“If you see a bird chick on the ground and it has feathers, leave it alone. It is a fledgling and the parents are nearby keeping an eye on it,” she explained. “If you find one that is featherless, it probably fell out of the nest. Return it to the nest if you can, or at least near the nest.”
Another common problem is dogs catching rabbit kits and mowers running over nests.
“Wild rabbits seldom survive in captivity and actually can die of fright from being handled,” Russell explained. “Even if they are injured, return young rabbits to the nest or the general nest area. The mother will most likely return.”
She added most wild mothers do not abandon their young because of a human smell on them, and most young wild animals do not survive in captivity.
“While people may have good intentions, the care and rehabilitation of wild animals requires special training, knowledge, facilities, care — and permits,” she said. “Wild animals, if they are to survive in captivity, often require highly specialized care. Without such care, they will remain in poor health and may eventually die. And it is illegal to possess many wild animals without a valid state or federal permit.”
To learn more, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZNq.
Enjoy Missouri’s wild mushrooms safely with A Guide to Missouri’s Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms. This new full-color, illustrated publication features 10 groups of edible mushrooms and five groups of poisonous mushrooms. Other topics include tips for a positive mushroom- hunting experience, how to make a spore print, and more. At 5½-by-8 inches and 48 pages, it’s easy to carry and use in the field.
The new Smallmouth Bass/Goggle-Eye Special Management Areas booklet highlights valuable fishing information, special management areas, and regulations. This is a revision of the Ozark Smallmouth Bass Fishing map.
Both publications are free to Missouri residents. To order, email A Guide to Missouri’s Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms or Smallmouth Bass/Goggle-Eye Special Management Areas and your shipping address to email@example.com or call 573-522-0108. The mushroom guide is also online at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZNf.
Want some free fun that gets family and friends outside in nature? Get hooked on fishing with our Free Fishing Days June 8 and 9. During Free Fishing Days, anyone may fish in the Show-Me State without buying a fishing permit, trout permit, or trout park daily tag.
Other fishing regulations remain in effect, such as limits on size and number of fish an angler may keep. Special permits may still be required at some county, city, or private fishing areas. Trespass laws remain in effect on private property.
Conservation makes Missouri a great place to fish, and Free Fishing Days encourages people to sample the state’s abundant fishing opportunities. Missouri has more than a million acres of surface water, and most of it provides great fishing for the state’s more than 1.1 million anglers. Missouri is home to more than 200 different fish species, with more than 20 of them being game fish.
For information on Missouri fishing regulations, fish identification, and more, get a copy of the 2019 Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations, available where permits are sold or online at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zq3.
Send it to AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.
Q: I found this unusual fungus in my woods last year. What is it?
A. This “lobster mushroom” is actually a fungus that has parasitized a Russula or Lactarius mushroom species. Lobster mushrooms are hard to mistake — the entire host mushroom is covered with a bright orangish-red, moldlike fungus. It’s a mushroom on a mushroom. The hard surface is dotted with fine pimples, each of which is a flasklike vessel in which the spores are produced. The parasite often entirely obscures the gills of the host mushroom. Eventually, it even begins to twist the shape of the host into strange contortions.
Even more curious, this parasitic fungus transforms ordinary nonedible Russula and Lactarius fungi into something delightful — excellent, edible, choice mushrooms. Look for them in the woods from July through October. When not completely up, they can be found by searching under bumps in the soil.
Q: Can you help me identify this shrub?
A. A member of the honeysuckle family, this is southern black haw (Viburnum rufidulum). This irregularly branched shrub grows to approximately 18 feet, has dark green, glossy leaves, and flowers in April and May.
Some people call it “wild raisin” because the sweet and edible fruits — smooth, oval, and blueish-black in color — hang in drooping clusters by September. This species is also called “rusty black haw” because the young leaves, petioles, and twigs are covered in rusty-red hairs.
Viburnums form a minor, but important, segment of the diet of many birds and mammals. Cardinals, cedar waxwings, ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbits, chipmunks, and many more species eat the fruits. White-tailed deer and beavers consume the twigs, bark, and leaves.
Although this shrub can be found in a handful of counties north of the Missouri River, it primarily occurs in rocky or dry woods and glades, rich, moist valleys, and fertile ground along streams in the southern half of the state.
Q: I spotted this tiny lizard east of Gentryville. Can you identify it for me?
A. This specimen is a prairie lizard (Sceloporus consobrinus), a small, gray to brown, rough-scaled reptile living mostly in the southern half of Missouri.
Females and males differ in appearance. Females have distinct wavy lines crossing their back; males have little to no pattern but develop iridescent blue patches on each side of their belly and throat.
Formerly called the “northern fence lizard,” this species prefers rocky glades and forest edge habitats where fences are common. Excellent climbers, prairie lizards like to bask in the sun atop tree stumps, downed trees, rock piles, firewood stacks, and fences.
This perennial native flower will be blooming this month and continue through July. With their tall stature — reaching 3 feet — sunflowerlike, single flower head, and long, drooping petals, pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida) are easy to spot. Look for them statewide in prairies, glades, savannas, forests, pastures, roadsides, and railroads.
Turtles are struck by cars throughout warmer months, but they are at a greater risk this time of year. Spring rains and warmer weather encourage turtles to emerge from theirburrows and search for food and mates, which sometimes leads them across roadways. Comfort is also a factor. Like other reptiles, turtles are cold-blooded, so basking on warm asphalt feels good on cool spring days.
Slow down when you see a turtle in the road and check to be sure you can safely steer around it. If helping a turtle cross a road, keep human safety as your number-one concern. Check for traffic and move the turtle across the road in the direction it is traveling.
And please leave wild turtles wild. Taking a wild turtle and keeping it as a pet usually ends in a slow death for the captive turtle.
Learn more about Missouri turtles from our online Field Guide at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZZW.
MDC and the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) thank the thousands of Missouri deer hunters who donated 259,414 pounds of venison, including 4,855 whole deer, to the state’s Share the Harvest program this past deer season. Thank you also to the more than 100 participating meat processors throughout the state who grind the donated deer meat into ready-to-use packages. The donated deer meat goes to local food banks and food pantries to help feed hungry Missourians all around the state.
Since the program was started in 1992, Share the Harvest has provided more than 4 million pounds of lean, healthy venison.
“Hunters started Share the Harvest because they saw a need in their communities, and hunters remain the driving force behind this popular program that helps feed our fellow Missourians who are in need,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “We sincerely thank the thousands of deerhunters who support Share the Harvest, along with the many participating meat processors and sponsors who help make it possible.”
Share the Harvest is coordinated by MDC and CFM. For more information on Share the Harvest, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/Zoz.
With more than 200 species of fish in more than a million acres of surface water, Missouri is a great place to fish. This month, there’s another reason to celebrate Missouri fishing — black bass season. Beginning May 25, anglers can catch and keep smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass in streams south of the Missouri River. All bass must be at least 12 inches, and the daily limit is six. Some streams have more restrictive regulations so always check the Wildlife Code. If fishing in a group, keep your limit separate and identifiable. Purchase your fishing permit before heading out. For more information about black bass, visit huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/ fishing. See you on the water!
By Cliff White
Spotlight on people and partners.
Twenty-four municipalities empowered by Beyond Housing, a comprehensive community-building nonprofit in the Normandy Schools Collaborative, share one vision for successful children, engaged families, and strong community. Part of their vision is healthyurban trees, which research shows create a sense of well-being.
Over the last two years, the 24:1 communities have kept their contracted urban forester, Doug Seely, plenty busy. “The 24:1 Initiative communities have received 24 Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance grants. They’ve also offered chainsaw safety training, conducted many tree plantings, removed hazard trees, and pruned city trees throughout the service area,” Seely said.
“This program is a very important investment that will benefit cities, residents, and the environment for 50 years and more,” said Pagedale Mayor Mary Louise Carter.
What’s your conservation superpower?
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber
Art Director - Cliff White
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation - Laura Scheuler