News and Almanac

By |
From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2001

New Nontoxic Shot is Heavier than Lead

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a new nontoxic shot for waterfowl hunting, giving duck and goose hunters, who are not allowed to use lead shot, an alternative that actually is heavier than lead.

Hunters now may use a new alloy known as Hevi-Shot, which was developed and marketed by Environ-Metal of Albany, Ore. It consists of tungsten, nickel and iron. This new entry in the nontoxic shot market is 10 percent heavier than lead, but it is also about as hard as steel. Consequently, it resists the deformation that occurs in shot made of lead and other soft metals. Round shot flies straighter than deformed pellets, creating more uniform shot patterns. Because it is heavier than steel or lead, tungsten-nickel-iron shot flies farther and hits harder.

The makers of Hevi-Shot say their product will be priced somewhere between steel shot and other nontoxic alternatives.

Lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1990 because waterfowl and eagles were dying after ingesting spent shot. Steel was the first nontoxic alternative and remains the most popular because of its relatively low price.

However, steel is significantly lighter than lead, and while hunters still can make clean kills at reasonable ranges with steel shot, ammunition makers have sought a nontoxic material that duplicates the ballistic performance of lead. Other materials, including bismuth alloys and tungsten matrix, provide better performance than steel, but are so expensive that they have never become as popular as steel.

Mark Your Calendar for Deer Season

Deer season begins on the Saturday nearest Nov. 15, except in years when this would cause the season to extend to Thanksgiving Day. That's the case this year, so deer season will open Nov. 10.

Electric Companies Affirm the Utility of Trees

The National Arbor Day Foundation says five Missouri utility companies are taking part in the Tree Line USA program. That's nearly one-fifth of the Tree Line companies certified nationwide.

Participating utilities work with state foresters to ensure the health of trees along their rights-of-way. They train workers in proper tree pruning techniques and follow practices that prevent tree damage from tunneling and trenching. They also implement tree planting and public education programs.

The Tree Line USA program recognized 28 companies for helping trees and utility service lines coexist in 2000. The Missouri companies named were Ameren UE, Columbia Water and Light, Independence Power and Light, St. Joseph Light and Power and City Utilities of Springfield.

For more information on the Tree Line USA program, visit the Conservation Department website,, and search for keyword "treeline," or call (573) 751-4115, ext. 3116.

Fulton Youths Take Grassland Judging Title

Four Fulton youths took top team honors in the 2000 Missouri Grassland Evaluation Contest at Ashland.

The Fulton grassland team scored an impressive 90.2 percent on tests about soils, forage and livestock

management, wildlife habitat management and plant identification. The Worth County team was close behind with a score of 87.9 percent, and Stockton came in third with 87.5 percent.

Teams of three or four high school vocational agriculture students compete in the contest's four categories. Top individual contestants in the 2000 competition were: Josh Humphreys, Fulton, 375 points; Sarah Smalley, Stockton, 363 points; Ryan Dignan, Worth County, 360 points; Erin Hansen, Columbia, 358 points; and Sean

Jackson of Buffalo, Nathan Maddux of Skyline and Garrett Portra of Fulton, each of whom scored 357 points.

The contest is designed to advance education about the benefits, use and management of grassland for livestock and wildlife. Vocational agriculture instructors say the event is one of the most practical contests in which their students participate. A curriculum developed around the competition now is available to high schools statewide.

The Conservation Department started the Grassland Evaluation Contest in 1991, when 10 teams participated. This year, 80 teams representing 59 schools took part in the event.

For more information about the Grassland Evaluation Contest, write Steve Clubine, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 368, Clinton, MO 64735.

SMEW Flew to Mizzou(rah)

Birdwatchers from all over the country flocked to St. Charles County in January for a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a smew.

The smew (rhymes with few) is a type of merganser. It was seen in the Mississippi River about a mile above Alton Dam in a raft of 1,000 or so canvasbacks, scaup and other diving ducks.

The sighting touched off a birdwatching stampede because the smew is native to Eurasia and has been recorded in the lower 48 states only four or five times. It was a rare opportunity for people intent on adding to their "life lists" of species found in North America.

Firearms Deer Harvest Surges

Hunters bagged 13,703 deer during the January Extension of firearms deer

season, bringing the total firearms deer harvest to a record 220,636.

The January Extension deer harvest was 953 more than last year's figure. Hunters killed 201,165 during the November firearms deer season, an increase of 25,240 over the previous year. The muzzleloader deer hunting segment in December also set a record of 4,815, topping the 1999 figure by 723. In all, hunters in 2000-2001 topped the previous season record by 26,193. Favorable weather was the most significant factor in producing the record deer kill.

The harvest of deer, particularly does, by hunters is important to controlling deer numbers and the property damage they can cause.

Growing Sunflowers

Fields of black-oil sunflowers create superb dove hunting opportunities while providing an excellent food source for many kinds of migrating birds. If you want to grow sunflowers on your property, take these tips from Conservation Department managers:

  • Prepare the seed bed as you would for corn.
  • Plant no later than mid-April if you want flowers to mature by Sept. 1.
  • Sow seeds 1 inch deep and 12 to 14 inches apart in rows spaced about 30 inches.
  • Seed at a rate of three to six pounds per acre.
  • Apply a balanced fertilizer to provide at least 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre.
  • Use a pre-emergent herbicide, and cultivate at least once before sunflowers are 12 inches tall. Twice is better.
  • Don't irrigate. Sunflowers are drought tolerant, and watering encourages weeds.

Sunflowers are among the few crops that make seed when planted late, even without cultivation. Weed control is essential if you plan to hunt doves on your sunflower field. Weeds eliminate open ground, which doves require for feeding.

Shaw Arboretum Changes its Name

If you have never visited Shaw Arboretum, you never will. Instead you'll have to visit the Shaw Nature Reserve.

The Missouri Botanical Garden, which owns the 2,500-acre tract near Gray Summit, recently changed the area's name to better reflect its purpose of maintaining a rich diversity of indigenous plants and animals. With its restored prairies, wildflower garden, wetlands and other natural landscapes, the area doesn't really fit the description of an arboretum.

"This popular outdoor destination for hikers, bird watchers, students of ecology and other lovers of the natural world will remain familiar to those who cherish it," said Botanical Garden Director Peter H. Raven. "We hope the name Shaw Nature Reserve will attract visitors who may not yet have discovered what a treasure it is."

The reserve is 30 miles west of St. Louis on I-44 at exit 253. It has 15 miles of hiking trails that are open daily from 7 a.m. to one-half hour after sunset. Visitors must stop at the visitor center on arrival. For more information, call (636) 451-3512.

State's Forests Increasing

A new forest inventory of Missouri shows a slight increase in the amount of forest land in the state. Forested area increased by about 5 percent, from 13.9 million acres in 1989 to 14.6 million acres in 1999. The area of forest land in the state now roughly equals what we had in the early 1950s.

Foresters from the Conservation Department and U.S. Forest Service began Missouri's fifth forest inventory in 1999. The newest inventory is a change in technique from a periodic inventory every 10 to 15 years to an annual inventory, in which 20 percent of the sample plots in the state are measured each year.

The current inventory will be completed in 2004, and then the plots will be remeasured continuously. The annual inventory will give more timely information regarding Missouri's forest resources.

As encouraging as the increase in forest land seems, these preliminary figures reflect only one year's field work. As additional sample plots are measured and analyzed, the acreage estimates will be more reliable and additional data about Missouri's forests will become available. - Tom Treiman

Quit Your Carping!

The Conservation Commission has approved a plan to protect fish farmers' interests while getting rid of an exotic fish that could damage the state's ecology.

The exotic fish is the black carp, an Asian import with an appetite for snails. Fish farmers use black carp to get rid of snails, which are intermediate hosts for parasites that can render fish farmers' product useless.

Black carp, however, have the potential to eradicate native snails and displace native fish. To protect both fish farmers and biological diversity, the Conservation Department plans to grow sterile black carp in its hatcheries and sell them to fish farmers at cost. All fertile black carp in the state will be destroyed to eliminate the danger of black carp escaping and establishing themselves in Missouri water.

The ultimate solution will be finding alternate methods for snail control so the Conservation Department can get out of the black carp business. "A Five-Year Plan to Eliminate All Black Carp from Missouri" directs the Conservation Department to work with fish farmers and research institutions on alternatives and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Missouri's congressional delegation to obtain financial incentives for fish producers who control snails using other methods.

Woodpecker-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! Wonderment

Imagine ramming your face into a tree at 16 mph. Woodpeckers do it thousands of times a day. The obvious question is, "How can they do that without scrambling their brains?"

In their book, "Woodpeckers: An Identification Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World," authors Hans Winkler, David A. Christie and David Nurney say the relatively small size of woodpeckers' brains makes them 50 to 100 times less vulnerable to concussion than humans. The shocks, say the authors, are distributed over a larger surface area relative to brain mass.

They also note that striking wood head-on reduces hazardous rotational and shearing forces. In addition, woodpeckers, like most birds, possess little cerebrospinal fluid that would transmit dangerous shock waves.

Furthermore, say the experts, some of the muscles attached to the beak are thought to serve as shock absorbers. And because woodpeckers' brains are situated above the level of their beaks, much of the shock can be transmitted past the brain into the neck.

For most of us, this knowledge makes it no less astonishing that a fragile looking downy woodpecker, weighing about 2 ounces, can survive incessant brain decelerations of 700 to 1,500 gravities.

Kids to Get Their Feet Wet at Busch CA

Enjoy a fun-filled adventure with your kids April 7, when August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area and Ducks Unlimited will sponsor Wetlands for Kids. This day of hands-on activities emphasizes wetland appreciation. Identify ducks, learn about river otters and see them up close, touch live frogs and snakes, create wetland habitat art, watch a Labrador retriever at work, and much more. For more information, call (636) 441-4554.

Get Answers to Turkey Hunting Questions

If you have questions about the 2001 spring turkey hunting season, you can get answers online at sprturk/sprturk01.

You also can pick up a print version of the 2001 Spring Turkey Hunting Information booklet at any hunting permit vendor statewide.

Another Mountain Lion Sighting Confirmed

Conservation Department officials have confirmed another mountain lion sighting, this time in Lewis County in northeastern Missouri.

Michael Sharpe was sitting in a tree stand when he spotted the big cat on New Year's Eve. He was hunting only with a video camera that afternoon, so he was able to document the sighting on tape. Senior Conservation Agent Gene Lindsey watched the tape and visited the scene before declaring the report "irrefutable."

Sharpe's sighting brings the number of confirmed mountain lion reports in Missouri in recent years to five. Two other cougars have been videotaped, both in the Ozarks. Another was treed by two rabbit hunters' beagle hounds in January 1999 in Texas County. Conservation Department biologists confirmed that two deer carcasses found nearby had been killed by a cougar. The fifth case involved a mountain lion killed by poachers in 1994 in Carter County near Peck Ranch Conservation Area.

Five confirmed mountain lion sightings aren't many, considering the Conservation Department receives hundreds of reports of sightings each year. Most are classified

"improbable" or "unconfirmed." Some of these reports could represent actual sightings, but they are impossible to verify without physical evidence such as photos, tracks or droppings.

If you think you've seen a mountain lion, call the nearest Conservation Department office as quickly as possible. On-site visits are reserved for cases where the sighting is less than two days old and where human safety is threatened or where there is substantial physical evidence.

The Conservation Department hasn't released mountain lions or taken any other actions to encourage the big cats to return to Missouri. However,

Missouri's million or so white-tailed deer provide a ready food source for captive mountain lions that have escaped or were released by private owners or for lions that migrated here from Texas or Colorado, the nearest states with self-sustaining cougar populations.

The mountain lion is a protected species in Missouri, and it's illegal to kill cougars that are minding their own business. If the Conservation Department documents an attack on a human or on domestic animals, efforts will be made to find and destroy the offending animal.

The Wildlife Code of Missouri allows anyone to kill a mountain lion that is attacking people or domestic animals. In situations where attacks on pets or livestock are suspected but not confirmed, the Conservation Department can issue temporary permits to kill mountain lions. Anyone who does kill a mountain lion is required by law to report the incident immediately. They also must turn the carcass over to a conservation agent within 24 hours of the kill.

If You See One. . .

The few mountain lions living in Missouri pose very little threat to people or property. Outdoors enthusiasts can reduce risk even further by knowing how to act in encounters with mountain lions.

  • Consider a mountain lion that sees you and doesn't run away to be dangerous.
  • Don't run. Fleeing could trigger the cat's predatory instincts.
  • Don't turn your back, crouch or bend over.
  • Face the cougar and maintain eye contact.
  • Make yourself look large and threatening by raising the sides of your coat or shirt with your arms, or waving your arms slowly.
  • Talk to the cougar in a loud, firm voice.
  • Keep small children or pets close to you.
  • Fight back if attacked, using a knife, rocks, sticks or anything available.

Whitewater Championship

Set for March 24 &25

The Missouri Whitewater Championships will be held March 24 and 25 at Millstream Gardens Conservation Area in Madison County. The alternate dates for the whitewater canoeing and kayaking event are March 31 and April 1. For more information, contact Regina DeWitt, 6822 Dale Ave., St. Louis, MO 63139, (314) 647-5769.

There's Still Time to Order Tree Seedlings

George O. White State Forest Nursery at Licking still has tree seedlings for sale.

Trees still in stock include shortleaf, white, scotch and jack pines; black walnut, sycamore, northern red oak, white oak, Osage orange, black gum, swamp chestnut oak, black oak, persimmon and pin oak.

Shrubs available include flowering dogwood, shrub lespedeza, deciduous holly, wild plum, aromatic sumac, Washington hawthorn, witch hazel, red mulberry and others.

Wildlife and conservation bundles also are available. You can obtain full details of the plants available by calling (800) 392-3111 or on the Conservation Department Internet page Order forms are available at Conservation Department and University of Missouri Extension Service offices statewide or by calling (573) 674-3229.

Election Results Impact Hunters, Trappers

The 2000 general election was important to hunters and trappers around the nation. Initiatives affecting hunting and trapping appeared on several state ballots. Alaska voters defeated a proposition that would have banned future wildlife ballot initiatives by a 2-to-1 margin. They also approved a ban on hunting wolves from aircraft.

Voters in Arizona defeated by a margin of 2-to-1 a proposition that would have required a two-thirds majority to approve wildlife ballot initiatives.

North Dakotans overwhelmingly, 4-to-1, approved an amendment to the state constitution protecting hunting rights. Sixty-one percent of Virginians voted in favor of a similar amendment.

Sixty-one percent of Oregonians voted against a trapping ban, while their neighbors in Washington approved a trapping ban by a 55 percent majority.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Bryan Hendricks
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer