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From Missouri Conservationist: Apr 2001

Canvasback Award Goes to Two Missourians

Adolphus A. Busch IV and Jim Tom Blair IV received the 2001 Canvasback Award for their contribution to two wetland projects. The award is sponsored each year by the Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Blair and Busch, both sons of former Missouri conservation commissioners, were instrumental in arranging funding for an expansion that doubled the size of Four Rivers Conservation Area (CA). They also helped fund wetland development at B.K. Leach CA. Their involvement helped ensure the success of the two projects during a time of tight budgets for the Conservation Department.

Working through the St. Louis Sponsor Chapter of Ducks Unlimited (D.U), the two men organized and contributed to the largest single fundraising event in D.U. history. They raised $4.5 million for wetland conservation. Half a million dollars of the total went to the wetland development at B.K. Leach C.A., and $1.5 million went to pay for the Four Rivers addition.

Action Plan Outlines Elk Hurdles

The Conservation Commission has approved a set of goals that must be met before deciding whether to reintroduce elk to the state.

The Commission voted unanimously Feb. 2 to approve an action plan, which is to be executed by December 2002. The plan is divided into seven phases:

  1. Review the elk feasibility study the Conservation Department conducted from 1998 through 2000.
  2. Establish a staff elk coordination group to execute the action plan.
  3. Form an Elk Reintroduction Advisory Committee with representatives from all interested groups.
  4. Identify potential impacts of elk restoration on biological diversity, water quality, soils and on the Conservation Department's ongoing Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project.
  5. Develop details of cooperative elk habitat development agreements with public agencies.
  6. Identify sources of disease-free elk for introduction and protocols for testing for disease before release.
  7. Review findings and recommendations of the Elk Reintroduction Advisory Committee and submit recommendations to the Conservation Commission by December 2002.

The Elk Reintroduction Advisory Committee will include four to six landowners who live in the potential elk reintroduction area, two or three local community leaders, two or three local elected officials, one representative of the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, one local member of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, one local member of the Missouri Elk Breeders Association, one representative of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, one representative of the Wild Elk Institute of Missouri and one representative of the Conservation Federation of Missouri.

The committee is to hold its first meeting by Aug. 15, 2001. Its meetings will be public, and minutes will be available following each meeting.

The committee's responsibilities will include identifying an elk reintroduction zone, devising a plan to limit the number of elk to 250, outlining measures to contain elk within the specified zone and designing an elk-hunting protocol.

The committee also will study implications of disease in a wild elk population for native white-tailed deer, captive elk and deer, other wildlife and domestic livestock.

Committee members will study the feasibility of establishing a private fund or insurance policy to pay for property damage caused by elk. This would include forage, crop and fence damage and elk/vehicle collisions. The action plan calls for the committee to devise a method of assessing damage "as verified by an independent board using carefully established criteria."

Potential effects on tourism, a volunteer program to repair elk damage, privately funded elk monitoring and an elk information and education program also will be on the committee's agenda.

Finally, the Elk Restoration Advisory Committee will identify criteria or threshold levels of elk-vehicle collisions, property damage, disease transmission and other problems that would trigger complete elk removal. The committee is to report its findings to the Conservation Commission in September 2002.

The scenario contemplated in the action plan is an experimental release of 35 to 40 elk. Hunting would maintain the population at no more than 250 elk and ensure that they do not expand their range beyond the Peck Ranch or Irish Wilderness area of southeastern Missouri.

Elk management would be conducted jointly by the Conservation Department, the Elk Reintroduction Advisory Committee of local landowners, local public officials, sportsmen and local representatives of state and federal government agencies.

Copies of the action plan are available to the public online at <>.

Tips Sought in Eagle Shootings

Vernon County has some of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in Missouri, and area residents are proud of it. So, it's not surprising that they're determined to find out who shot two eagles there last winter.

One bird, an adult, survived the shooting and is recuperating at the Springfield Zoo. The second, a juvenile bald eagle shot near Four Rivers Conservation Area, died of its wounds. Someone cut off its talons, apparently as a souvenir.

The investigation is still open but is short on clues. Vernon County Conservation Agent Samantha Gilmore says she would welcome the help of anyone who has information that might help her track down the eagle shooter or shooters. She can be reached at (417) 667-9295 or 667-1677.

Morel Pasta Creates Heaven in April

Wondering what to do with all the morels you're going to find? Try the following recipe:

  • 1/4-pound of bacon, fried crisp and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 12 large morels, diced
  • 4 ounces heavy cream

Saute onions in butter until transparent. Add bacon, wine and mushrooms and simmer for three minutes. Add cream and simmer to reduce liquid and thicken. Add salt to taste and serve over linguini or fettuccini noodles, topped with grated Romano or Swiss cheese.

Planting a Hummingbird Haven

April is when Ruby-throated hummingbirds return to Missouri from Central America. Their acrobatic, almost magical style of flight makes them favorite feeder birds.

Hummers will come to sugar-water feeders, but a colorful buffet of nectar-producing flowers in your garden will increase the number and frequency of visits. Combine this with a water mist spray, and you'll have hummers galore.

Plant your hummingbird haven in a warm, sheltered site where it will be easy to see. Your haven can be a small berm, a large, multilevel garden or a simple trellis filled with trumpet vines. Even a container garden on your deck or patio will work.

Choose native species with bright-colored, tubular flowers. Hummers find red and orange most attractive, but they'll visit any brightly hued mass of flowers.

Help selecting and growing native flowers for hummers is available through Grow Native! To receive a brochure and a list of nurseries that sell suitable plants, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope with 34 cents postage to Grow Native! P.O. Box 104671, Jefferson City, MO 65110.

When buying plants, look for the green Grow Native! tag which guarantees that your plantings are Missouri natives and provided through ethical nursery practices.

  • bee balm
  • trumpet creeper
  • blazing star
  • yellow honeysuckle
  • blue sage
  • red buckeye
  • cardinal flower
  • Ohio buckeye
  • columbine
  • golden currant
  • fire pink
  • gooseberry
  • foxglove
  • beautyberry
  • beardtongue
  • hawthorn
  • jewelweed
  • phlox
  • royal catchfly
  • Solomon's seal

Wildlife Adoptions Put Animals and People at Risk

Taking young wild animals into your home is not kind, and it can be dangerous.

Every year, many Missourians try to help "orphaned" birds and mammals with unfortunate results. In most cases, human concerns about the animals are misplaced. Male robins, for example, continue caring for fledgling birds that fall from the nest while the female begins laying a new clutch. Taking them indoors and feeding them bread soaked in milk makes as much sense as putting a human baby under a bush and feeding it earthworms.

You can bet that a white-tailed deer fawn is still under the care of its mother, even though she may be out of sight. Leave the area immediately to avoid leading coyotes or dogs to the fawn's hiding place.

If a child brings a wild animal home, return it to where it was found immediately. The notion that human scent will cause the mother to reject it has no basis in fact. Animals aren't the only ones who can suffer from wildlife adoption. There are no vaccines for humans against rabies, distemper, parvo virus and other diseases that infect raccoons, opossums, squirrels or rabbits.

Wild animals also carry parasites that can be devastating to humans. An example is a brain worm that can be carried by raccoons for years but is fatal to children.

Finally, wild animals remain wild despite domestic upbringing. They grow more aggressive and unpredictable as they mature, posing unexpected dangers to humans, even those who "rescued" them.

2000 Migratory Bird Permits Still Valid

Federal officials approved a "light goose" conservation order for the third year in a row this year. The conservation order allows taking of blue, snow and Ross's geese through April 30. The action is designed to encourage hunters to kill as many of the geese as possible. The goal is to stop ecological damage caused by overpopulations of these geese on their nesting grounds near Hudson Bay in Canada.

To take part in the conservation action, hunters need only a Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit. Small game hunting permits and federal waterfowl conservation stamps aren't necessary.

Furthermore, hunters don't have to buy a new permit to hunt after March 1, when most Missouri hunting permits expire. The 2000 migratory bird hunting permit remains valid through June 30.

There is no daily or bag limit on light geese during the conservation order. Unplugged shotguns and electronic calls are legal for light goose hunting during the conservation order.

To help hunters locate snow goose concentrations, the Missouri Department of Conservation provides weekly snow goose reports online.

Conservation bequests are tax deductible

Missourians who want to leave a tangible legacy of their love for nature may be interested to know that gifts and bequests to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation are tax deductible.

The Foundation works with the Conservation Department, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, local governments and private conservation organizations to promote resource conservation. The Foundation's status as a private, nonprofit organization allows donors to guarantee how their donations of cash, land or other property are used.

For more information, write the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0366.

Missouri Officials Keeping an Eye on Deer Health

Officials are watching Missouri deer and livestock for signs of brain-wasting diseases, and they say there's no sign of such maladies here.

Early this year, news of brain diseases affecting cattle and deer made national and international headlines. Fear and misinformation spread rapidly about a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs.

The diseases result from mutated proteins called prions. A European outbreak of one type of TSE, commonly called "mad cow disease," fueled intense concern here, not to mention a steady flow of rumors. Mad cow disease caused several human deaths and led to a massive slaughter of cattle in Great Britain.

The Conservation Department has been looking for signs of another TSE called chronic wasting disease, or CWD. It has been found in wild deer and elk in parts of Colorado and Wyoming since the 1970s. CWD hasn't caused health problems in humans or cattle, and there is no known link between CWD and diseases known to affect humans or cattle. Experts say the chances of CWD moving beyond deer and elk are extremely small.

For monitoring purposes, Conservation Department biologists will check some deer taken by hunters for the disease during the 2001 deer hunting season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is developing a voluntary chronic wasting disease certification program. Missouri elk producers will have to enroll if they want to ship their products out of state.

Health officials emphasize the importance of keeping worries about CWD in perspective. With no evidence that it exists in Missouri, and no evidence that it has ever infected humans in western states, there's no reason to worry about the safety of eating Missouri venison.

Pallid Sturgeon Spawning in the Mississippi River

Efforts to restore the endangered pallid sturgeon took a big step forward last spring with the discovery of larval pallid sturgeon in the Mississippi River.

Fisheries biologists studying the big river's ecology caught several tiny pallid sturgeon in a trawl net along Missouri's southeastern border. The fact that pallid sturgeons are spawning in the river is good news for their survival. Observations about where the fish were found, water temperature and other conditions give fisheries biologists important clues about the species' habitat and spawning requirements.

The fish measured three-quarters of an inch to two-inches long. Fisheries research biologist Kim Graham said it is unlikely the small fish are the progeny of 7,200 pallid sturgeon the Conservation Department spawned at Blind Pony Hatchery and released into the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in 1994. Pallid sturgeon don't reach sexual maturity until they are at least 10 years old.

Trees Pay for Themselves

Why bother planting trees? Because they improve living conditions and ultimately pay for themselves.

A large shade tree in your front yard could save you $30 in air conditioning bills each year. The same tree also increases your home's market value by about one percent.

A large tree absorbs about 10 pounds of air pollution annually. It absorbs 330 pounds of carbon dioxide, converting it to wood and replacing it with oxygen in the air. In a heavy rain, a big shade tree intercepts nearly 800 gallons of water. This slows runoff, reduces flooding, promotes recharge of groundwater and prevents erosion.

A cure for duck melancholia

Do you experience a wave of desolation as you walk through the garage and see insulated waders and decoys gathering dust? Do you look in your retriever's eyes and imagine that he's wondering, "How much longer?" If so, you may be suffering from Duck Hunting Melancholia.

Though seldom fatal, this off-season affliction of duck and goose hunting enthusiasts seriously diminishes the victim's quality of life. Fortunately, there's a four-step program to help DHM sufferers find their way out of the fog of despair that envelops them.

Inspect and refurbish gear by patching holes in waders, replacing decoy anchor lines and touching up the camouflage on your boat.

  • Shake off the doldrums by taking your canine hunting pal to a marsh for a refresher course in basic retrieving skills.
  • Keep your own skills sharp with a duck calling practice tape and periodic trips to the shotgun range.
  • Make a difference in the future of waterfowl by getting active in your local chapter of Ducks Unlimited and attend annual fund raisers where you can commiserate with other waterfowl enthusiasts.

Was last winter a 'diller killer?

Naturalists say that severe winters prevent the nine-banded armadillo from extending its range farther north. However, a trend of milder winters could be allowing the animals to inhabit territory that was formerly unsuitable.

Reports of armadillo sightings have increased in the wake of record-setting warm winters in 1998-1999 and 1999-2000. Of particular interest are reports of the armored critters as far north as St. Joseph and Brookfield.

Last winter was very different. Snow covered the ground over most of the state for more than a month. In some areas, temperatures didn't rise above the teens for three weeks.

"If severe winters push back the northern boundary of armadillos' range, then we ought to see a significant decrease in sightings after last winter," said Conservation Department Wildlife Ecologist Janet Sternburg. "Reports of armadillos-alive or dead beside roads-are very helpful to us in tracking the species' distribution. We are also interested in observations about how last winter's weather affected armadillos' behavior."

Lynn Robbins, a biology professor at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, is leading the investigation of armadillo distribution. He is looking for people who are willing to complete armadillo questionnaires now and in the fall. The questionnaire is available online.

"Green" events highlight April

April, the month when trees leaf out and meadows grow verdant, is green in more ways than one. This month also has three national environmental events.

National Arbor Day is April 6, Earth Day is April 22, and National Wildlife Week is April 16-22. You can learn about events in your area by calling the nearest Conservation Department office. To find out more about National Wildlife Week and events planned nationwide, visit online.

  • April 6-National Arbor Day
  • April 16-22-National Wildlife Week
  • April 22-Earth Day

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