Plants and Animals

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From Missouri Conservationist: Feb 2008

Species of Concern: Lake sturgeon

  • Common Name: Lake sturgeon
  • Scientific Name: Acipenser fulvescens
  • Range: Missouri and Mississippi river basins
  • Classification: Critically imperiled in Missouri
  • To learn more about endangered species: explore the links listed below.

It is remarkable that an animal that has been around since dinosaurs lived, a robust creature whose lifespan can exceed 100 years and that can top 300 pounds, went from seemingly limitless abundance around 1890 to being insignificant for commercial purposes in Missouri waters by 1910. One of the causes—over-harvesting—ended with sensible fishing regulations in the 20th century. Cleaning up pollution also helped. However, channelization and changed seasonal flows on the Missouri River and damming of the upper Mississippi River have dramatically affected this species’ habitat and limited the movement of the fish, which can travel hundreds of miles a year in unaltered rivers. State and federal wildlife agencies are trying to boost wild populations with hatchery-reared fish, and recent changes in management of the Missouri River are a step in the right direction. Lake sturgeon sightings remain rare, however. For more information about sturgeons in Missouri, explore the links listed below.

Blooms in February?

Yes! Witch hazel flowers show now through April.

Vernal or Ozark witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) is Missouri’s earliest-flowering woody plant, sending forth fragrant, yellow to dark red, X-shaped flowers from January through April. This plant has the spooky habit of firing seeds as far as 30 feet from woody pods in the fall. An extract from its leaves and bark is used in shaving cream and medicinal lotions. It grows along rocky stream beds in the southeastern third of the state. Wild turkeys eat its seeds.

What’s in the shed?

Most trophies end up rodent dietary supplements.

After mating season, mostly in January, male deer lose their antlers. Why shed something that requires so much nutritional investment? It could be so they can replace points broken while sparring. Maybe it’s to save the energy it would take to haul around several pounds of extra weight the rest of the year. Perhaps antlers get in bucks’ way when fleeing predators, so they keep them only as long as they are useful in competing for does’ attention. Or maybe shedding guarantees that bucks always have headgear proportional to their growing bodies. Whatever the reason, antlers don’t go to waste. Squirrels, chipmunks and mice begin gnawing on them almost as soon as they hit the ground, recycling their calcium content…unless you find them first!

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Arleasha Mays
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Ruby
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler