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From Missouri Conservationist: Jan 2010

Governor Shares His Harvest

Just before the opening of the November portion of firearms deer season, Gov. Nixon launched a campaign to increase dramatically the amount of venison donated to needy families through Missouri’s Share the Harvest program. He made stops in Ashland, St. Louis, Sedalia, Springfield and Kirksville to encourage hunters to donate meat to local food pantries.

A few days later, he demonstrated his personal commitment to the effort by shooting a whitetailed deer doe in Pulaski County and taking it to Steve-n-Sons Custom Meat Processing in Newburg, one of 125 approved Share the Harvest processors. He and his wife, Georganne, also lent a hand unloading 250 pounds of venison donated to the First Baptist Church Food Pantry in West Plains.

With encouragement from Gov. Nixon, the Missouri Department of Economic Development has approved approximately $200,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program incentive money to help pay for processing hunter-donated deer. The governor hopes this and other efforts will increase venison donations from the current level of about 265,000 pounds to more than 450,000 pounds annually over the next three years.

Antlerless Harvest Tops 22,000

Excellent hunting conditions enabled Missouri hunters to shoot 22,151 deer during the antlerless portion of firearms deer season Nov. 25 through Dec. 6. The strong showing during the antlerless hunt puts hunters on track to match or exceed last year’s total firearms deer harvest.

The 12-day antlerless hunt began the day after the November portion of firearms deer season closed. The harvest during the antlerless season topped last year’s by more than 7,000. Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen with the Missouri Department of Conservation attributed the hefty antlerless harvest to favorable weather and hunters’ desire to provide venison for the coming year.

“Heavy rainfall on opening weekend held down the harvest during the November firearms hunt,” says Hansen. “I think a lot of hunters went into the antlerless season wanting to shoot does for their freezers. The numbers make it clear they succeeded.”

Hansen noted that weather during the antlerless season was generally cool and dry. The temperature dropped into the teens during the final weekend of the season, which probably helped hunters.

“Deer tend to move around more looking for food during cold weather,” he says. “That makes them more visible.”

Hunters checked approximately 8,000 deer during the second weekend of the antlerless season, boosting the number of deer taken by firearms hunters this year to 229,876.

Top counties during the antlerless hunt were Benton with 772 deer checked, Morgan with 694 and Callaway with 652. The Conservation Department received no reports of firearms-related deer-hunting incidents during the antlerless season. The final portion of firearms deer season is the youth hunt Jan. 2 and 3.

Natural Resources Conference

Resource-management professionals who attend the Missouri Natural Resources Conference (MNRC) will learn how to take risks that help them meet challenges, grow and learn.

The conference takes place Feb. 3 through 5 at Tan-Tar-A Resort at Lake of the Ozarks. Michael Fraidenburg, author of Intelligent Courage: Natural Resource Careers That Make a Difference, will open the conference. Ben Garber, management consultant and Theodore Roosevelt reenactor, will discuss compelling leadership principles, strategies and actions. Twenty-two additional workshops round out the conference.

The MNRC is an annual meeting organized by natural resource professional societies. It provides a forum for established and aspiring natural-resource professionals to exchange information and ideas and enhance cooperation among government agencies and citizen conservation organizations.

Early-bird registration must be postmarked by Jan. 6. Registration forms and further information are available through the link listed below.

Help Solve Goose Problems

GeesePeace St. Louis is offering workshops to promote non-lethal ways of dealing with problem Canada geese. The workshops, co-sponsored by the Conservation Department, the Wildlife Rescue Center and the Humane Society of Missouri, promote an integrated approach to managing goose problems. This includes landscaping, no-feeding policies, population stabilization techniques and ways of discouraging geese from frequenting homes, businesses, parks, golf courses and other areas. Four workshops are scheduled for Feb. 6, 8, 16 and 26 at locations in the St. Louis area.

For more information, visit online, or contact GeesePeace St. Louis, PO Box 6246, Chesterfield, MO 63006-6246, phone (315) 567-2081.

New Director Robert L. Ziehmer

The Missouri Conservation Commission has chosen Robert L. (Bob) Ziehmer as the eighth director of the Missouri Department of Conservation in the agency's 73-year history. Starting Jan. 15, he will replace John D. Hoskins, who has been director since July 2002.

Ziehmer, 42, is a native of California, Mo., where he currently lives with his wife, Beth, and their daughters, Emily, 14, and Lauren, 11.

“I am both humbled and excited by this opportunity the commission has entrusted to me,” says Ziehmer. “This is a huge event for my family and me.”

Ziehmer says one of his top priorities as director will be maintaining the citizen confidence and support that have made Missouri a national conservation leader. “We need to have open dialog with Missourians about important issues,” he says. “I welcome that. Citizen input and involvement are critical to conservation.”

Zebra Mussels in Kansas City Area

The confirmation of zebra mussels in a Jackson County lake raises the question of where the invasive mollusk will turn up next. For boaters and anglers, it also raises the question of what they can do to prevent spreading the pest to new areas.

In October, residents of Lake Lotawana, a private residential development, notified the Missouri Department of Conservation they had found what they thought were zebra mussels on the propeller of a boat in the lake. The owner said the boat had never left Lake Lotawana. Conservation workers confirmed the animals were zebra mussels. The largest measured approximately .33 inches long.

This is bad news for residents of Lake Lotawana and for Missouri. In addition to the ecological and economic damage these prolific invaders can cause, the existence of another zebra mussel infestation in Missouri increases the chances it will spread from Lake Lotawana, if it hasn’t already.

Previously, zebra mussels had been found in the Mississippi, Missouri, Osage, White and Meramec river drainages. Lake Lotawana is in the watershed of Sni-A-Bar Creek, a Missouri River tributary.

Lake of the Ozarks, where zebra mussels were discovered in 2006, already has a burgeoning population of the mollusks. Zebra mussels have been found in Lake Taneycomo, and they were detected last summer in Pomme de Terre Lake.

Zebra mussels compete with native mussels, larval fish and other animals for food, making them a potential threat to the Show-Me State’s lucrative sport-fishing industry. Their habit of attaching themselves to any solid object dooms native mussels, which are smothered by dense encrustations of the invaders.

Missourians can avoid spreading zebra mussels with simple preventive measures. These include the following precautions:

  • Inspect—Visually inspect boats, trailers, ropes, minnow buckets and anything else that was in the water after each use. Zebra mussels are fingernail-sized with dark and light stripes. Small zebra mussels give hard surfaces a sandpapery feel. Report any suspected zebra mussels to the nearest Conservation Department office.
  • Clean—Remove all plants, animals and mud, and thoroughly wash everything, especially live wells, crevices and other hidden areas. Wash boat bilges, trailers, motor drive units and live wells with hot water at least 104 degrees. Most commercial car washers meet this standard.
  • Drain—Eliminate all water before leaving the area, including live wells, bilge and engine cooling water.
  • Dry—Allow boats and other equipment to dry in the sun at least five days before launching in other waters.
  • Dispose—Put unused bait in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash.

More information about invasive aquatic species prevention is available listed below.

Record Brown Trout

For Scott Sandusky, the most exciting fish in the world is the Missouri state-record brown trout he landed Nov. 20. For the rest of us, the most exciting fish are the even bigger brown trout that might still be prowling the depths of Lake Taneycomo.

Sandusky, a 49-year-old resident of Arnold, caught his 28-pound, 12-ounce fish on Berkley Power Bait and 4-pound-test line on a spinning rod and reel. The fish, which bore some resemblance to a football, bested the previous record— another Taneycomo fish—by more than a pound. It measured 37 inches from nose to tail.

Sandusky’s catch is dwarfed by the world record brown trout, caught from Michigan’s Big Manistee River Sept. 9. That fish weighed 41 pounds, 7 ounces. However, the Missouri Department of Conservation says Lake Taneycomo could harbor even bigger brown trout.

In September 1997, a Lake Taneycomo angler found a monster brown trout dead near the lake’s 18-mile marker. The fish measured 41.75 inches long. Some estimated its live weight at 45 pounds. That fish could have been a world record. The lake’s natural food base is phenomenal, and it has an abundance of deep-water habitat that can hide big fish. Furthermore, Lake Taneycomo’s slow-moving current allows big trout to grow rapidly because they don’t have to expend much energy.

In contrast, anglers are likely to expend lots of energy looking for big browns at Lake Taneycomo, spurred on by Sandusky’s success.

Staff Changes Help MDC Adapt to Economic Downturn

The Conservation Department is reducing its staff to keep personnel costs in balance with other expenditures and enable the agency to live within its financial means.

The Conservation Department’s budget represents less than 1 percent of Missouri’s total state government budget. Nearly 80 percent of the agency’s money comes from hunting and fishing permit sales and the one-eighth of 1 percent conservation sales tax.

  • From FY 2000 through FY 2009, hunting and fishing permit sales grew less than the rate of inflation by 13.9 percent, or -$4.0 million.
  • From FY 2000 through FY 2009, conservation sales tax revenue grew less than the rate of inflation by 14.0 percent, or -$12.1 million.
  • Between FY 2008 and FY 2009 alone, conservation sales tax revenue dropped $6.4 million, the largest one-year decline in history, and the first time sales-tax revenue decreased two years in a row.

Budget cuts were needed to compensate for these continuing revenue declines. In August, the Conservation Commission approved staff reductions that maintain a balance between personnel and program expenditures.

Most of the savings will come from not filling vacant positions. The Department had held 39 full-time positions vacant since early 2009. It expects another 134 vacancies this year from retirements and position reductions. The total of 173 vacant positions represents 10.7 percent of Department staff and will yield annual savings of approximately $7.5 million.

Budget cuts will affect some Conservation Department facilities and services. For example, some field offices will be merged with others for greater efficiency, and hours of operation at nature centers will be reduced. But by reducing expenses now, the Conservation Department avoids a crisis situation and better positions conservation in Missouri for the future.

This Issue's Staff

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