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From Missouri Conservationist: Feb 2010

Wild nights

I really enjoyed A Good Night to Go Out [December]. I’ve coon hunted over 30 years since youth and that story brings back so many memories. Missouri has a long-standing tradition of hounds and hunting, and this region has some of the best coon hunting in the nation. It’s great to see the Department support the fabulous sport of hunting raccoons behind hounds.

Mark Reavis, Crane

As I read the article about Mr. Martensen and his family coon hunting trips, my mind flooded with memories of my coon hunting adventures with my dad, family and friends. We would take the eager dogs out every evening, weather permitting. Sometimes there would only be two or three of us, but other times we might have as many as five or six prowling through the woods. On school nights we would make short circles and try to be in by 9:00, but Friday and Saturday nights were the big hunt nights, and there was no deadline. Sunday was a day of rest. The dogs are long gone, Dad’s knee no longer allows him to hunt, but the life lessons and memories are still with me everyday. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!

Steve Fast, Bolivar

I hope I am reading the article wrong. There is no mention of the use of the raccoon other than the pelt. Please tell me that a staff member used the meat or at least gave it away to charity. If this is true, then this is not conservancy, but akin to the old days out West of the buffalo skinners who wasted thousands of animals. I realize that scavengers will clean up after them. It’s the principle.

Raymond Paul, via Internet

Author’s note: You bring up a valid point and one that most furbearer hunters and trappers struggle with to some degree. As you noticed in the article we did not utilize the meat from that raccoon and only harvested the fur. I do not salvage the meat from every raccoon that I kill, but I do take meat from some of the younger raccoons for eating. I have not found a charity that would even consider taking raccoon carcasses; however, I have found some individuals that will occasionally accept them for eating.

You are also correct that scavengers will find those carcasses left in the woods and feed on them. I’m sure you have heard before, “Nothing is wasted in nature.” I’m sure some lucky coyote or other scavenger type was very happy to find what I left behind. I will stop short of agreeing with your comparison to the days of the buffalo slaughters. Missouri’s furbearers are protected by a season and restricted to taking by allowable methods. The furbearer population is monitored and evaluated frequently for signs of overharvest or population declines. Currently, furbearer numbers in Missouri are at an all-time high. A regulated harvest of these animals is very important to help keep their populations at an acceptable level. When raccoon populations are high they are very prone to contract and spread diseases like canine distemper, which is a cruel killer of raccoons. When raccoons or other furbearers die from disease or other complications associated with overpopulation then the resource, both fur and meat, is totally wasted from a human consumption standpoint. Therefore, being able to hunt or trap furbearers and utilize only their fur does have value and satisfies basic conservation principles. We may not see eye to eye on this issue, but hopefully you have a better understanding of some of the dynamics and cultural aspects involved surrounding the management and harvest of furbearers in Missouri.— Rex Martensen, field program supervisor

Submissions reflect readers’ opinions and may be edited for length and clarity.

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