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From Missouri Conservationist: Feb 2010

Turkey Season Is April 19–May 9

The Conservation Commission set 2010 spring and fall turkey hunting regulations at its December meeting. The regular Spring Turkey Hunting Season is April 19 through May 9. Other spring turkey hunting regulations remain unchanged from 2009, with a limit of two male turkeys or turkeys with visible beards. The 2010 Youth Spring Turkey Season for hunters age 6 through 15 is April 10 and 11. The 2010 Fall Turkey Hunting Season is Oct. 1 through 31. The Conservation Commission also approved turkey hunting regulations for conservation areas. These, along with information on managed hunts, will be published in the 2010 Spring Turkey Hunting Information booklet before the spring turkey season.

Touring Exhibits

Visitors to Conservation Department interpretive facilities can look forward to new attractions for each of the next four years as special exhibits tour the state. Each exhibit deals with a conservation issue of interest to citizens and includes a 20-foot back wall with an array of hands-on, interactive features. Each also will have one or two island exhibits that allow visitors to explore and experience the topic. The exhibits will remain in place for one year before moving to new locations. Exhibit topics and first-year locations are:

  • Rockwoods Reservation—“The Amazing Forest” about the forest ecosystem.
  • Busch Memorial Conservation Area—“Wetlands: Water at Work” emphasizes the varied wildlife activity in the habitat during morning, day and night.
  • Shepherd of the Hills Visitor Center—“It’s All Our Water” looks at watersheds and how even small changes affect our world’s water.
  • Runge Conservation Nature Center— “Experience Wild Missouri” is an outdoor skills adventure with a LaserShot interactive video that tests hunting knowledge and skill.

Suburb Curbs Deer Numbers

The City of Town and Country, in the heart of St. Louis County, has been looking for ways to control its deer population for more than a decade. The city had an estimated deer population density close to three times the recommended level of 25 per square mile. As a result, property damage and deer-vehicle collisions have exceeded what some residents were willing to accept. To reduce deer numbers, city officials hired a private contractor to remove 112 deer—mostly females—with sharpshooters. Meat from these animals went to needy families via Missouri’s Share the Harvest program. The company hired licensed veterinarians to surgically sterilize another 100 does before releasing them. City officials are considering their next move in what Conservation Department biologists say needs to be an ongoing control program. Some other Missouri communities allow bowhunters to thin deer numbers.

Fur Prices, Trapping at Low Ebb

Fur prices are low, and furbearer trapping is waning in Missouri, according to data from recent trapping seasons.

The number of trappers and the number of furbearers they catch can vary widely from year to year, depending on pelt prices. Prices, in turn, depend on the world economy and on weather in places as far away as Asia. People in Russia and China buy fewer furs in warmer-than-normal winters, and furs pile up on warehouse shelves, depressing prices.

Fur markets currently are in an extended period of low prices, and that has led to reduced trapping. The Conservation Department had only sold a little more than 4,000 resident trapping permits by the end of December 2009, compared to 6,400 for the 2008–2009 season.

Raccoons account for approximately 75 percent of the pelts sold in Missouri fur auctions. In 1979, when raccoon pelts brought an average of $27.50 each, Missouri trappers caught and sold more than 634,000. Last year, with raccoon pelts worth less than $10 each, Missouri trappers sold only about 109,000. So far this year, extra-large raccoons are bringing $4. Otter pelts, which sold for more than $100 five years earlier, were down to $26.91 last year, and bobcat pelts were down from $50.15 to $23.68. So far this year, bobcat pelts are selling for less than $20.

The North American Fur Auction cancelled its fall sale and its first winter sale this year for the first time ever. Missouri trappers might have difficulty selling some pelts, such as coyotes, medium raccoons and opossums.

Trappers render an important service by helping control wildlife populations that otherwise would cause significant property damage. Thinning furbearer numbers also reduces the spread of such diseases as rabies and distemper.

Don’t Set Bears Up for Disaster

Spring might seem a long way off to humans right now, but black bears are emerging from winter torpor, and their empty stomachs put them at risk. You can help keep bears safe by not encouraging them to form dangerous habits.

Natural foods are scarce this time of year, so bears that have not eaten much since last fall are more prone to ignore their natural fear of humans and seek nourishment in trash cans, livestock feed bins or even bird feeders. Those that get used to mooching from humans are many times more likely to cause trouble. Some have to be destroyed.

Black bear sows with cubs are particularly susceptible to attraction by human foods, because their nutritional needs are greater. They also are more likely to get into confrontations with people, due to their natural protective instinct.

Ozark County is the epicenter of bear activity in Missouri, with 100 reports since 1987. The next-most-active counties are Taney, Carter, Reynolds and Howell. Other counties with significant bear activity include Iron, Shannon, Ripley, Barry, Christian, Stone and Douglas. If you live in or near one of these counties, take the following precautions to avoid tempting bears:

  • Never intentionally feed bears.
  • Do not feed pets outdoors.
  • Keep garbage, livestock feed and other potential attractants in outbuildings or bear-proof containers.
  • Clean up feed spills completely.
  • Put out garbage as near to pickup time as possible.
  • If a bear visits your bird feeders, take them down for two or three months to avoid becoming a regular stop on the bruin’s foraging rounds.
  • Clean outdoor grills after each use and store them in sheds.
  • Don’t place meat or sweet food scraps in your compost pile.
  • Never cook, eat or store food in tents or sleeping areas when camping.
  • Keep camp food locked inside vehicles when not in use.
  • If a bear enters your campsite, get inside your vehicle and stay there until the bear leaves.

If you see a bear, please report it to the nearest Regional Conservation Department office or call (573) 751-4115.

Battling Knapweed

The Missouri departments of Conservation and Transportation are cooperating to beat back an invasion of spotted knapweed in southern Missouri.

The plant, Centaurea stoebe, is a perennial that grows approximately 2 feet tall and has attractive, fringy pink blossoms. This member of the aster family probably arrived in the United States in the late 1800s in contaminated hay or seed from Eurasia. Since then it has spread over 45 states.

Its roots produce chemicals that are toxic to other plants. It produces up to 1,000 seeds per plant. Once established, seeds accumulate in the soil, often exceeding 5,000 per square foot. The seeds remain viable for at least eight years. Seeds spread along roads by trucks transporting contaminated hay sprout in roadside ditches and quickly spread to bordering pastures and woodlands.

The plant is bad news, because it roots out native vegetation. Besides diminishing plant diversity, it has little value to wildlife. It is bad for agriculture, too. Infested pastures become less palatable and nutritious for livestock. In Montana alone, it caused $42 million in agricultural losses in 1996.

You have to look closely to find early signs of a spotted knapweed infestation. The plant produces only a flat rosette of leaves during its first year, as it builds a deep taproot. State officials are battling roadside infestations with integrated pest management. This approach uses a combination of physical measures, such as pulling up plants, along with herbicides and weevils that eat spotted knapweed seed heads and bore into the plants’ roots.

Missourians who would like to know more about spotted knapweed should contact Tim Banek, (573) 522-4115, ext. 3371, You also can visit the link listed below.

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