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From Missouri Conservationist: Jul 2011

Conservation Makes Great Smallmouth Bass Fishing

The Conservation Department is tagging 1,600 legal-sized smallmouth bass on five rivers in southern Missouri as part of a research project. Anglers who catch tagged bass can earn $25 or $75 by reporting their catches to MDC researchers.

MDC biologists are tagging smallmouth bass in the Black River, Castor River, Courtois Creek, Current River and the North Fork of the White River, and will continue tagging during the spring season over the next two years.

According to Fisheries Management Biologist John Ackerson, these types of research studies have been successful with other fish species such as catfish and walleye.

“The research project will help biologists learn more about angler catch rates and fish movement in these rivers,” Ackerson said. “Information gained from anglers reporting their tagged catches will help us manage this species, which many Missourians love to fish.”

He explained that tagged bass do not have to be kept to receive a reward. Anglers may just remove the tag and release the fish. Tags must be returned to the MDC to receive a reward.

To report tagged catches, anglers must call the phone number listed on the tag and provide the following information:

  • Tag number
  • If the fish was kept or released
  • Date of catch
  • Total length of fish
  • Approximate location of catch

For more information on the research project, contact Ackerson at 471-255-9561, extension 275, or

— by Joe Jerek

Protecting Trout With Trout

The Conservation Department's Maramec Spring Fish Hatchery is protecting its trout with more trout. The hatchery, which raises rainbow trout, is trying a new way of preventing parasitic infestation using brook trout.

Rainbow trout, along with several other west-coast fish species, are susceptible to a parasitic copepod called Salmincola californiensis. The tiny, shrimplike parasites, which are about the size of a pencil eraser, attach to fishes’ gills, where they leave eggs and complete their life cycle.

While the copepods are not a problem in the wild, they can become prolific in hatcheries that raise fish in high-density conditions. The copepods can attach in such high numbers that they weaken the fish, making them more prone to disease, and even causing the fish to suffocate.

According to Maramec Spring Fish Hatchery Manager Wes Swee, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently does not recognize any chemical treatments to control parasitic copepods.

A study at a California hatchery concluded that placing brook trout upstream from rainbow trout somehow filters copepod larvae from the water supply, reducing infestation. The reason for this is undetermined. Swee said one theory is that copepod larvae are specific to certain west-coast fishes and cannot complete their life cycle on other species, such as east-coast-native brook trout. According to Swee, the copepods attach to brook trout but do not produce eggs as they do on rainbow trout.

To test the theory on Missouri trout, MDC raised a small number of brook trout at Maramec Spring Fish Hatchery. In June the trout were put in one pool above a pool of copepod-free rainbow trout from another hatchery. If successful, brook trout could be an effective biological control method for managing parasitic copepods in fish hatcheries.

Biological control methods are not a new concept. In fact, they are preferable when a food product like fish is involved. A comparable biological control method is the use of ladybugs to reduce aphid infestation in gardens.

Although the copepods themselves do not affect a fish’s food quality, protecting hatchery-raised rainbow trout from parasites is an effort to ensure the quality of Missouri’s trout fishing.

“Controlling the copepods will allow us to continue to stock healthy fish for the public,” Swee said. “The long-term goal is to provide Missouri anglers with healthy, more vigorous and more attractive rainbow trout that will put up a good fight for fishermen.”

Rainbow trout is the species most commonly stocked by MDC to provide trout fishing opportunities in designated Missouri waters. A limited number of brown trout, produced in MDC hatcheries, are also stocked in selected waters each year. “There are no plans to release the brook trout into Missouri waters,” Swee said.

For more information on Maramec Spring Trout Park, visit

—by Rebecca Maples

Black Bear Research

Efforts to learn more about Missouri’s growing black-bear population has expanded this summer, with researchers studying bears in a 23-county area bounded roughly by Barry, Butler and Franklin counties.

The project kicked off last year with trapping, radio collaring and gathering DNA evidence from bears in southwestern and south-central Missouri. Researchers are trapping and radio-collaring bears and monitoring them over the winter to learn more about bear denning habits.

Another phase of the study involves using baited “hair snares” made of barbed wire to gather hair for DNA analysis. The resulting data will help biologists get better estimates of how many bears Missouri has and the ratio of males to females. It also will provide information about movement patterns, population densities, habitat preferences and overall numbers of Missouri bears. This information will help the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) develop a scientific management program that includes regulated hunting. The goal is for bears to continue to thrive and expand into suitable habitats while minimizing conflicts with people.

Landowners in eastern and southeastern Missouri who have seen bears on their property are encouraged to contact MDC for possible participation in the study, which is a joint effort of MDC, the University of Missouri-Columbia and Mississippi State University. It is funded through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Fund with help from Safari Club International.

MDC has an interactive Web page about the bear research project at

—by Jim Low

Elk Released From Holding Site

Missouri’s 34 restored elk, plus five new calves, were released June 1 from their 3 acre holding site at the Conservation Department's Peck Ranch Conservation Area. The release followed final approval of stringent health-testing protocols by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

The Peck Ranch Refuge Area will remain temporarily closed to the public to allow the adult elk and new calves time to acclimate to the area with a minimum of human disturbance.

We believe that additional cows remain pregnant with calving expected.

The 34 adult elk and five newborn calves have been fitted with radio collars as part of a cooperative research project with the University of Missouri. The collars will help researchers track the elks’ health, movement patterns and preferred types of vegetation. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funds for the collars. The research project is being partially funded by the Wildlife Restoration Program administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Thanks to successful habitat restoration and citizen, landowner and partner support, elk are back in Missouri after more than a century,” said MDC Deputy Director Tom Draper. “Citizens deserve credit and should be proud. We will continue to keep the public informed as this project continues.” For more information on elk restoration efforts, visit

—by Joe Jerek

Be Bear Prepared

With the Show-Me State’s bear population slowly increasing, Missourians who spend time outdoors need to become bear aware.

The first step is knowing where you are likely to encounter bears. Bear sightings have been confirmed in approximately two-thirds of the state’s 114 counties. However, 90 percent of the state’s bears live south of Interstate Highway 44. Within that area, bear sightings tend to be around Taney and Ozark counties in the west and Iron, Reynolds and Washington counties in the east.

Bears have a natural fear of humans, so chance encounters with bears usually are brief, ending when the bear realizes a human is near and retreats. However, accidental bear meetings can be dangerous if the bear is startled or cornered or if a person gets between a sow and her cubs.

To avoid surprise meetings, talk with companions, whistle or fasten a cowbell to your backpack or clothing. Bears’ eyesight is poor, and they sometimes don’t recognize humans, even at close range. At such times, a bear often rears up on its hind legs. This is not a threat, but an attempt to use its eyes and nose to their best advantage.

If you see a bear that has not noticed you yet, leave the area quickly and quietly. A bear on a narrow trail may feel cornered. The best strategy here is to step off the trail on the downhill side and leave the area quietly. Do not make sudden movements or run.

When threatened or defending cubs, black bears often make huffing sounds, pop their jaws or beat the ground with their front paws. This is a warning that you are too close. Black bears also make mock charges, rushing at intruders and then retreating. People who take these hints and withdraw immediately almost always avoid further trouble.

Although attacks by black bears are rare, they do occur. Black bears can run much faster than humans, and they are excellent climbers. Consequently, fleeing or climbing a tree is pointless.

The most effective strategy is to fight back with whatever you have—a knife, a rock, a stick or any other weapon. Black bear attacks have been repelled by people using nothing more than their fists. Striking a bear around the face is most effective. Pepper spray also can stop a bear attack.

Aggressive bears usually are ones that have become accustomed to humans. This usually occurs through feeding. Never feed bears or allow them to raid trash, livestock feeders or other human food sources.

If you encounter an aggressive bear, contact a conservation office or your local sheriff’s department immediately. The Conservation Department has specially trained employees to deal with problem or aggressive bears.

For more information about living with bears, visit

—by Jim Low

Maximum Fine in Zebra Mussel Case

An Independence man received the maximum fine for introducing zebra mussels into Smithville Lake last year. The man pleaded guilty in Clay County Circuit Court to a charge of transporting a prohibited species. The judge imposed a fine of $1,000 and six months of probation.

The case is the first prosecuted under a provision in Missouri’s Wildlife Code designed to stop the spread of invasive species. It began on June 28, 2010, when fisheries workers with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) discovered adult zebra mussels on a private boatlift during a swimming inspection of the Camp Branch Marina. An investigation by Conservation Agent Scott Stephens revealed that in October 2009, the defendant moved the boatlift from Lake of the Ozarks, where zebra mussels already were established.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and MDC immediately removed and decontaminated the lift. MDC, in cooperation with the Corps, Clay County Parks and Recreation and the City of Smithville, used a copper-based algae killer to eradicate the zebra mussel infestation in August 2010. The Corps continues to monitor the lake for residual zebra mussels. None have been detected so far.

For information about how to identify invasive species and how to avoid spreading them, visit

—by Jim Low

Did You Know?

We work with you and for you to sustain healthy forests.

MDC Partners With Rural Fire Departments

  • More than 90 percent of the wildland fires throughout the state are primarily contained by rural fire departments.
  • 776 rural fire departments statewide have agreements with MDC to receive equipment to help wildland fire suppression.
  • MDC has agreements with the USDA Forest Service to deliver surplus federal equipment to rural fire departments to help suppress wildland fires.
  • The Rural Forest Fire Equipment Center hub is located in Lebanon, Mo.


FEPP—Federal Excess Personal Property

  • Equipment is loaned to fire departments through this program.
  • 844 vehicles worth more than $25 million have been distributed to fire departments throughout the state.
  • More than $2 million worth of smaller equipment such as generators, trailers and firefighting hand tools have also been given to fire departments statewide.
  • Equipment is on loan to the fire departments, and it must be returned to MDC when the items are no longer usable.


FFP—Firefighter Property

  • When certain conditions are met, fire departments are given ownership of equipment through this program.
  • 519 vehicles worth more than $17 million have been provided to fire departments.
  • The title to these vehicles will be turned over to the fire departments after four years of “response ready” use.
  • 342 generators worth more than $3 million have been provided to fire departments.
  • 71,189 items such as emergency medical supplies, various small fire fighting items and miscellaneous equipment with a value of more than $10 million have been issued to fire departments.


Additional Benefits of Both Programs

  • Fire departments often receive donations to further equip the vehicles.
  • Fire departments usually pay very little.
  • Vehicles and equipment improve the ability of rural fire departments to respond to wildfires.
  • The distribution of vehicles and equipment enhances the relationship between MDC and rural fire departments.


Contact Information
Rural Forest Fire Equipment Center, 417-532-7904
John Lindesmith, Excess Property Coordinator,
Ben Webster, Forestry Field Programs Supervisor – Fire,

This Issue's Staff

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