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From Missouri Conservationist: May 2012

By Jim Low

MoNASP Winner is Brandon Whitley of St. Clair

Brandon Whitley of St. Clair Junior High School set a new scoring record at the fourth Missouri National Archery in the Schools (MoNASP) state tournament March 24 in Warrensburg, scoring 293 points out of a possible 300. Though his school didn’t place in the top three at the state meet, Whitley’s record score helped the St. Clair Junior High qualify to take part in the national NASP tournament May 11–12 in Louisville, Ky.

 More than 1,100 competitors from 53 schools took part in the state meet, shooting more than 40,000 arrows. At the end of the day, MDC Deputy Director Tim Ripperger presented awards to 30 individual winners and nine schools.

Top schools in the High-School Division were: Crane, first; Willard, second; and Galena, third.

Top schools in the Middle-School Division were: Ridgewood Middle School, Arnold, first; Holy Rosary, Clinton, second; and Crane, third.

The Elementary Division’s top schools were: George Guffey Elementary, Fenton, first; St. Joseph Cathedral School, Jefferson City, second; and Simpson Elementary School, Arnold, third.

Anna Hughes of Logan-Rogersville High School was the top female archer with 281 points. She and Whitley each received a trophy and a special-edition Genesis compound bow.

MoNASP is just one way MDC helps Missourians discover nature by equipping them with outdoor skills. For more information on MoNASP, visit

Falcon Cam

If you go to right now, you might get to watch a peregrine falcon feeding its chicks in a nest box at Ameren Missouri’s Sioux Energy Center in St. Louis. The birds and the “falcon cam” that is broadcasting their activities live between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily are part of a cooperative falcon-restoration effort by Ameren, the World Bird Sanctuary and MDC.

The female falcon laid the first of her eggs on March 12. By March 20 she was sitting tight on the nest, a good indication that she had finished laying a clutch of four or five eggs. That put the eggs on track to hatch by mid to late April. Peregrine chicks grow rapidly, leaving the nest about six weeks after hatching.

During May, the St. Louis chicks will wolf down meat meals delivered by their parents up to 10 times a day. Late this month, the chicks will be nearly adult-sized, and their parents will have stopped feeding them chunks of meat. Instead, the adults simply will leave whole, dead prey animals in the nest box so the youngsters can learn how to tear them apart and feed themselves.

When it is time to take flight, peregrine parents often try to encourage hesitant fledglings out of the nest. They do this by withholding food and flying around the nest box with tasty morsels in their talons.

MDC Director Bob Ziehmer says the peregrine project is intended to help Missourians discover nature through an intimate window on the lives of an amazing animal.

Peregrine falcons are the world’s fastest animals, having been clocked at 261 mph when diving in pursuit of the pigeons and other birds that are their most common prey. For more information on peregrine falcons, visit

Zebra Mussels at Smithville

In March, routine monitoring found zebra mussels at two sites at Smithville Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) reservoir north of Kansas City.

Zebra mussels are mollusks that look like small clams. They are an invasive species from Eurasia that can cause ecological and property damage. Corps Wildlife Biologist Mike Watkins and MDC Fisheries Biologist Eric Dennis found three zebra mussels on metal gates at the lake’s dam. Later they also found a zebra mussel shell attached to a courtesy dock at the boat launch ramp near the Camp Branch Marina. They found shells of several sizes, which indicate that the lake has a reproducing population of zebra mussels.

MDC Invasive Species Coordinator Tim Banek says no one can predict what effects a zebra mussel infestation will have on sport fishing at the lake. Only continued monitoring will reveal how the infestation develops and affects the lake’s ecology.

Zebra mussels have caused billions of dollars in damage in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems. They filter plankton from the water, and because they can form large colonies, this can alter ecosystems and rob native fisheries of nutrients.

The mussels attach to hard objects such as rocks, metal, boat hulls and water pipes. They also attach to each other, forming dense colonies that can clog pipes. Their sharp shells are a hazard to bare-footed swimmers, and the shells can cut fishing line.

Zebra mussels enter impoundments on infested boats or other marine equipment. How zebra mussels entered Smithville Lake is uncertain. Monitoring found an infestation in a cove near the Camp Branch Marina in 2010. MDC treated the cove with a copper-based commercial algaecide to kill the mussels and their larvae. The treatment came after adult zebra mussels were found on a boatlift that had been moved from another lake. Biologists do not know if that case is linked to the recent find.

There is no practical way to eliminate zebra mussels once they are established in a large lake. Consequently, the mussels likely will spread throughout Smithville Lake, the Little Platte River and the Platte River downstream of its confluence and with the Little Platte. The Platte River enters the Missouri River upstream of Kansas City.

Healthy lakes and streams help make Missouri a great place to hunt and fish and bring millions of tourist dollars to Missouri annually. Fighting the spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species helps preserve those resources.

For information about how to prevent the spread of zebra mussels, visit node/4681.

CWD Update

Test results received in March confirmed three additional cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in free-ranging deer in northwest Macon County. Missouri’s first cases of CWD in free-ranging deer were detected in two adult bucks harvested in northwest Macon County during the 2011 fall firearms deer season. The three most recent CWD positives were collected in February and March as part of intensive sampling to determine the extent and prevalence of CWD infection. They came from within two miles of the two previous wild-deer positives.

MDC collected samples from hunter-killed deer during the 2011 hunting season in response to two cases of CWD found in captive white-tailed deer at two private captive-hunting preserves in Macon and Linn counties. Since October 2011, three more captive deer at the Macon County preserve have tested positive for CWD.

The five cases of CWD in free-ranging deer have been found within two miles of the Macon County preserve. Depopulation, quarantine and other control measures at the private preserve are being coordinated by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA).

Missouri’s world-class deer hunting pumps millions of dollars into the state economy annually. Preventing the spread of CWD helps keep that economic engine running. MDC began testing free-ranging deer for CWD in 2002. With hunters’ help, the agency has tested more than 34,000 freeranging deer for CWD from all parts of the state.

The positives from deer taken in the 2011 hunting season are the first sign of the disease in wild deer. MDC staff is analyzing recent test results, continuing to evaluate efforts and lessons learned from other states with CWD and consulting with wildlife experts around the country. The main objectives are to limit the prevalence and restrict the spread of CWD in Missouri.

Resource Scientist Jason Sumners, who oversees MDC’s deer-management program, says several factors will influence future prevalence and distribution of CWD in Missouri. One is local deer population density. Greater population density increases the chances of animal-to-animal disease transmission. Another factor is conditions, such as drought or artificial feeding, that bring the deer together, again increasing opportunities for disease transmission. Finally, natural deer movement and movement of deer carcasses by hunters can help spread CWD.

“Yearling and adult male deer have been found to exhibit CWD at a much higher rate than yearling and adult females,” says Sumners. “Of the 10 cases of CWD identified in both captive and free-ranging deer in Missouri, eight have been in adult bucks. Natural dispersal of yearling males from the range where they were born is one of the most likely means of spreading CWD. The movement of infectious materials in the form of hunter-harvested deer carcasses that contain heads and spinal columns, where the disease concentrates, may also serve as a means of introducing CWD to other regions of the state.”  Sumners notes that CWD has been found in only one small pocket of the state.

“Our management efforts will focus on minimizing the prevalence and preventing the further spread of the disease from the area. We will keep the public informed as we develop those efforts.”

MDC says there is no evidence from existing research that CWD can spread to domestic livestock, such as sheep or cattle. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says there is no scientific evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans through contact with or the consumption of deer meat.

For more information about CWD, visit mdc.

Burying Beetle

Future visitors to southwestern Missouri might catch glimpses of one of North America’s most fascinating insects, thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, the St. Louis Zoo and MDC.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reintroducing the remarkable (and remarkably pretty) orange- and-black American burying beetles, raised by the St. Louis Zoo, to The Nature Conservancy’s Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie near El Dorado Springs. MDC manages the 3,000-acre prairie area, another example of public-private partnerships to restore and sustain healthy wildlife populations.

The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), has some of the most elaborate social and behavioral adaptations in the insect world. As their name implies, they bury dead animals. After fighting off other burying beetles, the baddest beetle on the block uses its large size (up to 1.5 inches) to excavate a hole large enough to contain its prize, which may be as large as a mourning dove. Getting the carcass underground excludes ants, flies and other critters that might steal the beetle’s hard-won spoils.

Next, the beetle and its mate enclose the carcass in a capsule, using secretions that inhibit fungal and bacterial action. This not only preserves the food value of the animal, it also minimizes odors that might attract scavengers.

The female lays eggs near the encapsulated corpse. When the eggs hatch, the larvae crawl into a cavity prepared by their parents and begin consuming the food so carefully preserved for them. Burying beetle parents also bring food to their young and guard them until they mature.

To give area managers greater flexibility, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the American burying beetles at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie and surrounding counties as a “nonessential experimental” population. This also assures neighboring landowners that the presence of a protected species will not affect their activities.

American burying beetles once inhabited 35 states, including Missouri. Missouri’s last known wild American burying beetle was found in Newton County in the mid-1970s. For more information about endangered species, visit midwest/endangered.

Photo Tip of the Month: Lighting

I once heard someone say that to take good photos, always be sure to put the light at the photographer’s back. The idea is that if the light is at the photographers back, then it is shining directly on the subject, thus illuminating it as much as possible for the photo. This is, with only a few exceptions, patently bad advice.

Quality and direction of light is one of the most important elements to consider as you craft a photograph. Light shining directly on your subject from roughly the same direction as the photographer, is typically going to be harsh and flatten out detail and contrast.

Light from the side or even behind your subject is going to yield much more pleasing results in most cases. Highlights and shadows created by lighting from an oblique angle will help emphasize detail, increase contrast and add depth to your image.

It is difficult to get directional lighting in the middle of the day, when the sun is directly overhead. That is why most photographers shoot during the hours right before and right after sunrise and sunset. During this time, the sun is low in the sky, and will shine on your subject in a more effective and directional way.

Shooting during the morning and evening hours will not only allow for directional lighting, but it will also help improve the overall quality of the light. During these times of the day, the sun is shining through a larger slice of the atmosphere. This has the effect of softening the light and warming up the color. Photographers often refer to this time of day as the “golden hours” because of the golden quality of the light.

Often cloudy days yield undesirable lighting conditions for good photos. However, there are a few exceptions when an overcast day is beneficial. Perhaps the best example of this is in flower photography. An overcast sky often helps soften shadows, saturate colors and bring out the subtle colors and details of a flower’s petals. —Cliff White 75th Anniversary of Conservation Photo Contest, Enter till May 15!

Remember to get out those cameras and search those photo files for your best images that celebrate the natural wonders of Missouri and the 75-year legacy of MDC. A full list of rules and guidelines can be found on our website at Entries will only be accepted via Flickr, an Internet photo sharing service, through May 15. If you are not on Flickr, it is easy to join. Just go to our 75th anniversary photo contest Flickr site for more information: When you add photos to the contest group in Flickr, the photos MUST be tagged with the category you are entering.

Please read the full list of rules carefully for more information. Photos that do not adhere to the rules will be disqualified.

Did You Know?

We help people discover nature.

Visit a Conservation Nature Center Near You!

  • Conservation nature centers across the state offer exhibits, walking trails and events to more than 850,000 visitors each year. Find a center near you to learn more about and enjoy Missouri’s nature.
  • Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, 64110, 816-759-7300,
  • Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center, 1401 Northwest Park Road, Blue Springs, 64015, 816-228-3766,
  • Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, 2289 County Park Drive, Cape Girardeau, 63701, 573-290-5218,
  • Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Road, Kirkwood, 63122, 314-301-1500,
  • Runge Conservation Nature Center, Highway 179, Jefferson City, 65102, 573-526-5544,
  • Springfield Conservation Nature Center, 4601 South Nature Center Way, Springfield, 65804, 417-888-4237,
  • Twin Pines Conservation Education Center, Highway 60 (1.3 miles east of junction Highway 19) Winona, 65588, 573-325-1381,

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