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From Missouri Conservationist: Nov 2012

By Jim Low

Turkey Production Up

This year’s wild turkey brood survey yielded good news for the second year in a row. Observers reported an average of 1.7 poults per hen statewide. That is identical to last year’s figure and up 42 percent from the average over the past five years.

This year’s production exceeded the five year average in all nine turkey-production regions. The eastern Ozarks had the highest number, 2.5 poults per hen. The Mississippi Lowlands in southeastern Missouri was not far behind with 2.2 poults per hen. Poult-to-hen ratios ranged from 1.5 to 1.7 throughout the rest of the state.

The 2011 and 2012 brood survey numbers are dramatic improvements from 2007 through 2010, when the ratio ranged from 1.0 to 1.2 poults per hen. The difference is due in part to weather. Record rainfall cut into turkey production prior to last year. Warmer spring weather and drier conditions enabled Missouri’s wild turkey flock to make significant gains. Hunters can expect to hear more gobbling next spring, as birds hatched in 2011 mature.

Family Events at Nature Centers

MDC has events around the state for the whole family to enjoy. Here are just a few examples of what we have to offer in November:

  • St. Louis Area, Dutch Oven Thanksgiving at Rockwoods Reservation, Nov. 15, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., families ages 10 and up. Reservations begin Nov. 1; please call 636-458-2236.
  • Kirksville, Birding Basics at Northeast Regional Office, Nov. 17, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Open to all ages, reservations are not required.
  • Joplin Area, Backyard Birds and Winter Bird Feeding at Walter Woods Conservation Area, Nov. 9, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Registration is required for this program, to register call 417-629-3423.
  • Cape Girardeau, Campfire Fun at Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, Nov. 8, 5 to 8 p.m. No registration required.

To find more events in your area, visit mdc.

Drought-Stressed Trees

Many trees turned brown last summer. Some dropped their leaves early and looked dead. Here are some tips for deciding if a tree really is dead and how to help survivors.

Select a twig about the size of a pencil and bend it gently. If it is brittle and snaps, it might mean that at least parts of the tree have died. If it bends without breaking, the tree probably is still alive. Another test to try is to scrape bark away from a small twig using your fingernail. If the tissue under the bark is moist and green, your tree probably is alive. You also can break open buds at the ends of twigs by rubbing them between your fingers. If they are moist and green the tree may still be alive.

The only way to be sure if a tree will survive is to wait until spring and see if it leafs out. In the meantime, here are things you can do to improve landscape trees’ chances of survival.

Slowly soak the ground under each tree’s canopy once or twice a week during dry spells. Newly planted trees are more susceptible to drought, so give them extra care by applying mulch 3 inches deep and at least 3 feet wide around the trunk. Leave a 3-inch circle of bare soil around the trunk to protect against insects or fungus.

Cracks in the soil indicate severe soil drying and add to drought stress for trees by allowing air to reach roots and subsoil and dry them out. Mulching or filling soil cracks with additional soil can help. However, simply pushing in the sides of cracked areas can damage surface roots and expose a new layer of soil to sun and wind, creating dryer soil.

For more information on tree care, visit mdc. or contact your regional MDC office.

2013 Natural Events Calendar

You don’t have to buy the 2013 Natural Events Calendar, but if you don’t you will miss seeing the cover photo of a gray fox pup in a Columbia subdivision. You also won’t see:

  • A turtle’s-eye view of a May apple blossom
  • The Milky Way galaxy rising out of a squadron of fireflies
  • A whitetail doe with triplet spotted fawns
  • Dawn light filtering through 800-year-old bald cypress trees
  • Water rushing ghost-like among red granite rocks
  • A monarch butterfly bursting from an incandescent sunflower
  • White pelicans in flight
  • An intimate portrait of a pair of river otters
  • A nuthatch seemingly defying gravity

If you want a copy of the 2013 Natural Events Calendar, buy it now. The 2012 calendar, which won national honors, sold out before Christmas.

The calendar has daily notes about natural events from owl nesting to meteor showers. You can have all this for a mere $7 by calling 877-521- 8632, or visiting Or save shipping and handling charges by buying your copy at a conservation nature center or one of the regional offices listed on Page 3. Conservation Heritage Card holders get a 15-percent discount.

Hunters’ Help Needed

Hunters can help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) by participating in sampling efforts in the CWD Containment Zone. MDC is working with taxidermy shops and deer processors to collect tissue samples from adult deer harvested during the fall archery and firearms deer seasons. The cooperative effort is aimed at monitoring the prevalence and distribution of CWD in free-ranging deer.

Hunters who harvest deer in Adair, Chariton, Linn, Macon, Randolph and Sullivan counties are encouraged to take their harvested deer to one of the cooperating businesses. Removing a tissue sample is free and voluntary, takes only a few minutes and will not reduce the food. Test results for participating hunters will be posted on the MDC website beginning in December.

Participating taxidermists and deer processors are listed on pages 4 and 5 of the 2012 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet.

MDC will also collect additional samples from across north Missouri as part of statewide CWD surveillance effort that began in 2002. With the help of hunters, MDC has tested more than 35,000 free-ranging deer for CWD from all parts of the state.

In another effort to slow the spread of CWD, the Missouri Conservation Commission has rescinded the four-point rule in the CWD Containment Zone. Yearling and adult male deer develop CWD at higher rates than female deer. They also are more likely to spread the disease because they travel long distances beyond their birth areas to establish their own territories and find mates. The four-point rule protects yearling bucks, so rescinding it will help reduce numbers of these high-risk deer.

The Conservation Commission also approved a regulation change that restricts activities that are likely to unnaturally concentrate white-tailed deer and promote the spread of CWD. The regulation bans the placement of grain, salt products, minerals and other consumable natural or manufactured products in the CWD Containment Zone. The regulation includes exceptions for backyard feeding of wildlife and normal agricultural, forest management, crop and wildlife food production practices.

Hunters who harvest deer, elk or moose out of state and bring the animal into Missouri with spinal column or head attached must report the animal’s entry to MDC within 24 hours by calling toll free 877-853-5665. The carcass must be taken to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of entry.

Hunters who encounter or harvest deer in poor condition with no obvious injuries should contact their local conservation agent or MDC office.

Local MDC contacts can be found online at

Hemorrhagic Diseases Take a Toll on Deer

Hunters in some parts of Missouri will notice decreased deer numbers as an indirect result of this year’s drought. Drought brings deer into close contact around limited water sources. This increases their chances of contracting epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and blue tongue.

These hemorrhagic-type diseases are not always fatal to deer, but some outbreaks have been estimated to reduce local deer populations by as much as 20 percent. Outbreaks tend to be local, rather than widespread. Consequently, deer numbers can be noticeably reduced in one area and unaffected just a few miles away. The first killing frost of autumn kills the biting insects that spread EHD, stopping the disease.

Symptoms of both diseases are similar— swollen neck, tongue or eyelids, excessive salivation, deformed hooves and emaciation. Excessive thirst is another symptom, so deer that die of hemorrhagic diseases often are found near water.

Blue tongue and EHD do not affect humans. They are unrelated to chronic wasting disease, which has only been found in Linn and Macon counties. Hunters should not consume deer that clearly are ill and report sick deer to a conservation agent or the nearest MDC office.

Sight in Deer Rifles

If you haven’t checked the sights on your deer rifle, now is the time, and MDC shooting ranges are the places. Target shooting on conservation areas is permitted only on approved shooting ranges. To provide citizens with safe and convenient places to shoot, MDC offers more than 70 unstaffed shooting ranges throughout quail hunting : noppadol paothong the state. MDC also manages five staffed shooting ranges with a variety of shooting opportunities and outdoor programs. Some MDC shooting ranges are accessible to hunters with mobility impairments. Many have multiple shooting stations with covered shooting benches, target holders and pit privies. To find one near you, visit

Feral Hogs Unwelcome

Feral hogs damage crops, prey on ground-nesting wildlife, destroy habitat, cause soil erosion and water pollution and pose health risks to people and livestock. MDC is working to prevent these problems from becoming widespread by eradicating feral hogs from conservation areas (CAs). You can help with this important effort.

Feral hogs are not considered wildlife. They can be shot on sight, but some restrictions do apply during the fall deer and turkey hunting seasons, please see deer and turkey regulations for a full list of restrictions. However, actually setting out to hunt feral hogs is not helpful. MDC and other agencies spend weeks or months pinpointing the location of feral hog populations and getting the wary animals accustomed to visiting bait sites where they can be trapped or shot. Encounters with hog hunters can thwart these preparations by disrupting hogs’ behavior patterns.

There are better ways to help. For starters, if you see a feral hog, contact an MDC office or conservation agent. Most feral hogs get into Missouri through deliberate, illegal releases by people who want to hunt them or make money by guiding hog hunters. Reporting such activity is a huge step in solving Missouri’s feral-hog problem. You can call the toll-free Operation Game Thief hotline, 800-392-1111, day or night and report illegal hog releases anonymously. You can even qualify for cash rewards for reports that lead to convictions.

Missouri’s window of opportunity to control feral hogs is still open, but efforts cannot succeed without citizen involvement. Don’t tolerate the establishment of this destructive and dangerous pest in your area.

Did You Know?

Conservation pays by enriching our economy and quality of life.

Hunting Supports Missouri
  • 600,000 hunters call Missouri home.
  • More than $1.4 billion is contributed to Missouri’s economy by hunting.
  • More than 24,000 jobs are supported in Missouri through hunting.
  • More than $96 million in state and local sales tax per year are generated by hunting.
  • Missouri leads the nation in recruiting new hunters, with 1.16 hunters replaced for every one lost. This success is largely due to citizen interest in conservation, youth-only seasons, low-cost permits, and Department-sponsored hunting and education programs.
  • More than 2 million tons of venison have been donated by hunters since 1992 through the Share the Harvest Program. Almost 6,000 hunters participate in the program each year.
  • More than 500,000 deer hunters spend more than $750 million each year directly related to deer hunting in Missouri, which generates more than $1 billion in overall business activity in Missouri annually and supports more than 11,000 jobs.
  • Low permit cost is one more reason Missouri is a great place to hunt. Missouri’s $17 Resident Any-Deer Permit is a fantastic bargain compared to the average of $46.63 for equivalent privileges in surrounding states.

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