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From Missouri Conservationist: Jun 2014

What Is It?

Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of the Missouri outdoors. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.

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Ask the Ombudsman

Q. My kids and the neighbor’s kids found this huge caterpillar-looking thing in our neighborhood. It is about 2 to 2 1/4 inches long, with a head diameter of 1/2 inch. Can you please identify it?

A. The caterpillar in your photo is an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. The adult is one of our common, large, swallowtail butterflies with mostly yellow wings but with black margins and black barring. The caterpillars are usually green until just prior to pupation when they turn brown, as in your specimen. In their earlier stages of development, the caterpillars have a different appearance that resembles a bird dropping. At the stage shown in your photo, the eyespots, which are not eyes at all, may fool some predators into thinking it is a snake or something other than a delicious treat for a bird to eat.

Q. I like to watch and take photographs of birds. Several times I have noticed birds that will spread their wings over the ground and stay in that position for several minutes. What are they doing?

A. You probably observed birds that were anting, dusting, or sunning, depending on what they were actually doing. Anting: Many species of birds will spread their wings over ants or other insects that produce chemicals with insecticidal qualities. They will also pick up ants with their beaks and rub them through their feathers. The chemicals, such as formic acid, make their feathers less attractive to parasites that can infest bird feathers. They may also be getting the ants to expel their chemicals so that they can eat the ants and avoid eating the strong chemicals, or using the chemicals to soothe areas of skin that are irritated from molting. Dusting: Dust is used to clean feathers in dry periods. Sunning: Birds will use sunlight to heat their bodies, or they will open up their feathers to release heat during hot temperatures. By closely observing the birds, you might be able to determine what they are doing.

Q. On my game camera I have several photographs of deer with prominent clusters of bumps on the backs of their heads, behind the ears. Can you tell me what those are and if they are harmful to the deer?

A. Although it is difficult to rule out other causes, it is common for deer to have ticks behind their ears at this time of the year. Ticks can swell to many times their normal size after they attach to a host. The ticks accumulate in the areas that the deer cannot reach when grooming. With the advent and popularity of game cameras, more people are observing deer in that condition. Fortunately, most ticks do little harm to the health of the animals as they only feed for a short time (generally less than a week) before falling off. We have not received any reports or diagnosed any anemias in wildlife due to heavy tick burdens. They do look awful, but the animals themselves generally do not seem to notice them. The ticks should be gone with the arrival of colder temperatures in the fall.

Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions, or complaints concerning the Conservation Department.

  • Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180
  • Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848
  • Email: Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov

cartoon 06-2014

Agent Notes

Perfect Float Streams

When most people think of floating a river in Missouri, their mind takes them to a clear, rocky-bottomed Ozark stream. However, any river or stream in Missouri that is large enough to float a canoe or boat is the perfect stream to float. Those of us in north Missouri, who don’t have clear-water streams, can have just as much fun floating and fishing in a sandy or muddy river.

I’ve talked to several people in north Missouri who have driven for hours to float an Ozark stream, but they have never floated the river in their own backyard. Although the fish species and fishing methods are different from an Ozark stream, there’s nothing better than wading to the next log to cast a line for channel catfish.

Before heading out on your float, there are a few things to keep in mind. Always know the fishing regulations for the river or stream you are fishing. Respect the landowners along the streams and rivers you are floating. Respect the river or stream by bringing a trash bag with you, not only for your trash, but other trash you might find along the way. And finally, respect the other users on the river or stream.

There are many public access points to most of Missouri’s rivers and streams. These accesses, as well as all of Missouri’s Conservation Areas, can be found on our website at mdc.mo.gov.

Jeff Berti is the conservation agent in Grundy County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

What Is It?

Nine-Banded Armadillo

Dasypus novemcinctus

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Armadillos do not have furry skin; instead, they have hair only between hardened plates of skin that nearly encompass the body. There are two large plates with a series of nine smaller moveable “girdles” or “bands” around the midsection. Breeding occurs in the summer followed by a delay of 2–3 months during which the embryo divides into four cells before each one becomes implanted in the uterus. This results in identical quadruplets. Newborn young have no shell, but their eyes are open and they can move about.

Because they dig burrows in the ground, armadillos select wooded bottomlands, brushy areas, and fields with ground cover and loose soil. Their sight and hearing are poor, and they have the unusual habit of jumping upright when frightened, which explains why so many are hit by automobiles. They can run fast when pursued, and when cornered they often curl into a ball, protected by their shell. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong


This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - vacant
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Brett Dufur
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler