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From Missouri Conservationist: Sep 2014

What Is It?

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

Ask the Ombudsman

Q. I was walking in my yard and found a hole with lots of what looked like wasp nests around it, and small pieces of the paper nest were inside the hole. Can you tell me what occurred there?

A. Your photo is of a yellow jacket nest that has been dug up by a mammal, probably a skunk or a raccoon. Black bears will also dig up the nests, as will armadillos and badgers. The underground nests are often raided at night by mammals seeking the wasp larvae to eat. Yellow jackets are small, black and yellow wasps that can inflict a painful sting and are a particular threat to persons allergic to their stings or persons who are stung multiple times. They establish colonies in the ground in abandoned animal burrows or will sometimes nest above ground in enclosed spaces. The colonies don’t normally survive the winter in Missouri, but the fertilized queens overwinter in protected areas outside of the nest to start new colonies in the spring.

Q. What are Missouri’s regulations on the use of “pop-up” type blinds for deer and turkey hunting?

A. The regulations in the Wildlife Code of Missouri pertain only to portable blinds used on conservation areas and areas managed by the Conservation Department, not to blinds used on private land. Unlike tree stands, portable blinds must be disassembled and removed daily. Placement of a blind on public land does not entitle a hunter to exclusive rights to hunt in the area where it is erected. Hunting from a camouflaged blind can make it difficult for other hunters to be aware of your presence. Although not required, as a safety measure we recommend using hunter-orange on or above the blind to make it more visible to other hunters in the area.

Q. While dove hunting in the Missouri River bottom last year, I observed dozens of hawks circling and sailing down the line of bluffs at the edge of the floodplain. Why were so many hawks congregated that way, and where were they going?

A. September is a prime time for fall bird migration in Missouri and major rivers are often used as migration routes. Species such as broad-winged hawks, which overwinter in Central and South America, pass through Missouri on their way south. After spending the night in forested areas nearby, they resume the migration each day between 8 and 10 in the morning, when the sun has warmed the earth enough to create rising updrafts of air. To conserve energy for the long flight, they circle in the updrafts (thermals) that often occur along bluff lines and cliffs. After spiraling upward on the rising air, they will make a long glide in the direction of the migration until they lose enough altitude to need another thermal lift upward. Flights of several hundred to a thousand broad-winged hawks have been observed during the peak of fall migration in late September. Swainson’s hawks will also migrate through western parts of Missouri in large numbers. They will concentrate in front of grassland or cropland fires to forage for rodents, snakes, and insects that flee from the fire.

Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions, or complaints concerning the Conservation Department or conservation topics. Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180 Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848 Email: Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov

cartoon 09-2014

Agent Notes

Fall Mushroom Hunting

Even though morels are still months away, there are tremendous wild mushroom hunting opportunities available now. Missouri is home to many kinds of edible mushrooms that grow in the fall, and some of us would argue they are even tastier than morels!

You will likely encounter fall mushrooms while walking, cutting firewood, scouting for deer, or floating down an autumn stream. They can be found in the places you’d least expect, so be alert. Hen of the woods, chicken of the woods, and oysters are among the most common and tasty fall mushrooms. Like many folks, I passed these by for years because I didn’t know how to identify them.

It’s important to properly identify any mushroom you plan to eat because some edible mushrooms may look similar to those that can make you sick. The Department publishes Missouri’s Wild Mushrooms, an easy-to-use book that will help you find, identify, and cook some of our best wild fungi. This book can be purchased at our regional offices, Nature Centers, or online at mdcnatureshop.com. Mushrooms collected on private property may be sold, but those on conservation areas may be taken only for personal consumption. Fall mushroom hunting is a lot of fun, and yet another activity that makes autumn enjoyable for us all.

Adam Doerhoff is the conservation agent for Boone County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

What Is It?

Snapping Turtle Hatchling

Chelydra serpentina

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Snapping turtles are large aquatic turtles with big, pointed heads, long, thick tails, and small lower shells. Upper shell length is usually 8–14 inches, and they can weigh between 10–35 pounds. They commonly occur in farm ponds, marshes, swamps, sloughs, rivers, and reservoirs — anywhere there is permanent water. They prefer bodies of water with a mud bottom, abundant aquatic vegetation, and submerged logs. June is the usual month for egg-laying. The female digs a nest in deep sand or loose soil and deposits usually 20–30 eggs. These hatch 55–125 days later, depending on environmental conditions. Snapping turtles help to keep the populations of many aquatic animals (and aquatic plants) in check. Their diet includes insects, crayfish, fish, snails, earthworms, amphibians, snakes, small mammals, and birds. However, up to a third of the diet may consist of aquatic vegetation. Carrion may also be consumed. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Managing Editor - vacant
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