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From Missouri Conservationist: Jan 2015

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.

what is it 01-2015

Ask the Ombudsman

Q. As a new landowner, I am curious about prescribed burns. How would this help my property?

People are sometimes fearful of fire, especially when it comes to their property. However, the careful use of prescribed fire, or using fire to meet desired land management objectives, can actually improve your land’s health and increase your property value. Fire rejuvenates open areas to create lush and healthy grasslands, improves habitat for many wildlife species, and even boosts pasture productivity. It’s also a cheaper way to manage vegetation than mowing. Safety is paramount with prescribed burning, which is why the Department hosts free prescribed-burn workshops starting in early spring around the state. For a listing of those workshops, visit mdc.mo.gov/events or contact your regional office to learn more.

Q. I love to watch wildlife in my backyard! What can I do to help wildlife over the winter?

By providing sources of food, water, and cover, you can turn your yard into a lively place full of fun-to-watch Missouri wildlife, even in the winter. In the winter months, provide high-fat suet and sunflower seeds for songbirds. High-fat food sources help the birds to build up their energy sources. You can also provide warm water on a daily basis to save animals from using their energy to search for unfrozen water sources, but be sure to replenish the water daily. Fallen trees or larger limbs in your yard make a great place for wildlife to shelter from the wind and elements. Visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3319 for more details.

Q. If my kids and I are on a hike, can we keep any antlers we find on the ground?

Winter hiking can become an adventure for the whole family when searching for shed antlers. White-tailed bucks lose their antlers from early January to early spring (which is why they are called “shed antlers”), but they can be challenging to find after weather fades them. No permit is needed to find or possess shed antlers as long as they are not attached to a skull plate. If you do find antlers attached to a skull plate while afield, and you take those antlers into possession, you must report the taking to a conservation agent within 24 hours to receive possession authorization. Department conservation areas are a great place to hike and look for shed antlers, but be sure to ask permission prior to searching for antlers on private property. To find conservation areas near you, visit mdc.mo.gov/atlas.

Note to readers: The ombudsman position is currently vacant, but please continue to send us your questions, suggestions, or complaints concerning the Conservation Department or conservation topics.

Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180

Phone:573-522-4115, ext. 3848


cartoon 01-2015

Agent Notes

The Cure for Cabin Fever

If you’re like many people who get the winter blues every January, go outside! Studies have shown that increased exposure to sun and fresh air in the winter can improve your mood and your health. Missouri winters are a great time to get children outdoors because there are so many things to do.

If it is an exceptionally cold winter, give ice fishing a try. The best and safest way to get started is to go with an experienced ice angler. If there is no ice, you can still wet a line in a public trout pond stocked annually by the Department. There are also many trout streams that offer excellent winter trout-fishing opportunities. January is a prime time to hunt and trap. Small game species and furbearers are still active this time of year and provide an exciting reason to get out into the chilly air. Even a nature walk can give you the recommended dose of outdoor activity. Birds are active during the day, especially around feeders and open water (be on the lookout for bald eagles!). If there is snow on the ground, look for animal tracks. Find out where they go, and you may discover their maker. Get outside and see what winter has to offer.

Tyler Green is the conservation agent for Knox County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

What Is It?

Rainbow Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss

what is it 01-2015Above are rainbow trout hatchlings spawned at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery in Branson. Rainbow trout require waters that are constantly below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so they are limited to Ozark spring branches, spring-fed streams, and Lake Taneycomo, where cold water flows from the lower levels of Table Rock Reservoir. Although small, self-sustaining populations have been established in some streams, most populations are maintained by continuous stocking. Trout raised in the hatchery grow faster than those in the wild, reaching 10 inches their first year. Hatchery brood stock spawn in October and November, whereas wild trout in Ozark springs spawn in late December through early February. In nature, the female digs a shallow pit on clean, gravelly riffles, fanning it hard with her tail. One or more males fertilize the eggs as they are shed. The female resumes digging upstream, covering the eggs by gravel carried by the current. No parental care is provided. Rainbow trout eat a variety of animal life, such as aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, snails, and small fishes. —photograph by David Stonner

This Issue's Staff

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