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From Missouri Conservationist: Jun 2015

By Heather Feeler

Department Confirms Lake Sturgeon Now Reproducing in Mississippi River

Three decades of lake sturgeon restoration efforts by the Missouri Department of Conservation came to fruition recently when Department Fisheries staff confirmed that the nearly extinct fish are once again naturally reproducing in the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

This ancient species, which has been around for more than 150 million years and has outlived the dinosaurs, was nearly brought to extinction within the past 50 years. They were once common in our big rivers, but overharvest and river habitat degradation caused their decline by the 1970s.These river giants can reach lengths of 8 feet, weigh as much as 300 pounds, and live for more than 100 years. The fish reach reproductive maturity in 25–30 years, but have a slow rate of reproduction, making them even more vulnerable to population declines.

Decades ago, Department Fisheries biologists took action to prevent lake sturgeon from disappearing in Missouri rivers. In 1974, the Department listed the species as a state endangered fish and banned their harvest. In 1984, staff began to raise them in Department hatcheries and release fingerlings into Missouri rivers.

For more than three decades, Fisheries staff have looked for signs that the fish were on their way back through natural breeding in these rivers. They got a sign in mid-April in the form of a video shot by Sam Hardy of St. Peters. While snagging for paddlefish near West Alton on the Mississippi River, Hardy saw what he thought were lake sturgeon spawning. He and Kristin Biagioli, also of St. Peters, captured smartphone video of the behavior.

“I was excited because I’m an avid angler and outdoorsman and just to see something like that,” recalled Hardy, who had never seen a lake sturgeon in the wild. “I was just like a little kid. It blew my mind.”

Fisheries staff confirmed from the video that the fish were lake sturgeon and the behavior was consistent with spawning activity. They also examined the site where Hardy shot his video and discovered fertilized eggs. Fisheries staff collected 200 eggs to hatch in a lab and confirmed the species as lake sturgeon. They then returned to the site near West Alton and observed recently hatched sturgeon in the river. This final piece of evidence confirmed lake sturgeon were once again reproducing naturally in the Mississippi River.

“Lake sturgeon typically spawn from April to May,” explained Fisheries Management Biologist Travis Moore, who leads the Department’s Lake Sturgeon Recovery Team. “As spawning begins, several males join a single female near a rocky shoreline and begin thrashing in the water. This activity mixes the eggs from the female and milt from the males, and the fertilized eggs then stick to rocks until they hatch within about a week.”

Fisheries biologists began noticing other signs in mid-April suggestive of spring spawning. A small number of fish previously implanted with ultrasonic transmitters were tracked moving to locations favorable for spawning. One lake sturgeon was also captured on video in Dardenne Creek, a tributary to the Mississippi River in St. Charles County. Biologists interpreted this movement as a search for spawning opportunity. Another angler-submitted video during this time also showed lake sturgeon spawning.

“We’ve been stocking lake sturgeon for 30 years, and our highest priority was to establish a self-sustaining population,” said Department River Systems Ecologist Quinton Phelps. “This confirmation is at least the beginning of a self sustaining population.”

Phelps added that he and other Fisheries experts view sturgeon reproduction in the wild as a landmark event, likening it to the historic success of bringing back deer and turkey to Missouri. “In the fish world, this is big, big news,” he said.

To learn more about lake sturgeon, go online to or

Field Day Focuses on Enhancing Habitats for Bobwhite Quail

Bobwhite quail numbers are declining in the Midwest, but landowners can play a critical part in improving habitat to help increase populations. The Missouri Department of Conservation, University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, MU Extension, Missouri Soybean Association, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are sponsoring a free field day event on June 27 from 8 a.m.–noon at the Bradford Research Center, east of Columbia. The event will showcase best management practices and techniques that landowners and farmers can use to improve quail habitat and increase populations on their property.

“The goal of the field day is to demonstrate practices that integrate wildlife diversity on a property,” said Department Private Land Services Division Chief Bill White. “Quail habitat can easily be integrated with ongoing agricultural or forestry objectives whether it’s a crop or livestock producer, forest land, or property used for recreation activities. Some of the best experts in quail and quail habitat will be there to present.”

Bobwhite quail are small game birds weighing only 5 to 6 ounces that can fly short distances. Bobwhite populations have suffered since the 1950s from extreme weather events and habitat loss. Bobwhites are an important part of the food chain, eating insects harmful to agriculture. Its predators include hawks, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes. A healthy bobwhite population in an area is an indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

The field day will include four tours of field operations reflecting best management techniques.

Tours will include information on prescribed burning, managing field edges for wildlife, crop field management for pollinators and wildlife, and conservation habitat management techniques. A classroom session on Quail 101 will include experts discussing basic habitat to promote quail, followed by a question-and-answer period for participants.

The event will be followed by a demonstration on how to prepare Asian carp, an invasive fish species that is displacing native fish in the Mississippi and Missouri river basins. Lunch will be available at no cost for those who complete a program evaluation.

The event is free and requires no registration. For more information on bobwhite quail management, go online to

Milkweed for Monarchs: Get Planting!

The distinctive orange and black wings of the monarch butterfly have been a summer staple in Missouri for many generations. The annual migration of North America’s monarch butterfly is an amazing journey across the United States, including Missouri, and then down south to overwinter in Mexico. In fact, some monarchs fly as far as 3,000 miles to reach their winter home, with thousands clustering together to stay warm along the way.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve spotted a monarch in large groups or just one, there is a good reason. The migratory population of the monarch butterfly has recently declined to dangerously low levels. Since the monarch travels long distances, several factors are contributing to the decline. These include habitat loss in their overwintering territory in Mexico, as well as the rise of herbicide-resistant crops in the Midwest that has improved the ability of farmers to eradicate weeds, including milkweeds that are a critical food source for monarchs. Monarch larvae feed on a variety of milkweeds, which contain cardiac glycosides. These chemicals are stored in the monarch’s body and render it unpalatable and toxic to many predators. The bright color patterns of both larvae and adults cleverly advertise their toxicity to would-be predators. To conserve the monarch, we must allow milkweeds to grow.

The Department actively manages approximately 28,000 acres of grassland and 21,000 acres of glade, savanna, and woodland natural communities with a rich diversity of native plants, including milkweeds and nectar plants, such as New England aster, that are important to monarchs. While every acre helps, there are millions of acres of Missouri land where milkweed planting could have a big impact on the monarch population. Even relatively small milkweed plantings, such as in gardens or landscapes, can provide sufficient habitat for monarch caterpillars. In 2014, the Department partnered with the Missouri Prairie Foundation to distribute more than 4,000 milkweed and other nectar plants free of charge to citizens across the state. The response was overwhelming, and the program will be repeated again in late summer.

You can help the monarchs by planting more milkweed and other nectar plants in your outdoor space, whether big or small. Go to GrowNative! at to learn more about milkweed varieties, including butterfly milkweed, common milkweed, marsh/swamp milkweed, and other native plants. For more on the monarch butterfly, visit our field guide at

Stay in Touch With Conservation

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Ed Glaser Inducted Into Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame

The Missouri Department of Conservation recently honored the late Edwin ”Ed” Glaser as the 41st member of the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame with an induction ceremony at Conservation Headquarters in Jefferson City on April 17. Glaser died in 2002. Glaser’s wife, June, accepted the honor on his behalf.

The Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame honors deceased citizen conservationists and former employees of the Department and other conservation-related government agencies who have made substantial and lasting contributions to the fish, forests, or wildlife conservation efforts of the state.

Glaser’s 42-year career with the Department began in 1950 as a forestry technician followed by a promotion to supervise fire-control operations in 1956 and later state forests and nurseries. His career continued to advance as he was assigned to begin developing the Department’s first statewide outdoor recreation plan in 1964. His accomplishments and abilities led to his appointment to the Department’s new Planning Division where he wrote many policy position papers, worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on river management issues, and served as the Department’s Environmental Services Officer.

In 1984, Glaser was promoted to assistantdirector followed by an appointment to deputy director in 1988. Following his retirement in 1992, Department leadership frequently called upon him for advice and his historical perspective on key topics and issues. He also represented the Department as liaison to Missouri’s Congressional Delegation and General Assembly.

In addition to his work with the Department, Glaser has been recognized by the Missouri House of Representatives for his active role in a wide variety of community groups. Glaser was a member of several conservation-related organizations and held leadership roles with the Missouri Reclamation Commission and the Karkhagne Club. He served on the Lewis and Clark Trail Commission, the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee, the Gasconade Wild and Scenic Rivers Study Team, the Governor’s Wild Rivers Advisory Committee, and the Missouri Parks and Recreation Committee.

“The foundation of conservation in Missouri is the coupling of citizen leadership with the guidance of conservation professionals,” said Department Director Bob Ziehmer at the induction ceremony. “Ed Glaser was a dedicated conservationist whose lifelong commitment was driven by an intense passion for the resource and a desire to share that with the citizens of our state and country.”

Conservation Commission Actions

The April Commission meeting featured presentations and discussions regarding FY16 expenditure plan proposals, wetland planning initiative, waterfowl regulations schedule update, grazing for conservation, activities associated with chronic wasting disease efforts, recent deer open house meetings, deer management, and connecting urban residents to forest, fish, and wildlife resources. A summary of actions taken during the April 15–17 meeting for the benefit and protection of forests, fish, and wildlife, and the citizens who enjoy them includes:

  • Approved amendments to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that clarify special restrictions for the use of single projectile firearms on Lake Girardeau Conservation Area (CA).
  • Approved the sale of 1,146,073 board feet of timber located on 393 acres of Compartment 1 of Indian Trail CA in Dent County.
  • Approved the purchase of approximately 89 acres in Howell County as an addition to White Ranch CA.
  • Approved the conveyance of 0.88 acre of Fiddlers Ford Access in Dade County to Dade County for a bridge replacement project and to grant Dade County a temporary construction easement on an additional 0.6 acre until the project is complete.
  • Approved the conveyance of 1.77 acres of Platte Falls CA in Platte County to the Platte City Special Road District for improvements to Interurban Road and to grant the Platte City Special Road District a drainage easement and temporary construction easement on an additional 0.49 acre and 0.4 acre, respectively, of Platte Falls CA. The next Conservation Commission meeting is July 9 and 10. For more information, visit or call your regional Conservation office.


Giant Ichnuemon | Megarhyssa atrata

The giant ichneumon (ick-NEW-mon) is a rare find in Missouri. Including its long, thin “tail,” the ichneumon is more than 6 inches long. Although it looks dangerous, the ichneumon is harmful only to the larvae of other wasps, which ichneumon larvae eat. The giant ichneumon can be found in large tracts of old, deciduous forests throughout the eastern United States. Missouri, with few old forests, is at the western limit of its range. Ichneumon larvae feed upon larvae of the pigeon horntail, another kind of wasp that lays its eggs in dead wood. Giant ichneumons appear May through July. The female locates pigeon horntail larvae in dead wood, then weaves her long egg tube into the nest, depositing an egg. When the egg hatches, the larva feeds on the pigeon horntail larvae.

—photograph by Noppadol Paothong


We help you discover nature through fishing.

Bow fishing is Hunting for Fish With a Bow and Arrow

  • Bow fishing is a legal method of pursuing nongame fish with a bow and arrow. Nongame fish include bluegill, green sunfish, carp, carp-suckers, suckers, buffalo, drum, gar, and all other species not defined as game fish or listed as endangered in the Wildlife Code of Missouri.
  • Bow fishing offers an exciting way to pursue the kinds of fish most people typically don’t care to fish for with a pole and line.
  • Although you’re actually hunting for fish, you’ll need a fishing license to bow fish in Missouri. Valid permits include any of the following: Daily Fishing Permit, Fishing Permit, Hunting and Fishing Permit, Lifetime Fishing Permit, and Lifetime Conservation Partner Permit.
  • You can take all the invasive species you want with a bow and arrow. These include silver, bighead, grass, and common carp, as well as goldfish. Controlling invasive species with methods like bow fishing helps protect native fish species in Missouri waterways.
  • For more information on bow-fishing seasons, limits, and areas, visit
  • To learn more about bow fishing (including how to bow fish), what the Department is doing to manage nongame fish species, and the best places to go bow fishing, visit our Bow Fishing Prospects Web page at

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler