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From Missouri Conservationist: Nov 2015

What Is It?

What Is It 01 11-2015

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


Q. We have a pelican living in our cove with an injured wing. He hasn't been seen flying, so we don't think he can. Can he make it through the winter living here?

A. It's hard to say. Although American white pelicans are most abundant in Missouri during the spring and fall migration periods, they are now present here year-round. Additionally, it’s possible the pelican isn’t injured. He may just be a young bird with many feathers molting. A bird’s new feathers have blood flowing in them until they are fully mature, and the blood makes the wings heavy, causing them to droop and the bird to appear injured.

Q. I often see young snakes on my property. How concerned should I be?

A. From late August to early October, young snakes are moving around, looking for hiding places, food, or spots to hole up for the winter. Newly hatched prairie kingsnakes, watersnakes, and black ratsnakes are among the most commonly found, and none is venomous. These snakes often resemble one another with gray, tan, and cream colors and dark cross-bands along the length of their bodies.

Most snakes found around homes are not only harmless, they’re beneficial. Many eat mice. Kingsnakes eat other snakes. However, these young snakes are often misidentified as copperheads and needlessly killed. By learning to identify common snakes and their young, Missourians can help protect these valuable animals.

For more information, visit on.mo.gov/1LtWx5O.

What is this?

This globe-shaped capsule — pink in color, with a warty surface — is the fruit of Euonymus americanus, commonly called “strawberry bush” or “bursting heart.”

This species is rare and considered imperiled in Missouri due to loss of habitat. It grows natively only in the swamps, bottomlands, and damp upland forests of southeastern Missouri, considered the northern edge of its range. It prefers low, sandy woods along moist stream banks.

The Department tracks occurrences of this rare shrub. Please report sightings to Malissa Briggler at Malissa.Briggler@mdc.mo.gov. Its close cousin — the native wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) — is common in the Show-Me State and does not have warts on the fruit capsule.

Both strawberry bush and wahoo make attractive alternatives to exotic burning bush, a popular but invasive species. The fruit of the strawberry bush is eaten by a number of species of birds, including wild turkeys. The leaves and stems are eaten by white-tailed deer and cottontail rabbits.

This species likely derives its name from the pink hue of its seed capsule and the orange-red coating of its fruit because it’s not a genetic relative of the common, edible strawberry.

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

Cartoon 11-2015

Agent Notes

Conservation Agent: It’s Not Just a Career, It’s a Calling

Conservation Agents are the Department’s local representatives in every Missouri County. The variety of duties and responsibilities conservation agents perform in their assigned counties demand a high level of interpersonal skills and a passion for conservation.

Conservation agents are licensed peace officers of the State of Missouri, charged with enforcing the rules of the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Patrols, stakeouts, and undercover work are a routine part of the job for conservation agents. Risks involved in this line of work include apprehending violators who are almost always armed, especially during hunting seasons.

Serving the citizens of Missouri as a conservation agent includes much more than resource law enforcement. Conservation agents are actively involved in their assigned communities and respond to their constituents through intense public relations and educational programs. A conservation agent’s success is measured by their performance in a wide array of duties, including contacting resource users, working with landowners, holding public meetings, building relationships with the local news media, providing information at fairs and exhibits, and providing programs for schools, clubs, and organizations. The workload and responsibilities are determined by the needs of the agent’s assigned county.

To learn more about a career as a conservation agent, visit on.mo.gov/1PgybOb.

Travis McLain is a programs specialist at Department Headquarters. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

What Is It?

White-Tailed Doe

Odocoileus virginianus
Deer are browsing animals, eating the leaves, twigs, and fruits of trees and shrubs, and the foliage of herbaceous plants. They also eatWhat Is It 02 11-2015 seeds, fungi, mosses, lichens, succulent grasses, farm crops, and sometimes small amounts of animal food like snails and fish. The peak of the mating (rutting) season is November. Most young are born in late May or early June. A doe usually has twins, each weighing 4–7 pounds at birth. Fawns are reddish, brown, or reddish-yellow spotted with white. They lose their spots and acquire uniform coloration between 3 and 5 months of age. The young accompany the female until they are old enough to breed. About half of the young females in Missouri breed in the year of their birth. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong

This Issue's Staff

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