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From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2016

By Kristie Hilgedick

Meet a Migrator: The Brown Creeper

A secretive little bird known as the brown creeper (Certhia americana) abounds in Missouri’s woodlands and forests, especially during peak migration in April and October.

The small, aptly-named bird forages for insects by creeping up large trees in a spiral pattern, then suddenly falls in an awkward-looking flight to the base of a nearby tree and starts up again. The creeper’s brown-and-white back and wings make it almost invisible on tree trunks because it looks like a piece of shifting bark, blending into the browns and grays of the tree.

When thinking of migratory birds, it’s easy to imagine long-distance flights to tropical Central or South America and back.

But not for this little guy!

Creepers spend their summers in the coniferous and deciduous forests of eastern, northern, and western North America. In winter, they only shift their range south by a few states and also move into south-central and Midwest states. Each spring, brown creepers migrate to places with large patches of old forest that contain standing dead or dying trees with shaggy bark for nesting. They build a hammock-like nest under the loose bark. In Missouri, some mature forest tracts of shortleaf pine, bald cypress, and silver maples have suitable shaggy-bark nesting sites that will occasionally host a nesting creeper.

To find these little birds, visit a conservation area with woodlands or forests. To locate a conservation area near you, check out the Department’s online atlas at

Remember, brown creepers like large trees with lots of hidden places for snacking opportunities. In the right habitat, these birds are common. But they can be hard to spot, given their camouflage.

To find them, listen for their high-pitched “tseeee” calls. Try to locate the general direction of the sound, scan the tree trunks looking for movement, and be patient. Creepers are most easily seen when they flutter to the base of a new tree. Learn more at

Celebrating Migratory Birds

The year 2016 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty, signed by the United States and Great Britain, on behalf of Canada, in 1916.

After 100 years of market hunting and unregulated use of migratory birds for their meat, feathers, and eggs, many bird populations had plummeted by the early 20th century. The federal government took action to stop further losses by signing the Migratory Bird Treaty. It specifically prohibits the hunting, killing, capturing, possession, sale, transportation, and exportation of birds, eggs, feathers, and nests.

Hunting seasons were added later to help maintain healthy bird populations. The Migratory Bird Treaty — and three other similar treaties with Mexico, Russia, and Japan — is the cornerstone of migratory bird conservation across international borders.

The treaty not only protects populations of migratory birds like the brown creeper, but also enhances our lives by ensuring populations of diverse, beautiful birds are sustained for generations to come. The Department manages different natural communities across the state to provide stop-over foraging habitats for these birds along their annual migration routes. The brown creeper is an excellent example of international conservation cooperation since part of its range stretches from Canada down through central Mexico and as far south as northern Nicaragua. For more information on the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, visit MBTreaty100/.

Fish Species Found Along Missouri’s Border New to the State

Illinois biologists have captured several specimen of the banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), a species not previously known to be from Missouri. This species naturally occurs from North Dakota to Maine — its range barely extends into Canada — and south along the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. Killifish also are found in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Recently, the species became established near the Quad Cities and Keokuk.

In 2014, it was found in Mississippi River Navigation Pool 20 in Missouri. Last year, more were discovered near Canton and West Alton at Brickhouse Slough. The expansion is believed to be natural and may be related to recent Mississippi River floods.

Because banded killifish are established near Keokuk, scientists believe more Missouri occurrences will be documented and new populations could become established.

Biologists do not believe this species will cause ecological or economic harm to the Mississippi River.

Department Proposes Banning Hog Hunting on Conservation Areas

The Missouri Conservation Commission in January voiced initial approval for recommended changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that would prohibit taking feral hogs on lands owned, leased, or managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The next step in the rulemaking process includes a 30-day public comment period on the proposed regulation changes, which will run from April 2 through May 1. Public comments can be submitted by mail to Missouri Department of Conservation, Regulations Committee, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102-0180. Comments can also be submitted by email to or online at gov/1QqDR6Z.

Following final Conservation Commission consideration of citizen input and staff recommendations this summer, the anticipated effective date of the regulation changes will be Sept. 30, 2016. Potential penalties for the illegal taking of hogs could include fines and the loss of hunting privileges.

Hog Hunting Causes Headaches

The Conservation Department discourages hunting specifically for feral hogs anywhere in Missouri. Research from other states shows that hog hunting actually increases feral hog numbers and locations.

According to Wildlife Division Chief Jason Sumners, hog hunting on conservation areas ruins efforts by Department staff to trap and kill entire groups of feral hogs, called sounders. Groups can consist of several dozen animals. “The proposed ban on taking feral hogs on conservation lands is a direct result of hunters disrupting trapping efforts by Department staff,”Sumners explained. ”Staff set large, corral-type traps on areas where there are known feral hogs. They then bait the area with corn for several days or weeks to attract the targeted group of hogs, get them used to the surroundings, and get them concentrated in the trap before triggering it. This work sometimes takes weeks, with the goal to trap the entire group of hogs.

“After weeks of work to catch the sounder of hogs, an individual hunter finds out about the site and shows up at some point and shoots a hog or two. The rest of the group then scatters and moves to a new location. As a result, weeks of work have been wasted and new areas now have feral hogs that are more difficult to capture.”

Instead of shooting hogs to help reduce their numbers, the Department encourages hunters and others to report feral hog sightings to 573-522-4115, ext. 3296, or via an online reporting form at Department staff can then confirm local numbers and locations, and determine how best to capture and kill the entire group of feral hogs.

The Department owns or manages about 1,000 conservation areas around the state with nearly 30 known to have feral hogs, mostly in southern Missouri. One goal of the new regulation is to prevent the illegal, intentional release of feral hogs on other conservation areas.

Releasing Hogs is Illegal

Releasing hogs to non-enclosed areas or to the wild is illegal in Missouri. The Department encourages the public to report these types of illegal activities to local conservation agents or by calling the Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-392-1111.

In the future, the Department will also recommend to the Conservation Commission to revoke the hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges of any individuals found guilty of intentionally releasing feral hogs.

The Department is also working with elected officials, conservation groups, and agricultural organizations to raise awareness of the problem with feral hogs and hog hunting.

Threats to Native Species

Feral hogs are an invasive, nuisance species in Missouri. Their growing populations and numbers of locations are a result of people illegally releasing them to run wild to provide future hunting opportunities.

Feral hogs cause significant damage to wildlife habitats, compete for food with native wildlife such as deer and turkey, prey upon native wildlife such as turkey and quail, destroy natural areas along with agricultural lands, pollute ponds and streams, and spread diseases to domestic livestock and people.

Feral hogs are known to carry 30 different diseases, including swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, trichinosis, and leptospirosis.

For more information on feral hogs, visit mdc.

Length Limit for Spotted Bass Changes to 12 Inches March 1

Anglers at Truman Lake will have increased chances to keep spotted bass as part of their creel limit. Beginning March 1, a new regulation will reduce the length limit on spotted bass caught at Truman Lake from 15 inches to 12 inches.

Bass population studies by Missouri Department of Conservation biologists have shown that spotted bass grow slower than largemouth bass, and many adult spotted bass never reach 15 inches, said Mike Bayless, fisheries management biologist.

During the past five years, studies found only 5 percent of spotted bass measured at Truman Lake are 15 inches or longer. However, 50 percent of them were 12 inches long or more. Anglers atTruman Lake will now be able to keep spotted bass 12 inches or longer. The minimum length limit for anglers to keep largemouth bass remains 15 inches.

“A largemouth bass may reach 15 inches in three or four years,” Bayless said, “while a spotted bass may never reach 15 inches in the lake.” Anglers will need to clearly identify the bass species. The two fish look similar. However, the mouth extends beyond the back of the eye on largemouth bass. On spotted bass, the mouth extends to the middle of the eye. Spotted bass also have a rough patch on their tongues, which largemouth lack.

Sometimes called Kentucky bass, spotted bass are native to the upper Osage River system, where they were found in the slower, warmwater streams. The Osage River was impounded to form Truman Lake. One-third of the bass sampled in studies by biologists at Truman Lake are spotted bass, Bayless said.

The change will provide the same length limit for both Truman Lake and the Lake of the Ozarks. Largemouth and spotted bass live in similar habitats. Both feed on smaller fish, crayfish, and insects. Spotted bass, however, tend to be foundnear the steeper, rocky bluffs, Bayless said. The daily limit for largemouth and spotted bass at Truman Lake is six fish combined. Fish sampling showed 2015 was a good spawning year for both species. Bass fishing at Truman Lake should be on the upswing. For 2016 prospects on all sport fish species at Truman Lake, visit reports/truman-lake.

The Department has also made habitat improvements, such as sinking brush piles, at the lake. The Department’s free app, Find MO Fish, provides GPS locations for brush piles, and it can help anglers check fishing regulations for waters throughout the state. Visit mobile/mobile-apps/find-mo-fish.

Conservation Commission Actions

The January Commission meeting featured presentations and discussions regarding communications, chronic wasting disease, feral hogs, impacts of the December 2015 flood to Department facilities and conservation areas, and fiscal year 2016 mid-year review of major construction projects, information technology projects, and revenue and expenditure trends. A summary of actions taken during the Jan. 21–22 meeting for the benefit and protection of fish, forest, and wildlife, and the citizens who enjoy them includes:

  • Recognized Conservation Agents Eric Abbott, Anthony Maupin, and Jade Wright, who were awarded the Missouri Medal of Valor.
  • Approved recommendations for changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that would prohibit the taking of feral livestock (including feral hogs) on lands owned, leased, or managed under cooperative agreement by the Department of Conservation. The formal 30-day public comment period will be April 2 through May 1.
  • Approved the advertisement and sale of an estimated 960,255 board feet of timber located on 827 acres of Compartment 9 on the Angeline Conservation Area in Shannon County.
  • Approved the donation of approximately 11.17 acres in St. Louis County as an addition to Rockwoods Range.
  • Approved the purchase of tracts containing approximately 1,635 acres in Morgan County as an addition to Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area.
  • Approved the purchase of approximately 37 acres in Clinton County as an addition to McGee Family Conservation Area.

The next Conservation Commission meeting is March 10 and 11. For more information, visit or call your regional Conservation office.

What Is It?

Paddlefish | Polyodon spathula

The photo on Page 1 shows paddlefish eggs, and above is a young paddlefish. Missouri’s official state aquatic animal, paddlefish live mostly in open waters of big rivers swimming continuously near the surface. As waters rise in spring, paddlefish move upstream to gravel bars to spawn. Eggs are deposited on silt-free gravel bars where, during regular water levels, they would be exposed to air or are covered by very shallow water. The eggs hatch and the larval fish are swept downstream to deeper pools where they grow to adulthood. Paddlefish can attain a length of 10 to 14 inches their first year, and at age 17 they can be 60 inches long. Paddlefish can live to be 30 years old or more. Paddlefish swim slowly through water with their mouths wide open, collecting tiny crustaceans and insects in their elaborate, closely set gill rakers. Because it is one of the most ancestral fish species alive today, it is of considerable interest to biological research.

photograph by Jim Rathert

Did You Know?

Missourians care about conserving fish, forests, and wildlife.

Celebrating Women in MDC History

Through the years, countless women volunteers and staff have helpedachieve Missouri’s conservation milestones, making our state one of thebest places in the nation to hunt, fish, and enjoy nature. From speaking up for establishing a Department of Conservation in the Missouri Constitution in 1936 to leading efforts to place a Conservation Sales Tax on the Missouri ballot in 1976, women have been key to the Department’s success. That record of achievement continues. Today, the Department employs 530 women throughout the state.

  • Fourteen women work as conservation agents, serving local communities and helping people comply with fishing and hunting regulations.
  • Another 14 women serve as resource scientists assigned to study and advise on the management of Missouri’s fisheries, forests, and wildlife populations.
  • Seven women serve as private land conservationists, helping landowners around the state manage their land for wildlife.
  • Both Conservation Department veterinarians (wildlife and fisheries) are women.
  • Hundreds of women, including trained volunteers and hourly and salaried staff, work at shooting ranges and education centers, hatcheries, and nature and interpretive centers to help people gain outdoors skills, learn about nature, and conserve it, too.
  • The Department also hires and promotes women to key leadership positions, such as division chief, legal counsel, and deputy director.
  • Missouri’s governors have appointed several women as conservation commissioners.
  • The Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Department’s Master Conservationist and Conservation Hall of Fame programs regularly recognize women for their conservation leadership.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is grateful for women’s contributions and is proud to celebrate women’s role in conserving our state’s fish, forests, and wildlife during Women’s History Month in March.

This Issue's Staff

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