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From Missouri Conservationist: May 2016

What Is It?

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

what is it 01 05-2016


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

Q. Is this a wood frog?

A. A similar frog was found in the Ironton area recently.

Yes. The prominent white line along the upper lip and distinctive dark-brown mask extending from the snout to the tympanum (eardrums) are two clues suggesting this is a wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus).

In 1973, the frog was classified as an endangered species in Missouri until subsequent populations were found in the eastern and southwestern sections of the state. Although the species is more widespread in the forested region of Missouri, it remains a species of concern.

Wood frogs require warm late-winter or early spring rains and an air temperature of at least 50 degrees to stimulate breeding. Adult frogs move to a breeding pool — typically a small, fishless woodland pond or ephemeral pool — as soon as the sun is down, and they normally vocalize until midnight. The call of the male wood frog is a rapid, hoarse “waaduck,” not unlike the noise of a quacking duck.

Q. I caught this fish at Lake Ozark this weekend. Is it a striped or white bass?

A. It appears to be a hybrid striped bass, also known as a white bass crossed with a striped bass. These fish are sometimes referred to as “wipers,” or “whiterock bass,” and they play an interesting role in how the Missouri Department of Conservation manages fishing stock.

Because these fish are sterile, they primarily are added to the state’s reservoirs to manage gizzard shad. Although gizzard shad are not typically eaten — at least not by humans — they are an important food source for largemouth bass. However, gizzard shad sometimes grow too large to be eaten by other sport fish and compete with other species for food, habitat, and other resources. By introducing a larger predator fish — such as this hybrid striped bass — gizzard shad can be managed, while providing anglers with another exciting fish to catch.

“And we don’t have to worry about the hybrids reproducing and becoming overpopulated,” said Andrew Branson, Department fisheries program specialist.

Hybrids superficially resemble white bass, but grow larger, exceeding a weight of 5 pounds. To learn more, visit on.mo.gov/1RP3dhR.

Q. What causes a chigger’s itchy bite?

A. Contrary to conventional wisdom, chiggers do not burrow into the skin or suck blood. Instead, they pierce the skin with their mouth and inject a digestive enzyme. This fluid dissolves the tissues of the host, which are then sucked up by the larval mite as food. Within a few hours, tissue around the feeding area solidifies into a hardened tube, called a stylostome. The chigger remains attached to the stylostome, using it like a person drinking from a straw. Itching usually starts in a few hours. For more information, visit extension.missouri.edu/p/g7398.

cartoon 05-2016

Agent Notes

Smallmouth Bass Fishing: An Ozark Tradition

Throughout the rivers and streams of the Ozarks and portions of southern Missouri, smallmouth bass have been one of the most sought-after sport fish species. Their relentless fight to get off your hook is just one reason anglers enjoy pursuing this hard fighting fish. It’s a great time to try your hand at smallmouth bass fishing. If you are going to try catch-and-release, here are a few tips:

  • Use artificial lures. Fish that hit artificial bait have a higher survival rate because they are less likely to be hooked deeply enough to damage vital organs.
  • Minimize the amount of time that you play a fish.
  • Return smallmouth bass you don’t intend to keep to the water unharmed immediately.
  • Avoid handling the fish excessively — the mucous covering the fish’s body prevents infection.

For more information on fish handling and release, visit on.mo.gov/1Xtqu9g.

It is important to adhere to the Wildlife Code of Missouri when fishing. Smallmouth bass are considered black bass in the Code, so there is a season on this particular species.

The season for smallmouth bass in most streams south of the Missouri River opens May 28, 2016, and concludes on the last day of February. It is always important to know the regulations associated with each particular body of water or stream before going fishing.

Jarad Milligan is the conservation agent for Laclede County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

What Is It?

Monarch Caterpillar

what is it 02 05-2016Before a monarch (Danaus plexippus) emerges from its chrysalis as a beautiful butterfly, it starts as a tiny green egg attached to the underside of a leaf, usually on a milkweed plant. After about three days, it hatches into a tiny caterpillar. The monarch caterpillar begins eating plant leaves, but only those from the milkweed family. During the next 10 days, the caterpillar will grow bigger and develop beautiful yellow, black, and white bands on its body. Between feedings, it molts, or sheds, skin as it grows. Once it has shed its smaller skin, it leaves behind a crumpled mass of dark material called molt. When the caterpillar is about 2 inches long, it will stop eating and start looking for a place to make its chrysalis and begin the next stage of life. —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
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler