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From Missouri Conservationist: April 2017

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



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

Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848

Email: AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov

Q. Is it true luna moths do not eat and have no mouth parts?

A. Yes. As with all Saturniidae — a Lepidoptera family that includes some of the largest moth species — luna moths (Actias luna) emerge from their cocoons solely to mate, living approximately one week.

With wingspans of up to 4.5 inches, these showy, pale-green moths often attract attention for their beauty and size.

Lunas are usually found near deciduous woodlands where walnut, hickory, persimmon, and sweet gum trees grow. Depending on the climate where they live, lunas produce between one to three generations, or broods, each year. Missouri has three broods, with adults flying from early April through August. Around midnight, females call males by emitting pheromones, which the males’ highly sensitive, featherlike antennae can pick up. One way to differentiate between females and males is to examine their antennae, since males’ are bushier.

Although short-lived, they are common in Missouri and can often be seen gathered near porch lights. Unfortunately, populations have declined in some areas due to habitat destruction and increased use of bright lights at night, which can disrupt mating cycles.

Q. I’ve heard bobcats can wreak havoc on wild turkeys and will often stalk a single flock, picking birds off one by one. Is there research available explaining how bobcats impact turkey mortality?

A. Bobcats are one of the primary predators of wild turkeys. However, bobcats have a diverse diet and turkeys represent a small percentage of their overall intake. In a study in southern Iowa, birds — all birds, not just wild turkeys — were found in only 2 percent of bobcat stomachs. Common items found in this study were rabbit, mice, voles, and squirrels.

Closer to home, a study of the food habits of 41 bobcats in Missouri showed nearly 70 percent of the cats’ diets consisted of rabbits. Squirrels and white-tailed deer —some of which was likely carrion — were the next-largest groups to be preyed upon, at about 20 percent collectively. In the Missouri study, wild turkeys comprised less than 8 percent of the cats’ diets.

This is because turkeys are hard to catch. Not only do they have keen eyesight and hearing, they also can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour. They run quickly, too.

So, although bobcats can and do kill wild turkeys, they tend to be opportunistic predators that rely upon small mammals to survive. Loss of habitat and unfavorable weather during the nesting and brood-rearing seasons are still the main foes of wild turkey populations.

Q. What can I do to entice more indigo buntings into my yard?

A. One of the most abundant birds in Missouri, indigo buntings arrive in Missouri toward the end of April, making late spring a good time to entice them to your yard. They are particularly attracted to small thistle or nyjer seeds. They also eat insects, so live mealworms may bring them in as well.


Agent Notes

Where Have You Been?

Conservation agents are very active in their communities, and people notice when they are not around. For me, this occurred last summer when another agent and I found some illegal fish traps along the Mississippi River. For the next several days, almost every hour I worked was spent waiting on the banks of the river. We spent many hours sitting and waiting while fighting mosquitos and getting rained on. Finally, one afternoon our patience was rewarded when an individual showed up to check the fish traps. At that point, we made contact, issued him the proper citations, and seized his traps.

When I returned to my normal work routine, I was met with questions from people about my recent whereabouts. “Where have you been hiding?” was a common question. Since I had not been as visible in the community as usual, people noticed something was different.

There are times when agents may not be as visible to the citizens of their counties. They could be enjoying time off, working out of their normal area, or working behind the scenes to protect Missouri’s fish, forest, and wildlife resources. So to answer the question, “Where have you been?” my response was, “Working to protect Missouri’s resources.”

What Is It?

American Bullfrog

American Bullfrog
Lithobates catesbeianus
American bullfrogs, Missouri’s largest and most aquatic species of frog, range in color from green to olive to brown. The average size is 3 to 6 inches, but they have been known to reach 8 inches. Their call is a deep, sonorous “jug-a-rum, jug-a-rum” that can be heard from half a mile away or more. Found statewide, they spend most of their time in or near lakes, ponds, rivers, large creeks, sloughs, and permanent swamps or marshes. The size and age of a frog, the season, and the type of habitat influence their diet. In general, foods include insects, spiders, crayfish, fish, amphibians, birds, and even small mammals. Bullfrogs commonly eat other frogs, and they don’t hesitate to eat their own kind. Bullfrogs are active from late March to October, and overwinter by burrowing in the mud of rivers or ponds. Breeding is in mid- May to early July, at which time males become territorial and physically aggressive with each other. Eggs are laid in shallow water in a wide, floating mass. Females can lay over 20,000 eggs per clutch, which hatch in 4–5 days. Tadpoles turn into froglets in about 11–14 months, but adult size isn’t reached for another 2–3 years. —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