In Brief

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From Missouri Conservationist: September 2017

What Is it?

What is it 01

Can you guess this month's natural wonder?

Get information, give feedback at MDC open houses. No registration is required. Refreshments will be served. The first 80 attendees at each open house will receive a special gift.

MDC is celebrating 80 years of serving nature and you at open houses around the state. Come learn about MDC’s history, priorities, and challenges, and share your thoughts about regulations, infrastructure, strategic priorities, and statewide and local conservation issues.

Join Director Sara Parker Pauley and local community leaders from 6–8 p.m. at these upcoming open houses:

  • Sept. 7 at the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Road in Kirkwood
  • Sept. 26 at Kemper Recital Hall in Spratt Hall 101 on the Missouri Western State University campus, 4525 Downs Drive in St. Joseph
  • Oct. 10 at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, 4601 S. Nature Center Way in Springfield
  • Oct. 12 at Twin Pines Conservation Education Center, 20086 Highway 60 in Winona
  • Oct. 26 at the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave. in Kansas City

We also will be gathering public comments at these upcoming events:

  • Sept. 9–16 at the SEMO District Fair in Cape Girardeau
  • Sept. 21–23 at “Hootin and Hollarin” in Gainesville
  • Sept. 23 at National Hunting and Fishing Day in Hannibal
  • Sept. 30 at the South Farm Showcase in Columbia
  • Oct. 15 at our Poosey Fall Driving Tour in northwest Livingston County

For more information, contact Michele Baumer, public involvement coordinator, at 573-522-4115, ext. 3350 or

Conservation Commission Welcomes New Commissioner Nicole Wood

Gov. Eric R. Greitens appointed Nicole Wood, long-time conservationist and outdoor enthusiast from St. Francois County, to the Missouri Conservation Commission. Wood replaces James T. Blair IV, of St. Louis, whose appointment expired. Wood’s appointment will be subject to confirmation by the Missouri Senate.

Wood is the director of operations at Woodland Operations and Maintenance, where she is involved in the daily management of 20,000 acres of land in the Missouri Ozarks. She is only the fifth woman appointed to the Conservation Commission in the department’s 80-year history.

“Nicole’s passion for the outdoors and her strong business acumen will be extremely beneficial to the Commission’s ongoing work in strategic planning, budget guidance, and Wildlife Code regulations,” said Missouri Department of Conservation Director Sara Parker Pauley.

Wood serves on the boards of the National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Federation of Missouri, Parkland Hospital Foundation, and the National Wildlife Federation Endowment. She and her family share a passion for the outdoors.

“Missouri has the best Department of Conservation in the United States and to be part of that as a commissioner is an incredible honor,” Wood said. “I look forward to working with all the commissioners, staff, and citizens on continuing to make the department the best in the country.”

Her interest in the outdoors started at a young age while on family hunting and fishing trips. She enjoys floating, rafting, kayaking, or just sitting on a gravel bar. Wood shares a family history of commitment to conservation with her father, Howard Wood, who served as commissioner from 1997 to 2003.

Nicole Wood’s term will expire June 30, 2023.


Got a question for Ask MDC? Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: Every time I harvest a turkey, I open its gullet to see what it’s been eating. Over the years I’ve found salamanders, snails, beggar’s lice, and katydids. Last year, I bagged a gobbler on opening day. His gullet contained these giant seeds. What are they?

A: This appears to be a pawpaw (Asimina triloba) seed, according to our Forestry Division.

Pawpaws are Missouri’s answer to the banana. The trees yield soft fruits about 3 to 5 inches in size, with skin that resembles a pear’s in texture and appearance. Green at first, the yellowish fruits ripen in September and are easy to gather from the ground. The taste is sometimes described as a cross between a persimmon and an overripe banana.
Humans aren’t the only animals that covet them. Squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and birds also appreciate pawpaws.

The trees — short with slender trunks, broad crowns, and wide leaves — grow in colonies. These shade-lovers prefer low bottom woods, wooded slopes, stream banks, ravines, and the areas below bluffs. Pawpaws are members of a tropical family and have no close relatives in Missouri.

Q: How can I discourage snakes from coming too close to my home?

A: Although snakes are a part of Missouri’s outdoors, there are times and places where their presence is unwanted. Venomous snakes are not desirable around human dwellings. It is possible to discourage snakes around homes by eliminating their food and shelter. Piles of boards, fence posts, dump heaps, roofing paper, scrap steel roofing, railroad ties, slabs of bark, and piles of rocks provide hiding places for snakes and the prey they eat.
Removing these attractions and generally tidying up are the best ways to keep a premise free of snakes.

There are no reliable perimeter sprays or chemicals to repel snakes.

Missouri residents often welcome or tolerate nonvenomous snakes.

However, if you are afraid of or worried about snakes, we recommend you capture any harmless snake you encounter with a hoe or stick or sweep it into a large container and release it unharmed in an isolated, safe habitat.

Q: Can you ID this “fly/wasp” for me?

A: This beautiful specimen is actually a fly in the family Syrphidae, which includes many bee- and wasp-mimicking species. Although fierce-looking, it’s actually just a fly and lacks the anatomy to sting.

It’s not unusual for syrphid flies to exhibit forms of “Batesian mimicry,” a term that describes when a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species. This form of mimicry is named for the English naturalist Henry Walter Bates, who studied it in butterflies. It allows the mimic to intimidate potential predators with the threat of a toxic taste or painful sting without having to actually develop the defensive trait. Syrphid flies are often seen hovering near flowers. Although adults mainly feed on nectar and pollen, syphid larvae prey on aphids, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects that cause tens of millions of dollars of damage to crops worldwide.

What Is It?

Black Walnut

What is it 02

The fruit of a black walnut (Juglans nigra) — the dark brown or black nut — ripens from September through October and is covered by a green, rounded husk 1½–2½ inches across. Missouri is the world’s top producer of black walnuts, and it’s designated as the state’s official tree nut.

Agent Advice from Jerry Kiger Ozark County Conservation Agent

One-third of the state is under a concentrated-feeding ban to help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) among our deer population. In 41 counties, known as the CWD Management Zone, residents are prohibited from using grain, corn, sweet feed, mineral or salt blocks, or any other natural or manufactured consumable products to attract deer. The ban doesn’t include scents, such as doe scent or doe urine, and food plots. With food plots, deer move through the area, browsing as they eat, as opposed to concentrated feed sites, where deer gather in one spot and have a higher potential for transmitting infected saliva. We know we have CWD in our state. Efforts like this will help slow the spread of the disease. Please do your part.

I Am Conservation: Mary Harter

I am Conservation

Mary Harter teaches 6th-grade life sciences at Woodridge Middle School in High Ridge. Harter likes to get kids thinking about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“I want them to understand how important science is. How it can help us deal with pollution and reduce our carbon footprint.”

She reveals the connections Harter uses MDC’s Discover Nature Schools program to help her students explore life sciences through Missouri’s aquatic resources. They survey local pond life and test water quality. “Students are surprised to learn that storm water doesn’t go into the sewer — it goes into local streams and into our drinking water system,” she said. “It makes kids connect what’s going on in class to real life.”

In her own words “If you’re a teacher, take advantage of all the resources MDC has to offer. They have weeklong courses and day courses in your area. These resources help make what we do more fun.”

Mountain Lions in Missouri

Mystery, intrigue, and misinformation surround mountain lions in the Show-Me State. Separate fact from fiction at our upcoming Wild Webcast: Mountain Lions in Missouri Sept. 20 from noon to 1 p.m.

MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee and Wildlife Management Coordinator Alan Leary of Missouri’s Mountain Lion Response Team will provide a brief presentation on these big cats and answer questions from webcast participants.
To register, visit

Hit the Woods for Your Health

Cooler weather and the kaleidoscope of fall colors make September the perfect time to visit Missouri’s wooded areas. But don’t just power hike — slow down. Open your senses to the wonders of the woods. See. Hear. Smell. Taste. Touch.
Not only will you discover nature in new ways, it’s good for you. Research shows walking in the woods can help reduce stress and improve immunity. As you relax, blood pressure drops and mood improves.

One research study compared the health effects of walking city streets to walking in the woods. While both activities required the same amount of physical activity, walking in the woods resulted in greater reductions in blood pressure and stress hormones.
Researchers are also studying trees’ stress-reducing compounds, such as the scent of cedar. Inhaling these compounds has been shown to reduce concentrations of stress hormones and increase the activity of white blood cells, which are important for fighting illness.

Find a wooded area near you at

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler