Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | October 1, 2017
From Missouri Conservationist: October 2017

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Wildlife Management: Rocket-Netting

This technology helps MDC capture many kinds of wildlife in order to monitor their populations.

Trapping wood ducks can be tricky. They keep to the trees, you can’t always see them, and they’re skittish. “We tried using floating traps with bait,” MDC Resource Scientist Doreen Mengel said, “but predators targeted them.”

She and her team of wetland managers around the state turned to using rocket nets instead. This technology is simply a net with the trailing edge anchored to the ground and the leading edge attached to rockets. Once fired, the rockets carry the net over the baited birds, trapping them.

“If you’re dealing with a hunted species like wood ducks,” Mengel said, “you need to know something about their population.” Using rocket-netting, Mengel’s team catches and bands lots of wood ducks, helping researchers and managers chart the birds’ population, rate of reproduction, and rate of survival.

Many MDC researchers use rocket-netting. “Although it was first used to capture wild turkeys over a half century ago, rocket-netting still remains the most efficient way to capture eastern wild turkeys,” said Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle.

Staff are highly trained, and they practice strict protocols to protect themselves and the wildlife they capture using rocket nets. MDC Resource Scientist Kevyn Wiskirchen uses rocket-netting in two current white-tailed deer research projects. “We work hard to limit the animals’ stress and get them back on their way as quickly as possible,” he said. Mengel said her team’s best shot to date was at Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area near East Prairie. “The team ended up catching and banding over 300 birds on their first shot of the season,” she said. “It was quite a scramble, but they did a great job working up the birds quickly and efficiently.”

At a Glance

“Boom nets” have helped MDC for decades

  • 1948 Two Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge employees developed the rocket-netting method to trap waterfowl
  • 69 YEARS MDC has used rocket nets
  • 31 Number of MDC staff trained to use rocket nets
  • 3 Species MDC traps using rocket nets: wood ducks, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer

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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