In Brief

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From Missouri Conservationist: September 2018

What Is It?

Can you guess this month's natural wonder?

what is it 01

Hit the Woods for Health Now is a Great Time to Get Outside and Discover Nature

Cooler weather and the kaleidoscope of color make fall a great time of year to explore the woods. But don’t power hike or walk! Slow down. Open your senses to the wonders of the woods. See. Hear. Smell. Taste. Touch. Not only will this mindfulness help you discover nature in new ways — it’s good for you!

Research shows being in the woods can help reduce stress and improve immunity and mood. As people 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 stress-reducing compounds from trees, known as “phytoncides.” Trees release these compounds, like the scent of cedar, into the air. Inhaling them has been shown to reduce concentrations of stress hormones and increase the activity of white blood cells, which are important for fighting illness.

Find great places to walk in the woods at

Ask MDC Got a Question for Ask MDC?

Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q. I took this photo on the Meramec River. What species of snakes and fish are these?

A. These two northern watersnakes appear to be fighting over the same bullhead catfish.

One of the most common snakes in Missouri, northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) are active from early April until October and like to bask on branches, logs, and rocks near the water’s edge. The fish could be either a yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) or black bullhead (Ameiurus melas).

Small fish — mostly nongame species — make up 75 percent of the diet of these nonvenomous snakes.

It’s not uncommon for smaller watersnakes like these to work together. It’s also possible these snakes coordinated their attack to herd the fish into shallower water, making it easier to catch and subdue. The snake will eat the catfish, spine and all. But the catfish may get in one final punch against its foe. If still alive when swallowed — and they often are — it is not uncommon for the catfish to wriggle and puncture the inner wall of the snake’s belly. Even if it protrudes completely through the skin, the snake will likely survive the painful encounter and the fish will be completely digested.

Q. I look at this tree every time we visit Lone Elk Park. We are wondering whether this is some growth or just an anomaly?

A. This is a burl, typically caused by a tree undergoing some form of stress, such as insect damage, bacteria, fungi, or some other environmental injury.

Sometimes burls grow as rounded, woody swellings on a tree’s trunk. Other times, they form beneath the ground, attached to the roots, and are generally undiscovered until the tree dies or falls over. Almost all burls are bark covered, even when underground.

Burls can grow up to 3 feet in diameter and may have many buds or sprouts. As the wood grain swirls around each bud trace, contorted and deformed patterns form. This makes some burl wood — particularly walnut and hard maple — highly prized by furniture makers and sculptors.

A tree can develop burl wood and still be considered healthy. However, removal of the burl could damage the tree and for that reason it isn’t recommended.

Q. Why do various species of fish school in huge numbers near the surface of quiet water at the Lake of the Ozarks? They don’t seem to be feeding, but just circle aimlessly.

A. The fish you are seeing are young gizzard shad born this spring. Their movements may look aimless, but they’re feeding. Gizzard shad are planktivores, meaning they feed on small aquatic animals in the water. They do this by filtering food out of the water as it passes through their gills. They won’t hit a lure and likely taste terrible, but they are nonetheless one of the most important fish we have in the lake. From the smallest bluegill to the largest catfish, Missouri’s gamefish rely heavily on gizzard shad as a primary food source for part or all of their lives.

Agent Advice From Parker Rice, Buchanan County Conservation Agent

September ushers in several hunting seasons in Missouri — dove season Sept. 1, teal season Sept. 8, and deer and turkey archery seasons Sept. 15. Make sure you’re ready! Buy your permits. These are available from vendors across the state, through our MO Hunting app, and online at Stay hydrated. September is often still hot, so take the necessary precautions. Archers, if you’re hunting from a tree stand, use a harness. Dove hunters, practice proper firearm safety and always use ear and eye protection. Let someone know your hunting plan. If you’re hunting in a multi-use area, be respectful of other visitors. That way, everyone has a good time.

We Are Conservation

Spotlight on people and partners

by Cliff White

Susan Essman

She’s a volunteer and former board member at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum near Mansfield. In 2016, she worked with MDC’s Community Conservation Planner Ronda Burnett to install the museum’s 4,500-square-foot butterfly habitat area. She’s a champion for native plants The native plant installation helped the museum achieve several goals. It honors Wilder’s love of nature, helps keep stormwater out of a nearby creek, and it sustains pollinators. It took a while for the planting to flourish, but Susan had faith. “Ronda told us it would take three years to hit its peak, and she was right,” she said. In her own words

“If you’re planning a large landscaping project, call MDC before you start. Ronda helped us choose the native plants that would achieve our goals, and she led us to grants to help pay for them. Now we’ve got something that’s just really cool.”

CWD: Info to Know for the 2018–2019 Deer Season

Missouri Department of Conservation is testing deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) during the 2018–2019 deer season in an effort to limit the spread of the deadly disease in Missouri.

MDC confirmed 33 new cases of CWD following the sampling and testing of nearly 24,500 free-ranging Missouri deer last season. The new cases were found in Adair, Cedar, Franklin, Jefferson, Linn, Macon, Perry, Polk, St. Clair, and Ste. Genevieve counties. These new cases bring the total positive cases of CWD among free-ranging deer to 75. For more information, visit

New Counties Added to CWD Management Zone

Based on the findings from the 2017–2018 season, MDC has added seven new counties to its CWD Management Zone: Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Grundy, Madison, McDonald, Mercer, and Perry.

These seven new counties join 41 existing counties in MDC’s CWD Management Zone. The zone consists of counties in or near where cases of the disease have been found. Mercer County was added because of the proximity of a CWD-positive deer found in southern Iowa. McDonald County was added because of CWD detection in northwest Arkansas.

The 48 counties are: Adair, Barry, Benton, Bollinger, Boone, Callaway, Cape Girardeau, Carroll, Cedar, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Dade, Franklin, Gasconade, Grundy, Hickory, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Madison, McDonald, Mercer, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Ozark, Perry, Polk, Putnam, Randolph, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Warren, and Washington.

MDC has increased the availability of antlerless permits and expanded the firearms antlerless portion in the seven new counties to help stabilize deer numbers in these counties and limit the spread of the disease. MDC has also removed the antler-point restriction for Grundy and Mercer counties, which are now included in the zone.

Help Limit the Spread

To help reduce the risks of spreading CWD, MDC encourages hunters to dispose of carcass parts by leaving or burying them on the immediate area where the deer was harvested and field dressed, or by bagging carcass parts and placing them in trash containers destined for a landfill.

New Counties Added to Feeding Ban Restricted Area

The seven counties added to the CWD Management Zone are also included in MDC’s ban on feeding deer and providing mineral supplements, effective July 1. Supplemental feed and minerals can increase deer-to-deer contact, which can spread CWD.

According to the Wildlife Code of Missouri, the placement of grain, salt products, minerals, and other consumable natural and manufactured products used to attract deer is prohibited year-round within counties in the CWD Management Zone. Exceptions include feed placed within 100 feet of any residence or occupied building, feed placed in such a manner to reasonably exclude access by deer, and feed and minerals present solely as a result of normal agricultural or forest management, or crop and wildlife food production practices. The feeding ban does not apply to wildlife food plots or other agricultural practices.

Mandatory CWD Sampling November 10 and 11

MDC will require hunters who harvest deer in 31 counties of the CWD Management Zone during opening weekend of firearms deer season, Nov. 10 and 11, to present their deer — or the head with at least 6 inches of neck attached — at one of 61 CWD sampling stations throughout the counties.

The 31 counties include those where CWD has previously been detected, those within approximately 5 miles of a positive, select counties along the Missouri-Arkansas border near where cases of CWD have been found in Arkansas, and the seven counties added to the CWD Management Zone.

The 31 counties for mandatory sampling are: Adair, Barry, Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Cedar, Cole, Crawford, Franklin, Grundy, Hickory, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Macon, Madison, McDonald, Mercer, Moniteau, Ozark, Perry, Polk, Putnam, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Warren, and Washington.

MDC asks hunters to field dress and Telecheck their deer before taking them to a CWD  sampling station.

Hunters can get test results for their CWD-sampled deer about four weeks after sampling online at For more information, visit and look for Mandatory Sampling. Information is also available in the 2018 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where permits are sold.

Voluntary CWD Sampling All Season

MDC will again offer voluntary CWD sampling of deer harvested in any of the 48 counties of the CWD Management Zone during the entire deer season — Sept. 15 through Jan. 15, 2019. For more information on MDC’s voluntary sampling efforts, including locations, visit, Voluntary Sampling.

MDC asks hunters to field dress and Telecheck their deer before taking them to a CWD sampling station.

Hunters can get test results for their CWD-sampled deer about four weeks after sampling online at

Share the Harvest

Deer donated to Share the Harvest must be tested for CWD if harvested from any of the 11 counties where CWD has been found. These deer can only be donated through approved processors in or near any of the 11 counties that are participating in the Share the Harvest CWD Testing Program. The 11 counties are: Adair, Cedar, Cole, Franklin, Jefferson, Linn, Macon, Perry, Polk, St. Clair, and Ste. Genevieve.

Hunters can have their deer sampled for CWD before donating the animals. They must present the CWD barcode number provided at the sampling location to the participating processor as proof of sampling. Hunters may also present their deer for donation to approved processors in or near any of the 11 counties and the processor will collect a tissue sample or the head for testing.

Deer harvested outside of the 11 CWD-positive counties do not need to be tested for CWD and may be donated to any Share the Harvest processor.

For a list of participating Share-the-Harvest processors, visit

There have been no cases of CWD infecting people, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends having deer tested for CWD if harvested in an area known to have cases of the disease. The CDC also recommends not eating meat from animals that test positive for CWD.

Additional Efforts

MDC will again contact landowners of 5 acres or more in areas very near to where multiple infected deer have been found to offer no-cost CWD Management Seals to further reduce deer numbers and help limit the spread of the disease.

MDC will also work with landowners on a voluntary basis to remove potentially infected deer in immediate areas where CWD has been found through postseason targeted culling.

What Is It?

Polyphemus Moth Caterpillar

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Polyphemus moth caterpillars (Antheraea polyphemus) abound in forests, grazing on vegetation. They feed on more than 20 species of Missouri trees but favor silver maple, oak, birch, and hazelnut. They spin oval cocoons, usually wrapped in the leaves of a food plant. These drop to the ground in autumn, but sometimes the caterpillar attaches its cocoon to a plant’s stem, where it persists through the winter.

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