In Brief

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From Missouri Conservationist: February 2020

What Is it?

Can you guess this month’s natural wonder?

News and updates from MDC

Buy Your 2020 Hunting and Fishing Permits

2019 permits set to expire.

Annual hunting and fishing permits expire at the end of February, including 2019 permits for small game, fishing, trout fishing, and combination hunting and fishing. Buy Missouri hunting and fishing permits from vendors around the state, online at, or through MDC’s free mobile apps, MO Hunting and MO Fishing, available for download through Google Play for Android devices or the App Store for Apple devices.

Save time by buying hunting and fishing permits for multiple people in a single transaction. Select the Additional Customer option during the permit purchase. Try our online permit auto renewal service to automatically renew your permits prior to the start of the next season or permit year, so you never have an expired permit when you need it most. Enrollment in auto renewal can be done during an online permit purchase or by using the Manage Your Account feature. Commercial and lifetime permits can be purchased only through the MDC Permit Services Unit by calling 573-522-0107 for an application.

Get Hooked on Missouri Trout Fishing

March 1 marks the annual opening of catch-and-keep trout fishing in Missouri’s four trout parks: Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk State Park near Licking, Roaring River State Park near Cassville, and Maramec Spring Park near St. James. The catch-and-keep season runs through Oct. 31.

MDC operates trout hatcheries at all four parks and stocks rainbow trout daily throughout the season. Trout anglers need a daily trout tag to fish in Missouri’s trout parks. Daily trout tags can only be purchased at each of the four trout parks. In addition to the daily tag, Missouri residents 16 through 64 and nonresidents 16 and older also need a fishing permit.

The cost of a daily trout tag to fish at three of Missouri’s four trout parks — Bennett Spring State Park, Montauk State Park, and Roaring River State Park — is $4 for adults and $3 for those 15 and younger. A daily fishing permit for Missouri resident is $7 and $8 for nonresidents. The daily limit is four trout.

MDC is conducting a pilot program at Maramec Spring Park where the daily limit will be raised from four to five trout and the cost of a daily trout tag for adults will go from $3 to $5 and from $2 to $3 for anglers 15 and younger. The statewide possession limit will now be 10.

Trout hatcheries are just one way conservation pays in Missouri. MDC staff stock more than 800,000 trout annually at the state’s four trout parks and approximately 1.5 million trout annually statewide. Trout anglers spend more than $100 million each year in the Show-Me State, which generates more than $180 million in business activity, supports more than 2,300 jobs, and creates more than $70 million dollars in wages. About 30 percent of Missouri trout anglers come from other states, so a substantial portion of trout fishing expenditures is ”new money” for the state’s economy.

Missouri also offers excellent trout fishing throughout the state on rivers and streams that support naturally reproducing trout. For more information on trout fishing in Missouri, visit

Reminder to Trout Anglers

To prevent the spread of the invasive alga called didymo or ”rock snot,” the use of shoes, boots, or waders with porous soles of felt, matted, or woven fibrous material is prohibited at all trout parks, trout streams, Lake Taneycomo, and buffer areas. Get more information at

Conservation Commission Sets Deer, Turkey Hunting Dates

2020 Spring and Fall Turkey Hunting Dates

  • Spring Youth Portion: April 4–5
  • Regular Spring Turkey Season: April 20–May 10
  • Fall Firearms Turkey Season: Oct. 1–31

2020–2021 Archery Deer and Turkey Hunting Dates

  • Sept. 15–Nov. 13
  • Nov. 25–Jan. 15, 2021

2020–2021 Firearms Deer Hunting Dates

  • Firearms Deer Early Youth Portion: Oct. 31–Nov. 1
  • Firearms Deer November Portion: Nov. 14–24
  • Firearms Deer Late Youth Portion: Nov. 27–29
  • Firearms Deer Antlerless Portion: Dec. 4–6
  • Firearms Deer Alternative Methods Portion: Dec. 26–Jan. 5, 2021

Details on hunting regulations, harvest limits, allowed methods, required permits, and other related information will be available in MDC’s 2020 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information and MDC’s 2020 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklets. Both will be available where permits are sold prior to the related seasons.

Arbor Award of Excellence Nominations

MDC and the Missouri Community Forestry Council (MCFC) are accepting nominations for the 2020 Missouri Arbor Award of Excellence. The annual award recognizes communities, institutions, businesses, organizations, and individuals that make significant and long-lasting efforts to care for trees in their communities. Nominations are due by Friday, March 6.

“Trees bring so much value to our communities, but their overall health depends on people practicing good tree stewardship on both public and private property,” said MDC Community Forestry Program Supervisor Russell Hinnah. “The more we work to take care of our trees, the more trees work for us by increasing property values, improving our air, saving energy, protecting our watersheds, and more.”

The Arbor Award of Excellence shines the spotlight on anyone who has improved trees in their community. Any significant program, project, or event that contributes to the care or maintenance of trees could qualify for an award.

“This award recognizes projects that demonstrate a sustained overall effort to care for trees,” said Hinnah. “I encourage everyone to consider the wonderful tree work in their communities and to nominate those who made it possible.”

Winners receive a framed award, a full registration scholarship to the 2020 MCFC conference in October, an extra ticket to the award banquet during the conference, a community forestry reference book, a $50 gift card, and a 5 percent bonus cost share if selected for funding through MDC’s Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance cost-share program.

For more information and nomination forms, visit and search Missouri Arbor Award of Excellence.


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

Q: I came across several oak trees marred by horizontal lines. Are they diseased or is this a natural occurrence?

A. What you’ve noticed is damage caused by a yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius).

These small, enterprising woodpeckers drill closely spaced holes in trees to extract the sweet sap. In the process of drilling, they eat the inner bark and lap up trapped insects — ants, for instance — with their specialized, brush-tipped tongues. But these birds tend to rely more on the tree’s sap, rather than insects, for its diet.

Typically, sapsuckers do not kill a tree. But some trees or shrubs may die if holes are extensive enough to girdle the trunk or stem.

Q: While cleaning out my wood duck nesting boxes, I found two boxes with unhatched eggs in them. What might be the cause of this?

A. This is a common occurrence. Because duck eggs and ducklings are a popular food source for predators, most ducks lay numerous eggs and try to raise as many young as possible. Usually, wood duck hens lay 12 to 14 eggs in a clutch. Sometimes other wood duck hens will “dump” their eggs in the same cavity — increasing the number to as many as 20 and leaving the first hen to incubate the whole lot.

If you see only a few eggs, cool to the touch, and they aren’t covered with down feathers, it’s a sign the clutch was abandoned, possibly because they were infertile. Hens also will abandon nests if too many people, predators, or loud traffic disturb them. It’s also possible these were second, late-in-the-season clutch attempts, and the hens either were busy with their first clutch or they were killed.

Q: During a recent nighttime walk, my wife and I observed a handsome adult spotted salamander on the wet pavement. We wanted to take a picture of it, but wondered if shining a light, or the flash of a camera, might be harmful to it. Also, is it normal for salamanders to be on the move in early February?

A. Spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) venture forth at night in search of worms, insects, spiders, and land snails, and they are often seen crossing roads on warm, rainy nights in spring.

It’s normal for spotted salamanders to be active in early February. In fact, many of Missouri’s salamanders and frogs can tolerate the cold and begin breeding in late winter. During the first warm rains of early February and mid-March, spotted salamanders congregate
in shallow, fishless, woodland ponds to court and lay eggs. Rainfall and temperatures greater than 50 are needed to stimulate these breeding migrations.

Briefly shining a light or taking a photograph won’t harm the animal, as long as it’s allowed to continue on its way toward a breeding pond, said Missouri State Herpetologist Jeff Briggler. The bigger threat is being run over. If you see such an animal crossing, place it on the side of the road in the direction it’s traveling.

What Is it?

Eastern Screech-Owl

More often heard than seen, the eastern screech-owl (Otus asio) has a distinctive call, but it’s rarely described as a screech. Rather, the whistled call comes out as an ascending then descending whinny or a monotone trill. This time of year, eastern screech-owls use their call to search for a mate. Eastern screech-owls are the only small owl with prominent ear tufts in Missouri. They can be found in three color morphs — gray, brown, and red.

Agent Advice

Hayley Honeycutt, St. Francois County Conservation Agent Missouri is a great place to fish, even in the winter. The state is home to several types of trout fishing areas, some of which switch to catch-and-keep Feb. 1. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks trout in lakes across the state beginning in November, so they are ready to go for your next visit. All you need is a fishing permit and a trout permit. Remember, February is still cold, especially around the water. Dress in layers and keep your fingers covered and your feet dry. Each trout area has its own special rules, so educate yourself about the one you are visiting before heading out. For more information, visit

Moroccan Spiced-Braised Venison

Here’s a new take on venison that also works well with lamb. This recipe appears in Cooking Wild in Missouri by Bernadette Dryden, and according to the book, the meat becomes fork tender as it simmers in the spicy, rich tomato sauce. This hearty meal is sure to warm you on a cold February day!

Serves 2 to 4

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds venison round steak
  • Salt and coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 lemon, cut thinly into 8 to 10 slices
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 4-ounce jar chopped pimentos or 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried pepper flakes (preferably ancho)
  • ½ cup prunes, pitted
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

In a 4-quart cast-iron pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Salt and pepper steaks on both sides and add to hot oil. After first side is browned, turn over and add cardamom and cumin seeds to the oil around meat, and stir to heat seeds thoroughly. Add lemon, garlic, onion, and pimentos (or red pepper) and stir. Cook until onion is softened. Add pepper flakes, prunes, stock, and tomatoes. Turn meat over, stir thoroughly and cover with lid. Simmer atop burner for 2 to 3 hours until meat is tender.

Place meat on heated platter and cover. Skim fat from pot and bring contents to a boil to reduce liquids. Season to taste and pour over venison.

Serve with couscous or saffron rice.

3 Things YOU Can Do to Help Pollinators

Plant Natives

Native plants are a food source for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Add the plants shown below to your landscape.

Keep it Blooming

Keep something in bloom each season. Some species bloom all year, others only in April and May, still others in July and August. Learn more at

Get Involved

Protect native grasslands, provide nesting places, and become a wildlife gardener. To learn how, visit

  • Common milkweed
  • New England aster
  • Showy goldenrod
  • Prairie blazing star
  • Wild bergamot

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler