In Brief

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From Missouri Conservationist: May 2020

What Is It?

Can you guess this month's natural wonder?

what is it

First Elk Hunting Season This Fall

The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved five permits for hunting bull elk during Missouri’s first elk hunting season in modern history.

Missouri’s first elk season comes after years of restoration efforts of the once-native species by MDC, numerous partners including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and supporters including local communities and area landowners.

For this season, MDC has designated a nine-day archery portion running Oct. 17–25 and a nine-day firearms portion running Dec. 12–20. The five permits, awarded through a random draw, will be for bull elk and will be valid for both portions. Four permits will be for the general public and one permit will be reserved for qualifying area landowners.

MDC will require a $10 application fee for those applying for the general permits. Qualifying landowners applying for a landowner permit will not be required to pay the $10 application fee. Those selected for each of the five permits must pay a $50 permit fee.

MDC will limit the random draw to one application per-person, per-year with a 10-year “sit-out” period for those drawn for a general permit before they may apply again. If selected for a landowner elk permit, qualifying landowners will not be required to wait 10 years before again applying for a landowner elk permit. Qualifying landowners may apply once each year for a general elk hunting permit and for a landowner elk permit, but are eligible to receive only one permit annually.

Local landowners have been supportive of the reintroduction of elk to the area and many have worked hard to create habitat that benefits elk and many other wildlife species.

The landowner elk permit is limited to resident landowners with at least 20 contiguous acres within the “Landowner Elk Hunting Zone” of Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties. Zone boundaries are shown in the application. The landowner permit is nontransferable and may only be filled on the landowner’s property.

General permits can be used in Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties, except the refuge portion of Peck Ranch Conservation Area, and are not transferable.

Allowed hunting methods for each season portion will be the same as for deer hunting. The permits will allow for the harvest of one bull elk with at least one antler no shorter than 6 inches in length. Successful hunters must Telecheck their harvested elk, similar to deer.

To apply for an elk permit, applicants must be Missouri residents at least 11 years of age by the first day of the hunt. Those selected to receive a permit must have their hunter education certification or be exempt by age (born before Jan. 1, 1967) before they may purchase the permit.

Apply for the elk permit random draw May 1–31 online at, through MDC’s free MO Hunting app, by visiting a permit vendor, or by calling 1-800 392-4115.

Qualifying landowners must submit their property information through MDC’s Landowner Permit Application at before applying. Starting July 1, applicants can check to see if they have been selected for an elk hunting permit online at after logging into Manage Your Account and selecting View My Special Hunt History.

For more information on elk hunting in Missouri, visit Elk are a native species in Missouri but were hunted to extinction in the state through unregulated hunting during the late 1800s. With the help of numerous partners and supporters, MDC reintroduced about 100 elk to a remote area of the Missouri Ozarks in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Their numbers have grown to more than 200, and their range has expanded in recent years to cover portions of Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties. Learn more about elk restoration in Missouri at

Hunters Give To Share the Harvest

MDC and the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) thank the thousands of Missouri deer hunters who donated 348,535 pounds of venison to the state’s Share the Harvest program this past deer season, including 6,795 whole deer. We also thank the more than 100 participating meat processors throughout the state who grind the donated deer meat into ready-to-use packages, and the many sponsors who financially support the program. The donated deer meat goes to local food banks and food pantries to help feed hungry Missourians all around the state. To get Share the Harvest venison, contact local food banks or food pantries. Share the Harvest is coordinated by MDC and CFM. Since the program was started in 1992, it has provided more than 4.3 million pounds of lean, healthy venison to help feed hungry Missourians, including this past season’s donations. For more information on Share the Harvest, visit CFM online at


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

Q: I saw this moss that looked like it was ”blooming.” I’ve never seen this before. Can you tell me what this is?

A. This moss is at the “capsule” stage and is about to release spores. The capsules open when small, lidlike structures decay, allowing the spores to float in the wind and establish new life.

All mosses are bryophytes, meaning they reproduce via spores rather than flowers or seeds. Of the thousands of species of bryophytes identified, none show all the adaptations needed for a completely terrestrial existence. Unlike other plants, they lack the well-developed vascular structure needed to conduct water and nutrients. This limits their ability to grow very large and most are less than 4 inches tall.

Since they do depend on the existence of water to reproduce, they grow primarily in damp and shady environments — such as the floor of a Missouri forest or woodland.
Because mosses can survive without being rooted in soil, they grow where other plants cannot, such as on the surfaces of boulders, rocks, and stones. Many a hiker has enjoyed the soft respite offered by a moss-covered trail.

Q: I have some large elm trees in my yard that are succumbing to Dutch elm disease and need to be cut down. I’ve noticed squirrels, robins, wrens, bluebirds, and occasionally cardinals nest in them. Would fall be the best time to remove these elms, when the squirrels and birds are not raising young?

A. From the perspective of the wildlife using these trees as habitat, September through October is the safest time to remove them. By September, most of the bird nesting activity will be concluded. And by getting the work done before Halloween, you would allow the squirrels to create nests elsewhere before very cold weather sets in.
As conservationists, we encourage people to preserve decaying trees when and where possible because they serve as excellent sources of food and shelter for a variety of animal species.

However, some trees simply cannot be saved or are not worth saving. If a tree has already been weakened by disease, the trunk is split, or more than 50 percent of the crown is gone, the tree should be removed.

Q: I noticed this red milksnakeeating a skink. Can you tell me more about this snake?

A. Brightly colored and medium in size, red milksnakes occur throughout Missouri. They are generally active from April through late October, but they’re secretive and seldom seen out in the open. They usually shelter under rocks and logs or in rodent burrows. During hot weather, they move even further underground. In Missouri, they prefer rocky, south-facing hillsides — especially on glades.

Red milksnakes feed on small snakes, mice, and lizards — particularly skinks. They kill their prey by constriction. In this photo, the snake you encountered is likely eating a five-lined skink.

Agent Advice

Zachary Swindle, Shannon County Conservation Agent

Black bass season opens May 23 for streams south of the Missouri River. Opportunities abound across the state for anglers to catch smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass. Regardless of your preferred method, you will need a fishing permit. If you are fishing with others, keep your catch separate and identifiable. Be alert on the water and always have ample safety equipment. Check the Wildlife Code of Missouri or A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations for length and daily limits, which vary depending on your fishing location. Both are available where permits are sold or online at Get your family together and head to your nearest fishing hole. What a great way to kick-off the summer!

We Are Conservation

Spotlight on people and partners

By Madi Nolte

Terry Feil, a retired mail carrier, took conservation efforts into his own hands after reading an article about declining bee populations. With help from his wife, Robyn, and Private Land Conservationist Ryan Lueckenhoff, Feil converted 32 acres of his Audrain County farmland into pollinator- and quail-friendly habitat. In just three years, he has planted nearly 3,000 shrubs and more than 30 types of wildflowers.

Above and beyond

“There are basic requirements to these programs,” Lueckenhoff said, referring to required numbers of shrubs and downed tree structures. “He went above and beyond and quadrupled the amount of stuff he had to do.”

In his own words

“You can make a whole lot more money farming this land than doing what I’m doing,” Feil said. “But there comes a time when you gotta ask yourself, ‘How much is enough?’” “Everything we’ve done seems like it’s working,” Feil said. “I have quail every day, all day long in my yard.”

Leave Wildlife Wild

As you head outdoors during this long-awaited spring season, you may encounter a variety of newborn wildlife. Young wildlife may appear to be abandoned, but that’s usually not the case. MDC asks that you ”leave wildlife wild” by not interfering with newborn or young animals as it can do more harm than good.

“Young animals are rarely orphaned,” said MDC State Wildlife Veterinarian Sherri Russell. “If the young are left alone, the parent will usually return. Parents are normally out searching for food and cannot constantly attend to their offspring.”

Russell added that baby birds are a common newborn people want to help.

“If you see a chick on the ground hopping around and it has feathers, leave it alone and bring pets inside because it is a fledgling and the parents are nearby keeping an eye on it,” she said. “Fledglings can spend up to 10 days hopping on the ground while learning to fly. If you find one that is featherless, you can return it to the nesting area if possible, as it probably fell out of the nest.”

Dogs catching baby rabbits and lawn mowers running over nests are other common issues.

“Rabbits seldom survive in captivity and can actually die of fright from being handled,” Russell said. “Even if the animal is injured, return it to the nest because the mother will most likely return.”

Despite what many think, wild mothers do not abandon their young because of a human scent, and most newborn animals do not survive in captivity.

“While people have good intentions, the care and rehabilitation of wild animals requires special training, knowledge, facilities — and permits,” she explained. “Without such care, wild animals will remain in poor health and could eventually die. And it is illegal to possess many wild animals without a valid state or federal permit.”

Russell also noted that wildlife can become dangerous as they mature, can carry parasites and disease, and can damage property.

“Native wildlife can carry mites, ticks, lice, fleas, flukes, roundworms, tapeworms, rabies, distemper, tuberculosis, respiratory diseases, and skin diseases,” Russell said. “Some of these can be transmitted to humans.”

Although tempting to take them into homes, the best help people can offer wild animals is to leave them alone.

Free Fishing Days

Want some free fun that gets family and friends outside in nature? Get hooked on fishing with our Free Fishing Days June 6 and 7. During Free Fishing Days, anyone can fish in the Show-Me State without purchasing a fishing permit, trout permit, or trout park daily tag.

Other fishing regulations remain in effect, such as limits on size and number of fish an angler may keep. Special permits may still be required at some county, city, or private fishing areas. Trespass laws remain in effect on private property.

Conservation makes Missouri a great place to fish, and Free Fishing Days encourages people to sample the state’s abundant fishing opportunities. Missouri has more than a million acres of surface water, and most of it provides great fishing. More than 200 different fish species are found in Missouri, with more than 20 of them being game fish for the state’s more than 1.1 million anglers.

For information on Missouri fishing regulations, fish identification, and more, get a copy of A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations where permits are sold or online at

Birds are Awesome,

Do you know that…

  • Birds control the insect population. They consume over 400 million tons of insects per year.
  • Birds support your health. Getting outside and listening to birds helps improve a person’s mood and attention.
  • Birds are good for the economy. Birdwatchers boost local spending on binoculars and other sporting goods, lodging, gas, food, and other local businesses.

Birds need our help

  • North American bird populations are declining. Here’s what you can do to help:
  • Plant native plants, shrubs, and trees. Native plants attract native insects, which provide the best food for birds and their young.
  • Make windows safer. Break up reflections and cut down on window strikes by installing stickers, film, or screens to the outside of windows.
  • Be a citizen scientist. Learn your birds by sight and sound, record sightings on eBird, or join monitoring efforts.

Not sure where to see and hear birds?

Check out the Great Missouri Birding Trail. Visit to find locations near you.

What Is It?


A variegated fritillary chrysalis is shimmery white, like a pearl, with black spots and bright orange to copper-gold nodules. It typically hangs from the front side of its host plant’s leaves. A chrysalis can be found on a wide variety of plants, including mayapple, passionflowers, pansies, and violets. The emerging butterfly, which is primarily black and orange, is active between summer and early fall.

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 - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler