News and Almanac

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From Missouri Conservationist: Jun 2002

Conservation, Agricultural Departments Work to Keep Chronic Wasting Disease out of Missouri

During the last year, efforts to address chronic wasting disease (CWD) risks associated with the interstate transportation of captive deer and elk have involved the departments of Conservation and Agriculture, and the captive deer and elk industry.

“The Department of Conservation is actively working to protect our wild deer herd—a resource that not only provides viewing enjoyment and hunting opportunity, but boosts Missouri's economy annually by nearly $800 million,” said Jerry Conley, Missouri Department of Conservation Director.

Through a partnership approach, several steps have been taken to help ensure the continued health of Missouri's wild deer herd and captive elk and deer populations. Recent steps include:

  1. requiring an entry permit for all deer and elk entering Missouri,
  2. banning the import of deer and elk from states where the disease has been found, until an approved surveillance program is established and the herd is CWD-free for three years,
  3. establishing a surveillance program for Missouri's captive deer and elk and
  4. drafting a contingency plan to guide actions should the disease be found in our state.

CWD is known to affect mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk. It attacks an animal's brain and is assumed always to be fatal. CWD has not been found in Missouri.

The Department is committed to reducing the risk of CWD entering Missouri. Although the disease could come through the natural movement of wild animals, interstate transportation of deer and elk from areas where the disease already exists is the most likely avenue of spread. Fortunately, this risk can be controlled.

In May, the Department of Agriculture instituted a four-month moratorium on the importation of mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk that are 16 months and over. Insight provided by the captive deer and elk industry has been extremely beneficial in developing and implementing this step. The Conservation Department also is halting any transportation of live wild deer within Missouri. “We are doing everything within our authority to manage and protect the deer already within our borders,” said Conley.

To ensure the state is taking the appropriate steps to protect deer and elk from CWD, Gov. Bob Holden has directed the Department of Agriculture to form a task force of industry, government and conservation representatives. This task force will review actions the state has already taken and formulate a long-term plan to prevent chronic wasting disease from becoming established in the state. “The governor believes that a proactive approach to this issue will be the best way to ensure that chronic wasting disease never gets a foothold in Missouri,” said Department of Agriculture Director Lowell Mohler.

CWD was first documented in 1967 in Colorado; however, it is currently receiving a lot of media attention. It has been found in deer or elk in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. There is no evidence that CWD affects people or livestock.

The Conservation Department is working to inform hunters about CWD to reduce risk from interstate transportation of harvested animals. Missourians who harvest deer or elk in states where CWD is found are encouraged to process the animal where taken, bringing only boned meat back to our state. The Department also suggests making your taxidermist aware that the animal was harvested from a known CWD area to help ensure proper disposal.

The Conservation Department began monitoring wild deer here during the 2001 firearms season. All samples tested negative. This fall the Department of Conservation will expand its monitoring efforts. Deer hunters' cooperation is essential to the success of this effort. — Stephanie Ramsey Westbrook

Big Muddy Tops Nation's Endangered Rivers List Two Years Running

American Rivers recently named the Missouri River the nation's most endangered river for the second year in a row.

The national conservation group says the Big Muddy's ecosystem is critically threatened by manipulation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“As the longest river in the country, the Missouri River has huge historic, cultural and economic significance,” said Chad Smith, director of American Rivers' Nebraska field office.

American Rivers emphasizes the results of a study by the National Research Council that says the Missouri River ecosystem will suffer irreversible damage without a return to a more natural pattern of seasonal high and low flows.

Mark Your Calendar for Deer Season

The Conservation Commission has set the November portion of this year's firearms deer season to take place Nov. 16-26. This year's youth-only deer hunt will be Nov. 2-3. The dates for the muzzleloader segment of deer season are Dec. 7-15.

New for this year is an earlier, four-day antlerless-only portion of firearms deer season. This year's antlerless-only hunt will be Dec. 19-22 in units 1-27, 33-37, 58 and 59. This is 11 more units than last year.

Another significant change in this year's deer regulations is the creation of a statewide any-deer permit. This permit, good in any of the state's management units, replaces the old any-deer permit, which was good only in the unit for which it was issued. This increases opportunities for hunters to take deer outside their regular hunting areas.

Other regulation changes affect the hunter-orange clothing requirement and the establishment of a minimum age of 6 years for deer and turkey hunting are available in the Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulation Information booklet, available from permit vendors statewide in July.

Bass Tournament Benefits Spinal Cord Society

Bass anglers have until midnight July 23 to register for the seventh annual Spinal Cord Society Buddy Bass Tournament July 28 at Bucksaw Marina, Truman Lake. Contestants will have a chance at winning a Ranger R61 boat package, valued at $17,000, plus $13,000 in cash prizes. Participants also can attend an auction and barbecue the evening before the tournament. For registration information, call (913) 451-6253.

Buffalo Grass - The No-Mow Freedom Lawn

image of Buffalo grass

If spending precious weekend hours mowing grass has lost its charm for you, plant a no-mow buffalo grass lawn.

Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) is a hardy, disease-resistant, Missouri native turf grass. This good-looking grass is cool gray-green in summer and rich golden flax color in winter. Buffalo grass is heat and drought tolerant and grows only 4-6 inches tall. You can leave it long for a soft look or cut it to 2-3 inches for a tighter, neater looking turf. Best of all, you mow buffalo grass only once every two to three weeks.

Buffalo grass needs six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. It requires only a quarter inch of water weekly, compared with 1 to 1.5 inches for most other turf grasses. It needs little or no fertilizer and, unlike fescue and bluegrass, it is insect and disease resistant, so forget about pesticides.

Buffalo grass doesn't turn green until late spring. To dress up buffalo grass lawns in the spring, you can intersperse colorful drifts of early blooming bulbs such as tulips, iris, crocus and daffodils. You can establish a buffalo grass lawn with seed or plugs. A nursery dealing in native plants can advise you about soil preparation. A list of such nurseries is available online at <>. Search for key word Grow Native! and click on "nurseries."

FWS Hopes to Fuel Sturgeon's Resurgence

Changes in the Missouri River have made most of it uninhabitable for the pallid sturgeon, a fish that has lived in the river since the time of dinosaurs. Today the pallid sturgeon and several other river species are endangered.

In April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 250 captive-reared pallid sturgeon measuring 16-24 inches into the river near Boonville to give the species a boost. The Conservation Department also rears sturgeon at its hatcheries and monitors sturgeon populations through netting surveys.

Upper Mississippi Duck Blind Drawing Set for July 20

If you hope to hunt waterfowl at Upper Mississippi Conservation Area next fall, you need to attend the annual blind drawing July 20. Duck and goose hunting opportunities on the 11,000-acre area are allocated by a random drawing. To participate, you have to be at Francis Howell High School on Highway 94 in Weldon Spring between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Registration will take place from 9 to 11 a.m.The drawing will start at 12:30 p.m. with blind registration following.

To participate, you must be 16 or older and have photo identification, 2002 Missouri Small Game Hunting and Migratory Bird Hunting permits and a federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (federal duck stamp).

Upper Mississippi CA is a collection of 87 tracts, including some islands, along the Mississippi River from Mel Price Lock and Dam to LaGrange. For more information, call the Conservation Department regional office in St. Louis ((636) 441-4554) or Hannibal ((573) 248-2530) or Upper Mississippi CA ((573) 898-5905).

River Lingo

Buoys—Floating markers on either side of the navigation channel. Red buoys with pointed tops are called “nuns” and mark the left edge of the navigation channel looking downstream. Black buoys with square tops are called “cans” and mark the right edge of the channel looking downstream.Eddies/Backwaters - Areas of still or slow-flowing water outside the navigation channel, usually downstream from wing dikes or other river control structures.

Navigation Channel—The deep, swift channel used by tow boats.

Riprap—Large rocks used to protect banks and river control structures from erosion.

River Mile—Distance up the Missouri River from the confluence with the Mississippi. Posted on mile boards along the river and on navigation charts.

Columbia Woman Finds Adventure Close to Home

As she approached her 50th birthday, Linda LaFontaine (foreground above) decided she wanted a little more excitement in her life and took up kayaking.

She started paddling on Cedar Creek and other small streams around Columbia, but she wanted a grander setting to celebrate passing her half-century mark last year. She found what she was looking for on the Missouri River between Rocheport and Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. Since then, she and kayaking partner Cammy Ronchetto have taken many weekend and evening jaunts of 10-20 miles on the river.

“It's really a great place to paddle,” LaFontaine said. “We see eagles and herons and lots of other wildlife, and it's fun exploring river towns like Lupus. The people are really nice, and river towns have a special flavor.”

LaFontaine has made river trips a birthday tradition. The Conservationist caught up with her on her 51st birthday trip.

River Information

“Missouri River Navigational Charts B Sioux City, Iowa, to Kansas City” and “Missouri River Navigational Charts B Kansas City to the Mouth” show details of interest to boaters. They cost $8.50 each and are available from the Missouri River Information Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, P.O. Box 710, Yankton, SD, 57078. The phone number is (866) 285-3219.

The Corps of Engineers “Abandoned Shipwrecks on Missouri River Channel Maps of 1879 and 1954” shows the locations of dozens of riverboats lost in the river.

The U.S. Geological Survey website offers up-to-date river level information. For example, <> shows a chart tracking the river's level at Jefferson City. Similar information is available for other locations.

Three brochures: “Upper Missouri River,” “Middle Missouri River” and “Lower Missouri River,” show accesses, conservation areas and other information about recreational opportunities. Single copies are available from Conservation Department regional offices in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis.

“Lewis & Clark in the Boonslick,” by James M. Denny, is available from the Missouri River Community Network, Outdoors Building, 200 Old Business 63 South, Columbia, MO 65201-6081, <>.

Missouri River Myths

As we near the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's expedition, we're exposed to a flood of lore and facts about the Missouri River. To fully appreciate and enjoy Missouri's most celebrated waterway. It's helpful to unravel a few persistent myths about the Missouri River.

Myth: The River Is Polluted.

More than 1.7 million Missourians, one-third of the state's population, get their drinking water from the river. The river is muddy and always has been. Early settlers said it was “too thick to drink but too thin to plow.”

Myth: Whirlpools and Undertows Make the River Too Dangerous to Float.

The river has swift current, but so do Missouri's world-famous Ozark float streams. The Wide Missouri is surprisingly placid at normal levels.

Myth: The River Is a Muddy, Nasty Place.

In addition to mud, the Missouri River has miles of beautiful, sandy beaches during much of the summer and fall. The majestic bluffs and beautiful vistas that greeted Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery are much the same today much as they were 200 years ago.

See Conservation Exhibits at Missouri's 100th State Fair

The 2002 Missouri State Fair is the 100th of its kind, and the Conservation Department is pulling out all the stops to commemorate the event. You won't want to miss the forest-, fish- and wildlife-related fun at the conservation pavilion at the south end of the fairgrounds.

This year's fair runs Aug. 8-18 in Sedalia. Conservation offerings will include live wildlife and hands-on activities. As always, visitors to the conservation pavilion will be able to see paddlefish, catfish, bass and other native fish and wildlife in 10 aquariums, each with a 100-gallon capacity.

The Missouri General Assembly established the fair in 1899. The event has been held annually ever since, except in 1943 and 1944, when it was cancelled during World War II. The Conservation Department has participated in the fair since 1926, when the Missouri Game and Fish Commission built the first conservation fair pavilion. The exhibit consisted mainly of a taxidermy display of fish and wildlife. Today, the Conservation Department's contribution to the fair includes displays of live birds, mammals, snakes and amphibians, a native plant gardening demonstration area and live shows daily.

While the State Fair celebrates its 100th event, the Conservation Department will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the “Design for Conservation.” This is the conservation program funded by Missourians in a 1976 statewide vote. Visitors to the Conservation Department pavilion can find out how money from the one-eighth of one percent sales tax for conservation has been spent.

Special attractions include a computerized fishing simulator that couples video of a hooked fish with a mechanical fishing rod that pulls when the on-screen fish does. Smoky Bear will be on hand, along with naturalists, conservation agents and other Conservation Department workers, to answer questions.

Programs at the conservation pavilion this year include “Critter Rock” music for children Aug. 11, the Fishin' Magicians comedy act Aug. 8-10, fishing demonstrations in the Conservation Department's mobile aquarium Aug. 14-18, “The Call of the Wild” by wildlife mimic Ralph Duren Aug. 12-14 and making animal tracks in the sand and other activities for children every day. A daily schedule of events will be posted at the pavilion.

Columbia Bottom CA Closed for Construction

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is temporarily closed as construction of access and public use facilities begins.

Work started this summer includes building access roads, parking lots, a boat ramp, hiking and biking trails and an area for viewing the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Also on the drawing board are management structures for several hundred acres of wetland and a maintenance shop. When the area reopens—probably next spring or summer—it will offer much more for visitors to see and do.

Lake of the Ozarks Fish Thriving

If you fish at Lake of the Ozarks and have been worrying about the health of fish populations there, turn that frown upside down. Recent surveys show that bass and other sport fish continue to thrive at Missouri's bass Mecca.

Many anglers were disappointed by a slump in black bass fishing last summer and fall. Not only did they catch fewer fish, but some of those they did catch had open sores on their bodies. This fueled fears of an outbreak of largemouth bass virus (LMBV), a disease that has hurt bass populations in Arkansas and some other states.

Responding to the reports, Conservation Department fisheries biologists collected several largemouth bass during the fall 2001 B.A.S.S. Invitational tournament. Analysis of the fish showed they were suffering from infections that have always been present in the Show-Me State. The infections made bass and other affected fish sluggish and caused them to lose scales in patches. Tests the previous spring detected LMBV in a few fish at Lake of the Ozarks, but the more recent samples didn't show any evidence of the disease.

The cause of last fall's bass sickness probably can be traced to weather. Rainfall around Lake of the Ozarks was significantly below normal during 1999 and 2000. During droughts, nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, accumulate on the ground. When more normal rains returned in 2001, they flushed these accumulated nutrients from the watershed into the lake. That created ideal conditions for the growth of the bacteria and protozoans.

The good news is that last fall's slump was temporary. Electrofishing surveys this spring showed about the same number of bass as the average from 1997 to 2001.

The excess nutrients that contributed to the fish diseases have a positive side. The same nutrients boost the growth of microscopic plants and animals that form the foundation of the lake's food chain. That food helped fish that were born last year to thrive. Fall 2001 fish surveys showed what could be the best crappie reproduction in a decade. Furthermore, Conservation Department biologists found the highest number of young largemouth bass ever recorded.

The news gets even better. Although spring electro-fishing surveys don't normally find significant numbers of the walleye fingerlings that the Conservation Department stocks each year, last year's surveys captured walleye fingerlings at a rate of more than 10 per hour of sampling. That indicates extremely good survival of these stocked fish. Even though Lake of the Ozarks experienced some problems recently, the fish populations remain in good shape, and the future is extremely promising.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Bryan Hendricks
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Circulation - Bertha Bainer