Ask MDC

By MDC | June 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: June 2021
Body

Got a question for Ask MDC? Send it to AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: What is this stuck to the prairie lizard’s neck? It appeared to be a tick, but I knocked it off and couldn’t get a good look at it?

Yes, it is a tick. Many prairie lizards will have a few ticks on them during the summer months. This is common and does not appear to affect the lizard’s health.

Q: My wife and I found a small snapping turtle far from a pond or creek in Springfield. Can snapping turtles live out of the water indefinitely? How far will they travel to lay eggs?

Common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) can be found in about any type of water. In urban situations, they inhabit small creeks, lakes, drainage ditches, golf course ponds, landscaping ponds, and even sewage lagoons.

Female turtles may travel considerable distances to deposit eggs. Individuals in some northern states have been documented traveling nearly a mile from a wetland to dig a nest. However, most females deposit their eggs within 55 yards of a wetland, and a good number bury them less than 2 yards from the water’s edge. Snapping turtles seek well-drained, easy-to-dig sands and soils on open slopes. Once a female finds a satisfactory location, she digs a 4- to 7-inch-deep nest with her hind limbs. It’s common for this species to lay 20–30 cream-colored eggs, which will hatch 55 to 125 days later, depending on temperature and humidity. Once that occurs, some landowners are alarmed to see so many common snapping turtles on their property. However, these young turtles disperse quickly in search of aquatic habitats, where they will spend most of their time hidden in the mud in shallow waters.

Q: My family noticed these black-bellied whistling ducks in a pond near Belton. Is it common for these ducks to be this far north?

Missouri is not historically part of this species’ native range. Black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) are far more likely to be seen in Texas and Louisiana, along the coasts of Central and South America, and throughout much of Brazil. However, their population is increasing, and their range is expanding northward.

These long-legged ducks are frequently seen perching in trees near rivers, ponds, marshes, and swamps. They tend to avoid alighting on deep water and will flee to woods if disturbed. Look for them around shallow ponds, near the trimmed grasses of lawns and golf courses, and in agricultural fields where they search for grains like corn, sorghum, and rice. They have been documented nesting in Missouri over the last five years in old tree cavities and wood duck boxes.

They are named for their high-pitched whistling calls, which can be heard at allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-bellied_Whistling-Duck/sounds.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Photography Editor - Cliff White

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

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler