By MDC | June 1, 2023
From Missouri Conservationist: June 2023

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

Q: I found this snake beside my driveway. What species is it?

This is an eastern hog-nosed snake. One identifying feature is this snake’s pronounced upturned snout.

This species’ coloration can be highly variable. Their ground color can be gray, tan, yellow, brown, olive, or orange. Individuals can either have a series of brown dorsal blotches (20 to 30) with a smaller light marking between them or can be dull colored and lack dorsal markings, except near the head. With heavily marked specimens, there are several additional dark markings on the head: a V-shaped marking behind the eyes, a dark bar across the head between the eyes, and a diagonal dark bar from each eye to the corner of the mouth. In some parts of this species’ range, individuals can be jet black. For more information about eastern hog-nosed snakes, visit

Q: Last spring, we found a white squirrel in our backyard. At first, I thought it was an albino. But the eyes didn’t appear red; they were blue. Do white squirrels sometimes have blue eyes?

Missouri’s two most common tree squirrel species — the eastern gray squirrel and the eastern fox squirrel — can have quite a lot of color variation from dark to light. MDC Scientist Beth Emmerich considers this squirrel a “blonde morph.” It lacks some, but not all, of its melanin, causing it to appear unusually beige or buff colored.

The blue eyes lead us to believe it’s more likely leucistic, as opposed to albino, which have pink eyes. Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales, or cuticle, but not the eyes. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin. Typically, leucistic animals are partly white, with brown, tan, and gray.

According to The Wild Mammals of Missouri book, “Albino squirrels occur occasionally, and, in some instances where this characteristic is common in the heredity of the local population, small colonies of albinos may form. Missouri has one such colony in Marionville.”

For more information, visit

Q: Why are there no grizzly bears in the Ozarks?

Historically, grizzly bears did inhabit the western regions of Missouri, given the extensive grasslands found in those parts of the state. However, compared to grizzly bears, black bears were believed to live at much higher densities in the forested regions of the eastern United States. Grizzlies, due to their slower reproductive rates, have been slower at expanding back into their historic range. In comparison, black bears reproduce and repopulate more quickly than grizzlies.

When high-quality food resources such as salmon or bison are readily available, grizzly bears easily out-compete black bears. But when those resources are unevenly dispersed across the landscape and more food resources — such as acorns — are found in trees, black bears can out-compete grizzly bears. Given the historic availability of food resources available for both bear species, conditions in Missouri were always in favor of black bears over grizzly bears. MDC has no plans to restore grizzly bears to Missouri.

Q: These were attached to my garage doors. What will they become?

These are hackberry emperor caterpillars and chrysalises. Found throughout Missouri in woodlands, city yards, and parks, they are always associated with hackberry trees. Their favorite places are wooded streams, river edges, and forest glades.

They are attracted to the sodium in human perspiration, so it’s not unusual for them to alight on people.

When they are not flying in a fast and erratic manner, they can be seen resting upside down on tree trunks. Males will perch on a tall object in a sunny area to watch for females. Eggs are laid in clusters and the caterpillars are gregarious when young, dining on tender hackberry leaves. They overwinter in groups gathered inside dead, rolled leaves.

As adult butterflies, they eat tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and carrion and sip moisture from puddles along roads and streams. This species has two broods between May and October.

For more information, visit

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner