By MDC | March 1, 2024
From Missouri Conservationist: March 2024

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

Q: Compared to previous years, it seemed like deer in St. Francois County held their antlers longer in 2023. Was it due to mild weather or another reason?

The deer antler growth and shedding process is largely driven by photoperiod, or day length. Thus, we do not typically see large swings in the timing of these events on an annual basis. That said, some characteristics of a local deer population can slightly shift timing of the antler cycle. These include the buck age structure, adult sex ratio, and overall deer abundance, which relates to the availability of nutrition for deer within a population.

An older buck age structure tends to result in earlier and more synchronized breeding, which then results in synchronous and earlier antler shedding. Similarly, a balanced adult female-to-male sex ratio results in synchronized breeding and earlier antler shedding. Populations heavily skewed toward does may have a more prolonged breeding season, which results in heightened testosterone levels for a longer period among bucks and, thus, later antler shedding. In a dense deer population — one that is near biological carrying capacity — nutritional stress may force bucks to drop antlers earlier. Conversely, in places where deer are in great physical condition, bucks may hold their antlers longer. Due to a large acorn crop in autumn 2022 and a mild winter in early 2023, deer were in better physical condition than is typical for that time of year, and as a result may have held on to their antlers longer.

Q: I believe I may have a yellow cardinal visiting my backyard. Are they a rarity in this area?

This looks like a northern cardinal with diluted melanin, meaning its feathers have low concentrations of pigment, or it lacks eumelanin, or dark pigment. These colorations are caused by rare genetic mutations, of which there are many variations. For additional information about some of these abnormal colorations and their causes, visit

Q: If we spot a cluster of leopard frog eggs laid in a puddle that dried up, should we relocate them to a pond in hope they’ll make it through the summer?

Although conservationists normally advocate leaving nature in place and allowing “wild things to be wild,” in this circumstance, it is acceptable to move stranded eggs to a nearby pond.

Missouri is home to three species of leopard frogs — northern, plains, and southern leopard frogs. Typically, these frogs breed as early as late February. In some years, they breed in autumn, too, if the weather is cool and rainy enough.

Leopard frogs prefer ponds, sloughs, temporary pools, and flooded ditches for their breeding sites. Males gather and begin calling after sunset. Females lay eggs in rounded masses that are protected by a thin coating of clear jelly. The clusters are attached to submerged stems or branches in shallow water. Each mass can have several thousand eggs, which hatch in two to three weeks, depending on water temperature. Tadpoles become froglets in midsummer — about three months after egg laying — or, if they hatch late in the season, may overwinter as tadpoles in the ponds and transform the next spring.

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
Circulation – Marcia Hale