MDC Notable News from 2015

News from the region
Published Date

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In looking back, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) notes that 2015 was a year of animal oddities, record catches, wet-weather woes, significant hunting happenings, community conservation efforts, funding for partnerships with private landowners, and congratulations on conservation achievements to many Missourians. Here is a recap of notable news for 2015 from MDC. For more information on specific topics, visit



  • Three decades of work by MDC staff and conservation partners to restore lake sturgeon came to fruition in April when MDC Fisheries staff confirmed the fish -- nearly extinct within the state -- are once again naturally reproducing in the Mississippi River. A video of sturgeon spawning in the Mississippi River near West Alton -- shot by Sam Hardy of St. Peters -- first alerted staff to the activity. MDC staff and partners then collected eggs from the spawning site, successfully raised them in an MDC lab in Cape Girardeau, and released them downstream from the spawning site in May. They also confirmed newly-hatched sturgeon at the original spawning site.
  • This spring and summer were noisy ones throughout many parts of Missouri as broods of tens-of-thousands 13-year cicadas emerged in May. Such large, periodic emergences provide a feast for wildlife that feed on insects, such as wild turkeys and fish.
  • Catching a coastal blue crab in the upper Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau surprised MDC biologists in November during fish sampling -- and made news around the nation. Blue crabs are typically found in brackish coastal lagoons and estuaries from Nova Scotia, through the Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Uruguay. The only other record of a blue crab this far north along the Mississippi and its tributaries was in 2004 in the lower Ohio River near Metropolis, Ill.
  • This fall Christian County deer hunter Curtis Russel harvested what he thought was a 22-point buck – which turned out to be a doe. Russel first saw the deer with the massive rack courting a group of does and keeping other bucks away. After his harvest, Russell soon realized that something was off with the large “buck.” It had a small face, similar to a doe’s, and a lot more fat than a buck should have during the rut. Experts say that high levels of testosterone will occasionally cause does to grow antlers and exhibit some buck-like behavior.
  • A long-time resident, female, yellow-bellied watersnake at the MDC Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center made international news with her “virgin birth” when she laid eggs with developed offspring after having had no contact with a male for about eight years. Virgin births occur in some animal species through a process called parthenogenesis -- a type of asexual reproduction in which offspring develop from unfertilized eggs. It occurs in many insect orders, most commonly with bees, wasps, and stick insects and is also found in some species of fish, amphibians, birds, and reptiles, but not in mammals. It has also happened due to sperm storage in reptiles, although eight years is longer than previous occurrences of storage. Her developed eggs didn't hatch this year, but two young ones she gave virgin births to last year are thriving and serving as educational reptiles for the Nature Center.



Missouri is a great place to fish for more than 1 million anglers, including nine who caught record-breaking fish in 2015.

  • Crestwood angler John Burke set the first fishing record for 2015 with a 1-lb.14-oz. gizzard shad measuring 17 inches caught by pole and line on Feb. 1 from Jefferson Lake in St. Louis.
  • Burr Edde III of Malta Bend became a record-breaking angler when he landed a giant blue catfish on a stretch of the Missouri River in Saline County using a trotline. The new "alternative method" record blue catfish caught by Edde on March 21 weighed 120 pounds, 8 ounces, with a length of 55 and 1/8 inches and a girth of 45 inches.
  • The first paddlefish snagging trip for Andy Belobraydic III of Richwoods was one he’ll remember for the rest of his life. He snagged a state-record paddlefish in Mid-March on Table Rock Lake that weighed 140 pounds, 9 ounces and measured 56 ¾ inches in length and had a girth of 43 ¾ inches.
  • John Overstreet of Fayette shot a giant bigmouth buffalo on Pomme De Terre Lake using a bow and arrow. The new "alternative method" record bigmouth buffalo taken by Overstreet on April 17 weighed 54 pounds.
  • Lawrence Dillman of Rockaway Beach became a record-breaking angler in Missouri on May 21 when he hooked a giant striped bass on Bull Shoals Lake using a rod and reel. The new "pole and line" record striped bass caught by Dillman weighed 65 pounds, 2 ounces with a length of 49 ¾ inches and a girth of 36 inches.
  • Jacob Tyler of Eugene shot a record a 7-pound, 12-ounce river carpsucker with a length of 23 inches while bowfishing on April 26 on Lake of the Ozarks. Jonathan Randall of Smithville broke Tyler’s record when he shot a record river carpsucker using a bow and arrow at Smithville Lake in early May. The new "alternative method" record river carpsucker taken by Randall weighed 9 pounds, 10 ounces, and measured 24 and ¾ inches.
  • Mathew McConkey of Kansas City caught a record flathead catfish on the Missouri River using a trotline. The new "alternative methods" record flathead catfish caught by McConkey on Sept. 19 weighed 100 pounds and was 57-inches long.
  • James Lucas of O'Fallon became the last record-breaking angler in Missouri for 2015 when he hooked a skipjack herring on the Sandy Slough Mississippi River backwater area using a rod and reel. The new "pole and line" record skipjack herring caught by Lucas on Oct. 25 weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces with a length of 18 inches.
  • In September and October, MDC hosted a series of open houses around the state to provide information, answer questions, and get public comments on proposed regulation changes to help grow smallmouth and rock bass -- also called goggle eye – and to also simplify regulations for smallmouth in MDC Special Management Areas.
  • In 2015, MDC stocked more than 900,000 trout in four trout parks, 12 stream special-management areas, and Lake Taneycomo? The Department also stocked public waters around the state with more than 8.5 million fish, including walleye, catfish, bass, muskie, and paddlefish.



MDC was forced to close several conservation areas, river accesses, and other facilities around the state last spring and summer -- and again in December -- because of flooding. Conservation agents came to the rescue of several people stranded by flood waters with several swift-water rescues.

  • In July, flood waters swamped Roaring River State Park in Barry County -- making national news. Thanks to the work of MDC staff, not a single trout was lost from the Roaring River Fish Hatchery. After two days of park closure, anglers were back reeling in rainbow trout from the site's well-known waters. Similar stories also occurred in earlier weeks when flooding hit Maramec Spring Park in Phelps County, Bennett Spring State Park on the Laclede-Dallas County line and Montauk State Park in Dent County.
  • In November, an unfortunate combination of late-autumn water conditions -- warm water, low oxygen, high nitrogen, high sulfur levels, and excess nutrient content -- caused a loss of trout at MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery near Branson. Water conditions at Shepherd of the Hills were traced primarily to heavy rains, hot temperatures, and algae die-offs that depleted water quality and caused fish losses at Table Rock Lake earlier in the year. Shepherd of the Hills receives its water from Table Rock. Quick action by MDC staff saved about 80 percent of the fish. Colder weather will continue to help improve water conditions. As Missouri’s largest trout hatchery, Shepherd of the Hills produces more than 1.2 million trout annually, which are stocked into Lake Taneycomo and other trout areas around the state.
  • Hunting in December was a bit confusing for both hunters and game with frequent spring-like temperatures in the 50s, 60s -- and even occasional low 70s.
  • Rain, rain, and more rain in December gave much of Missouri a year ending in mud and flood. The extensive rains led to severe flooding in parts of the state, resulting in temporary closures of some conservation areas and river accesses, rescue effort by conservation agents, and overtime efforts at MDC fish hatcheries.



  • A major renovation of the firearms shooting range at MDC’s August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles began in January to make way for a new, state-of-the-art shooting facility. The project will take 24-30 months, depending on construction and weather. MDC completed renovations of the archery range at Busch in June. MDC also completed major renovations at the unstaffed Rocky Forks Lake shooting range in Boone County last spring.
  • Missouri’s 2015 spring turkey harvest was 48,432 -- the fourth consecutive increase since 2011. Fall turkey hunters checked 6,158 turkeys during Missouri's fall firearms turkey season – up from last year's harvest total of 5,680.
  • In 2015, MDC continued a five-year wild-turkey research project to monitor populations in several counties across northeast Missouri. This research will help determine turkey survival and hunting pressure and help with future management decisions.
  • In March 2015, MDC confirmed the first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) found in central Missouri -- in an adult buck harvested in Cole County. In December 2015, MDC confirmed the first case of the deadly deer disease found in east-central Missouri – in an adult buck harvested by a hunter in Franklin County. Since the first case of CWD in Missouri was discovered in 2010 in north-central Missouri, the disease has been found in several dozen wild deer and limited to cases in Adair, Cole, Franklin, Linn, and Macon counties. In December, the Missouri Conservation Commission advanced proposed regulations changes from MDC to help limit the spread of CWD. They would require mandatory sampling and testing for CWD of harvested deer taken in MDC's CWD management zones during the opening weekend of the November portion of the 2016 fall firearms deer season. The proposed regulations would also prohibit the feeding of deer and use of deer attractants such as grain, salt, and mineral products in MDC's CWD management zones. MDC's CWD management zones include all counties within a 25-mile radius of where a CWD-positive deer has been found. MDC welcomes public comment on the proposed regulations from Jan. 16 through Feb. 14 at
  • In October, MDC's free mobile app, Mo Hunting, received the 2015 Governor’s Award for Quality and Productivity in the category of Technology in Government. MO Hunting lets hunters, anglers, and trappers purchase, view, show, and store permits and associated details -- and more. Download it at
  • In October, veteran bow and firearms deer hunter Paul Gragg of Defiance harvested a trophy 15-point buck in St. Charles County only four months after taking up one of hunting's most challenging methods – the atlatl. The primitive hunting tool predates the bow and arrow and is used to throw a 4-to-6-foot long, spear-like dart from a wooden shaft approximately a foot-and-a-half long with a socket or knock at the rear to engage the dart.The method is legal throughout all portions of Missouri's deer season.
  • With good weather, deer hunters in Missouri harvested 189,938 deer during the 2015 November portion of fall firearms deer season – up from 166,383 in 2014.
  • In December, after extensive public input through public meetings, online comments, and testimony, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved recommendations by MDC for the 2016-2017 deer-hunting season and the 2016 turkey-hunting seasons. The recommendations included turkey-hunting and deer-hunting season dates, changes to turkey-hunting allowed methods, and changes to the deer-hunting season structure and allowed methods.
  • In 2015, MDC began a major deer-research project in northwest Missouri and the Ozarks to learn more about white-tail survival, reproduction, and movement. Working with the University of Missouri and landowners, researchers are tracking 90 collared deer.

  • 2015 ended on a grisly note with the poaching of a majestic, mature, bull elk. The incident happened in late December along the Current River in Shannon County. The elk was shot, the skull plate and antlers were removed with a chainsaw, and the carcass was left intact. MDC asks the public to report any related information to its Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-392-1111. The dead bull elk was one of approximately 130 animals that are part of the Department’s elk restoration and management efforts. The remaining elk can be seen at the Department’s Current River Conservation Area and Peck Ranch Conservation Area in the Missouri Ozarks.



MDC conservation efforts in urban areas and many communities help many Missourians discover nature in hands-on ways that may not otherwise be available.

  • MDC expanded its winter-trout-fishing program in 2015 by partnering with the communities of Fulton and Farmington. The program provides close-to-home winter fishing in lakes in and around communities such as Columbia, Jackson, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Kirksville, Mexico, Saint Joseph, Sedalia, St. Louis, and others.
  • MDC expanded its Rod and Reel Loaner Program, which is now available in 72 communities across the state. The program provides free loaner fishing poles and tackle boxes through locations such as local libraries, marinas, state parks, community centers, and MDC regional offices.
  • MDC’s Discover Nature -- Fishing program helped more than 5,000 kids and families around the state learn to fish for the first time in 2015.
  • In 2015, MDC renewed its Community Assistance Program agreements with Unionville, Bethany, Canton, Fayette, Holden, Lawson, and Macon to provide close-to-home fishing opportunities. MDC has CAP agreements with more than 115 communities around the state.
  • The Department’s Community Conservation Grant Program awarded $100,000 to five urban-habitat-restoration and monitoring projects in the St. Louis area.
  • MDC’s Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) cost-share program funded 48 projects around the state with nearly $500,000 spent on urban-forest management.
  • The Department’s Discover Nature Schools conservation-education curriculum continued to expand in 2015 and now serves nearly all Missouri school districts for grades pre-K through 12.
  • During July and August, MDC’s Forestry Division distributed more than $367,500 in grant money through its Volunteer Fire Assistance Matching Grant Program to more than 180 rural fire departments to assist with the purchase of personal protective gear and firefighting equipment for wildfire suppression efforts.
  • In 2015, MDC’s Forestry Division recognized 87 Missouri towns and cities as Tree City USA communities. Forestry also recognized seven colleges and universities as Tree Campus USA institutions and 11 Missouri utility providers as TreeLine USA companies. The Conservation Department and Arbor Day Foundation jointly run these programs.



  • In January 2015, MDC learned that it will receive $1.3 million in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Regional Conservation Partnership Program to help private landowners in Missouri improve grasslands, glades, and woodlands on their properties for both wildlife habitat and agriculture production. MDC will match those dollars over the next five years through its Private Lands Services program.
  • In May, MDC and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service partnered to provide $739,000 to private landowners for improvement to wildlife habitat and water quality on forest and pasture lands in Missouri. The funding is part of the new NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
  • In August, MDC received news of a $1.1 million grant through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program to create a new public access program, called the Missouri Outdoor Recreation Access Program (MRAP). MRAP will expand outdoor recreation activities in the state -- such as hunting and wildlife viewing -- with funds provided to landowners who provide public access. MDC and partner contributions will match the grant for a total, three-year program investment of $2.1 million. The Department began piloting the program in 2015 in northeast and southeast Missouri and will expand it statewide in 2016
  • This October, the USDA announced that MDC will receive $2.4 million for projects that protect, restore, and enhance wetlands in Missouri. The projects will be funded under the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Missouri was one of only six states to receive WREP funding this year. MDC, in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited, will provide an additional $700,000 in matching funds -- bringing the total investment in wetland restoration to $3.1 million over the next three years.
  • More than 90 percent of land in Missouri is privately owned. In 2015, MDC staff worked with more than 25,000 private landowners around the state to improve and maintain various habitats for fish, forests, and wildlife.



  • Conservation volunteers are important conservation partners. Last year, thousands of Missourians volunteered more than 280,000 hours of service to Department programs, including hunter education, Master Naturalists, Stream Teams, Forest Keepers, Protection Volunteers, and Discover Nature - Fishing Instructors. A sincere thank you to all MDC volunteers!
  • Wright County Conservation Agent Keith Wollard has dedicated his 30-year career with MDC to protecting and promoting Missouri outdoors. His decades of effort earned him the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Wildlife Officer of the Year award in February at the 39th Annual NWTF National Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn.
  • MDC honored the late Edwin "Ed" Glaser as the 41st member of the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame in April. Glaser's wife, June, accepted the award on his behalf. Glaser's 42-year career with MDC began in 1950 until his retirement in 1992. In addition to his invaluable work with MDC, Glaser has been recognized by the Missouri House of Representatives for his active role in a wide variety of conservation-related community groups and activities. The Hall of Fame honors deceased citizen conservationists, former MDC staff, and staff of other conservation-related government agencies who have made substantial and lasting contributions to the fisheries, forestry, or wildlife conservation efforts of the state.
  • Richard "Dick" W. Vaught posthumously joined the honored ranks of the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame in August. Vaught's granddaughter Lisa Davis, son David Vaught, daughter Valerie Brown, and daughter-in-law Dawn Vaught accepted the award on his behalf. Vaught began his 36-year career with the Department of Conservation in 1948 and had a career passion and focus on wetlands and waterfowl. He retired from MDC in 1984. Vaught was a pioneer in waterfowl research and also heavily involved in state and national waterfowl policy.
  • The MDC Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center celebrated its 10-year anniversary in May. The facility includes a 160-seat auditorium, three classrooms, hands-on exhibits for all ages, a scientific research laboratory, freshwater aquariums, an indoor wildlife-viewing area, an outside two-mile nature trail, and catch-and-release fishing pond. Nature-related gifts, books, calendars, DVDs, toys, and other items can be purchased through the Center’s Nature Shop.
  • More than a million visitors discovered nature at MDC nature and interpretative centers around the state in 2015.

  • Norwood Elementary became the 500th school to join the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP) in May. MoNASP is coordinated through MDC in partnership with numerous schools and supporting organizations throughout the state and promotes education, self-esteem, and physical activity for students in grades 4-12 through participation in the sport of archery. More than 135,000 Missouri students from 500 schools now participate in MoNASP.
  • Missouri fifth-grader Max Wangler from Sarcoxie R-II Elementary School took first place in the Elementary Division at the National Archery in Schools Program/International Bowhunting Organization 3-D Challenge national tournament in May in Louisville, Kentucky. Max shot a very impressive score of 290 out 300, which ended up being the top score for all Elementary Division shooters.
  • MDC Outdoor Skills Specialist and Hunter Education Instructor Scott Sarantakis was presented with the International Hunter Education Association-USA's 2015 Professional of the Year Award at the annual IHEA conference in May. Sarantakis serves St. Charles, Lincoln, and Warren counties.
  • In June, Bob and Barb Kipfer of Christian County were recognized as Missouri’s 2015 Tree Farmers of the Year for their outstanding efforts in managing their forest resources and sharing knowledge with others.
  • Each year, MDC awards loggers who have demonstrated good working relationships with landowners and foresters by minimizing damage to trees and natural resources and using best management techniques that preserve Missouri's forested lands. The 2015 Logger of the Year Award went to Allan Brown, owner of A. Brown Logging in New London. Brown was recognized for his outstanding work ethic and professionalism at the Missouri Forest Products Association Conference in July in Branson.
  • MDC Biologists Frank Loncarich and Kyle Hedges received the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative's Fire Bird Conservation Award in August at NBCI's annual meeting in New Jersey. The NBCI's Fire Bird Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to quail research and management. The name "Fire Bird" stems from the relationship that exists between prescribed fire and good quail habitat. Loncarich and Hedges successfully use prescribed fire and work with local farmers on targeted livestock grazing to manage 26,000 acres of MDC grassland in southwest Missouri.
  • In September, MDC added eight new conservation agents to it ranks. Congratulations to the conservation agent class of 2015: Michael Collins (Scotland County), Kyle Dunda (Madison County), Jeremy Edwards (Shannon County), Andrew Feistel (Knox County), Kaleb Neece (Reynolds County), Caleb Pryor (Butler County), Justin Pyburn (Caldwell County), and Samantha Rhoades (Osage County).
  • MDC had changes to its leadership team in 2015 with the November appointments of Jennifer Battson Warren as Deputy Director of Business and Aaron Jeffries as Deputy Director of Outreach and Policy. Previously chief of the Department’s Wildlife Division, Battson Warren now supervises the MDC construction division, business administration, and information technology unit. Previously assistant to the director, Jeffries now supervises the Outreach and Education division and will also continue to serve as lead liaison with members of the General Assembly and Executive Branch, U.S. Congress, and provide interagency coordination with various federal, state, and non-governmental interest groups. MDC Deputy Director of Resource Management Tom Draper continues to supervise the Fisheries, Forestry, Private Land Services, Protection, Resource Science, and Wildlife divisions.
  • In a mid-December ceremony at the State Capitol, Gov. Jay Nixon awarded the Missouri Medal of Valor to nine public safety officers from across the state for their courageous and exceptional efforts to save lives and protect the public in 2014. Medal of Valor Recipients included MDC Conservation Agents Jade Wright who serves Holt County, Eric Abbott who serves Atchison County, and Anthony Maupin who also serves Holt County. The three helped rescue eight motorists stranded in the dark of night by flash floodwaters near Interstate 29 in Holt County in September 2014. The brave agents dealt with torrential rains, swift water, varied water depths, and darkness as they rescued the stranded motorists by boat, front loader, and from the front of a road grader – all with no injuries.



Get a video version of some MDC milestones and conservation accomplishments from 2015 at Happy New Year from the Missouri Department of Conservation!