March 2010

Schools trash litter through No MOre Trash! contest

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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Potosi Elementary’s winning trashcan. Pictured with their winning trashcan are teacher Heather Reary (top left) and Potosi Elementary first graders: (top row l-r) Brayden Sweet, Shyana Walton, Leann Rennick, Megan Shivers, Hailey Crabtree, Austyn Griffin, (row two l-r) Trenton Allen, Collin Helm, Matthew Jarvis, Elizabeth Burke, Mackenzie Jaycox, Jakob Brand, (row three l-r) Thomas Vance, Austin King, Dalton Cain, Tyler Walton, Allison Woods, Zachary Davis, Kaleb Hilkemeyer, (bottom row l-r) Hailey Koch, Landon Cook, Autumn Mitchell, Eli Long and Madison McClure.
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Kingston K-14’s winning trashcan. Pictured with Mr. RoMO are Kingston K-14 students (l-r): Heather Gaddy, Hannah Politte, Kailyn Veach, Gracie Boyer, Eli Hongsermeier-Baxter, Ethan Cross, Chance Gotsch and Jeorgia LaGrand. Not pictured are Steven Smith and Danielle Morrison.
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Southwest Livingston County R-1’s winning trashcan. Pictured with “Bessie” are Southwest Livingston County R-1 students: (front l-r) Maritza Chavez, Levi Ireland, (back l-r) Amanda Adams, Ryan Bell, Mathew Bartz, Nathan Byler and Briana Lewis.

JEFFERSON CITY – More than 820 students from 46 Missouri elementary and middle schools, including private and home schools, helped fight litter by participating in the 2010 “Yes You CAN Make Missouri Litter Free” trashcan-decorating contest. The annual contest is sponsored by the Missouri Departments of Conservation (MDC) and Transportation (MoDOT) as part of their ongoing “No MOre Trash!” campaign to raise awareness about litter and to discourage littering.

The contest encourages classes from kindergarten through eighth grade to join the fight against litter by decorating and displaying a large trash can with the “No MOre Trash!” logo and a litter prevention message using a variety of creative mediums. The winning school from each of three competition categories (grades K-2, grades 3-5 and grades 6-8) receives a $100 award. First-place winners are then eligible for a $500 grand prize and a trophy.

Heather Reary’s first-grade class at Potosi Elementary School won first place for the grade K-2 category, and was selected as the grand-prize winner.

Reary explained that her first-grade students selected a theme of “SHOW ME CLEAN! Don’t be a litterbug!” They used paint, markers, pipe cleaners and recycled paper to create the bug-themed trashcan, which is displayed near the front door of the school.

“This was a great experience for my class,” said Reary. “They worked very hard on decorating the trash can. This also gave me an opportunity to do a theme on littering and recycling. We also did some writing on the effects of littering on our environment and drew pictures of what our playground may look like if everyone littered. I know this made a difference for my students.”

Kimberly Murphy’s fourth and fifth graders at Kingston K-14 won first place for the grade 3-5 category.

Murphy explained that the students selected a theme of “NoMO Trash in Missouri” and created a trashcan robot named Mr. RoMO to represent the 21st century. Students used tinfoil, used tart and cake pans, scrap construction paper and Styrofoam to create the robot-themed trashcan. The can is displayed at the main entrance of the elementary building.

Marj Locker’s seventh-grade art class at Southwest Livingston County R-1 won first place for the grade 6-8 category.

Locker explained that the students selected a theme of, “Help Bessie Keep the Pastures Clean,” and refurbished a trashcan using paper mache to look like a sitting Holstein cow. Students painted the paper mache and added pink pipe cleaners for eyelashes and a cowbell with the recycle symbol. Bessie sits near the school cafeteria.

“The contest is a great way for kids and schools to learn about how litter harms our environment, and to get involved in litter prevention and cleanup,” explained MDC No MOre Trash! Coordinator Joe Jerek.

Jerek encouraged others to get involved in litter prevention and cleanup through Missouri’s annual No MOre Trash! April Trash Bash. The month-long event, sponsored by MDC and MoDOT, encourages individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities to pick up litter, educate others about litter, conduct a litter-free activity and encourage friends and family to participate.

For more information on No MOre Trash!, including the April Trash Bash, call 888-ASK MODOT (888-275-6636), or visit

MEDIA NOTE: Participating schools were:



  • Hillsboro Junior High (Jefferson)
  • Kingston K-14 (Washington)
  • Berean Christian Academy (Lawrence)
  • School of the Osage Middle School (Miller)
  • Forsyth Middle School (Taney)
  • Visitation Academy (St. Louis)
  • Knox County R-1 Middle School (Knox)
  • Washington Middle School (St. Louis)
  • Jefferson C-123 School (Nodaway)
  • Carl Junction Intermediate School (Jasper)
  • Southwest Livingston County R-1 (Livingston)
  • Tipton Elementary School (Moniteau)
  • Bingham Middle School (Jackson)
  • South Middle School (Jasper)
  • Delta Elementary School (Cape Girardeau)
  • Osage Trail Middle School (Jackson)
  • Meadville R-IV (Linn)

  • Turkey season creates jobs, supports state economy

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Missouri gobblers call in millions of dollars from outside Missouri.

    JEFFERSON CITY–Looking for a bright spot in Missouri’s economic picture? Look outdoors. The upcoming spring turkey season will pump tens of millions of dollars into the state economy, just as it does every year.

    Last year, Missourians spent more than $1.5 million on spring turkey hunting permits. More important to Missouri’s economic well-being, out-of-state hunters shelled out nearly $1.4 million for Missouri spring turkey hunting permits. The fall season added another $235,447 to 2009 turkey permit sales.

    The economic impact of turkey hunting, both spring and fall, goes far beyond permit sales, however. Turkey hunters spend more than $125 million each year on travel, food, lodging and hunting equipment, including everything from shotguns and ammunition to turkey calls and camouflage clothing.

    In all, the economic impact of this spending is more than $248 million annually and supports more than 2,300 jobs.

    Economic estimates using information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that turkey hunting expenditures generate nearly $5 million in state sales taxes and another $2 million in state income tax revenues annually. These contributions to the Missouri economy are especially welcome when state revenues lag and force cuts to important services.

    Conservation of the wild turkey has made Missouri one of the nation’s top turkey hunting destinations. This enriches both the lives of those who hunt and the Missouri economy. If you are interested in wild turkeys in Missouri, visit our turkey pages.

    The figures on hunter expenditures are based on information from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which has been conducted about every five years since 1955. More information about the survey is available at and additional economic analyses are available at
    -Jim Low-

    Help clean up Missouri during April Trash Bash

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    It’s in the grass, on river banks, in ditches. It’s everywhere, and it’s disgusting. It’s litter.

    News item photo
    Peanut, a red-eared slider turtle, was found with a discarded plastic six-pack holder around her shell. The piece of litter had been around her shell for about four years and her shell had grown around it. The plastic was removed and Peanut is doing well. Most animals are not so lucky when it comes to litter. Learn what you can do to help at

    JEFFERSON CITY – Spring into action during April and help clean up Missouri during the 2010 Trash Bash. The month-long event encourages individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities to pick up litter, educate others about litter, conduct a litter-free activity and encourage friends and family to participate. The annual statewide event is sponsored by the Missouri Departments of Conservation (MDC) and Transportation (MoDOT) as part of their ongoing No MOre Trash! litter-prevention campaign.

    More than 830 groups and 10,000 volunteers participated in last year’s Trash Bash to collect more than 111,100 bags of trash throughout Missouri – an increase of more than 26,600 bags from the year before.

    Participants also held hundreds of educational efforts at schools, rest areas, community events such as Earth Day celebrations and trashcan painting contests, on radio and television shows, through Take Your Child to Work Day and more.

    “We were lucky and thankful to have so much enthusiasm and hard work last year,” said Stacy Armstrong, MoDOT roadside management supervisor and state Adopt-A-Highway coordinator. “I believe we can pick it up a notch. We just need everyone who participated last year to get one or two more people involved. It will make such a difference.”

    Participants are asked to report their Trash Bash activities by May 15 through an after-activity report card. The report card is included in the “Clean Up Missouri” Trash Bash brochure available at MoDOT and MDC offices and other locations throughout the state.

    Participating groups and individuals will receive commemorative 2010 Trash Bash lapel pins. MoDOT and MDC can also provide No MOre Trash! trash bags.

    “Littering isn’t just ugly, it hurts wildlife, it costs Missourians millions of tax dollars each year, and it’s illegal,” added MDC No MOre Trash! Coordinator Joe Jerek. “Birds, fish, turtles and other animals get tangled in litter, such as plastic six-pack holders and fishing line, and it can kill them. Litter poisons fish, birds and other wildlife and can cost a litterer up to $1,000 in fines and one year in jail.”

    MoDOT spends more than $5 million each year cleaning litter from Missouri’s roadsides, while MDC spends almost $1 million a year to clean litter from conservation areas and other department locations.

    For more information on the April Trash Bash, or to get trash bags for cleanup activities, call 888-ASK MODOT (888-275-6636), or visit

    Federal fish, wildlife funds boost Show-Me State conservation

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Hunters and anglers asked for the privilege of paying taxes on their equipment to pay for fish and wildlife restoration

    News item photo
    Since 1937, Missouri has received nearly $300 million in fish and wildlife restoration money from federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and marine engine fuel. Hunters and anglers played a key role in establishing the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1951. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

    JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri is on track to receive upwards of $21 million this fiscal year from federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing gear and marine engine fuels. This year’s apportionment will bring the Show-Me State’s total receipts of federal fish and wildlife restoration funds to nearly $300 million. Since 1937, Missouri has been using its share of the federal funds to underwrite fish and wildlife conservation efforts as diverse as restoring game animals to purchasing land for outdoor recreation.

    One little-known and remarkable thing about these funds is the fact that hunters and anglers insisted that Congress allow them to pay taxes to raise money for conservation. Amazingly, hunters asked to be taxed in the depths of the Great Depression.

    Congress passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (also called the Pittman-Robertson Act for its two sponsors) in 1937. The nation still was mired in the economic devastation wrought by the stock market crash of 1929. Just as depressing for many hunters was the state of the nation’s wildlife resources. After more than a century of unregulated and heedless exploitation, white-tailed deer and wild turkey populations teetered on the brink of extirpation in many states. Waterfowl numbers were at unprecedented lows. It seemed possible that once-abundant species, such as the wood duck, might go extinct.

    Hunters across the nation banded together and demanded action to save wildlife, even asking to pay for it themselves. It was not merely coincidence that Missouri citizens amended their constitution about this same time to devise an unprecedented kind of agency to promote science-based conservation.

    Anglers experienced a similar awakening a few years later, faced with polluted streams and depleted fish stocks. They mobilized to secure passage of the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1951. This law, better known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, established a tax on fishing gear.

    Those federal tax funds, augmented by amendments to expand their scope, now channel roughly $800 million annually into state-based conservation programs nationwide. The return on this investment, measured in recreational and economic activity and enhanced mental and physical health, are beyond calculating.

    This year’s federal aid in sport fish and wildlife restoration money is helping pay for a wide range of projects in Missouri, including the following.

    · Developing or re-establishing self-sustaining fish populations and improving fish habitat in public lakes and streams.

    · Stocking millions of fish in hundreds of public lakes and streams.

    · Conducting sampling for fish flesh and freshwater mussel contaminants.

    · Investigating fish kills and water pollution incidents.

    · Providing technical assistance to help landowners manage fisheries on private waters.

    · Maintaining more than 300 motorboat access areas.

    · Building or renovating fishing and motorboat access areas on:

    § Indian Creek in cooperation with the City of Lanagan,

    § The Gasconade and Big rivers,

    § The North River in cooperation with the City of Palmyra,

    § The Missouri and Mississippi rivers,

    § The Elk river in cooperation with the City of Pineville,

    § Lake of the Ozarks and

    § Spring Fork Lake in cooperation with the Sedalia Water Department,

    § Jack Floyd Memorial Lake in cooperation with the City of Bowling Green.

    · Building a fish cleaning station at Montauk State Park.

    · Renovating trout production facilities at Montauk, Roaring River, Bennett Spring, Maramec Springand Shepherd of the Hills fish hatcheries.

    · Renovating warm water fish production facilities at Lost Valley Fish Hatchery, Chesapeake Fish Hatchery, Blind Pony Fish Hatchery and Hunnewell Fish Hatchery.

    · Constructing boat pumpout and dump stations to ensure proper disposal of sewage from recreational boats.

    · Buying land where Missourians can hunt, fish, camp, hike, photograph nature and pursue other outdoor recreation.

    · Conducting research to ensure effective fish and wildlife management.

    · Conducting fishing, canoeing and other clinics.

    · Providing conservation-related curriculum to schools.

    · Training educators in conservation-related subjects.

    · Underwriting educational field trips for Missouri schools.

    · Conduct hundreds of programs to schools, families, women and other groups.

    For more information about the federal aid in fish and wildlife restoration acts, visit

    -Jim Low-

    Spring turkey season will bring challenges, opportunities

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Hunters will be dealing with older, smarter birds this year, but they can improve next year’s hunting by showing restraint.

    News item photo
    Turkey hunters will have their work cut out for them this spring, due to a shortage of 2-year-old gobblers. Novices will benefit from the help of more experienced hunters. For more information, visit and (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

    JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri’s top turkey biologist has two words for hunters going into the 2010 spring turkey hunting season – “challenging” and “restraint.”

    Spring turkey hunting in Missouri starts with the youth season April 10 and 11. The regular season runs from April 19 through May 9. Permit requirements, bag limits and other regulations are summarized in the 2010 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold, or online at

    Resource Scientist Tom Dailey is the Missouri Department of Conservation’s turkey specialist. He says he expects this year’s spring turkey harvest to be approximately 44,000, about the same as last year. He bases his predictions on fieldwork conducted each summer and fall. Summer observations involve hens and the number of young turkeys (poults) with them. The resulting poult-to-hen ratio produces an early snapshot of wild turkeys’ nesting success.

    The fall turkey abundance index comes from archery deer and turkey hunters who report the number of turkeys they see and how many hours they spend hunting. Comparing the number of turkeys seen per 1,000 hours afield from year to year gives Dailey an idea of how many turkeys Missouri has going into winter.

    The larger a particular year’s poult-to-hen ratio, the better the nesting success. From the 1950s through the 1970s, when Missouri’s turkey flock was expanding rapidly, annual poult-to-hen ratios of more than 2 were common. However, as turkeys occupied available habitat, the average ratio gradually declined. Today, ratios of 1.5 to 2 poults per hen are considered good.

    The past few years have seen some of the lowest poult-to-hen ratios ever recorded. In 2007, when an early April freeze shut down turkey mating behavior and froze some eggs in nests, the ratio was 1.0. In 2008 – the wettest year in Missouri history – the ratio was 1.1. Dailey was delighted to find that Missouri’s feisty wild turkeys had clawed their way back up to 1.2 poults per hen last year, in spite of another terribly wet, cold spring and summer. Turkey nests fared best in the southern half of the state last year.

    The statewide fall turkey abundance index showed a similar trend, going from 542 in 2006 to 460 in 2007, 377 in 2008 and 418 in 2009.

    The poult-to-hen ratio is a good predictor of hunting prospects two years later. This is partly because it takes young turkeys two years to reach adult size. Also, 2-year-old gobblers are more vocal than younger and older ones. Turkeys that gobble loudly and often are easier to hunt, and their lusty calls stoke the excitement of a spring turkey hunt.

    Turkey gobblers that turn two this year come from the unusually small 2008 cohort. This year’s 3-year-old gobblers came from the even smaller crop of turkeys hatched in 2007. Consequently, hunters are likely to hear less gobbling than usual this year, and they will have to be more patient and skillful to bag big gobblers.

    “It’s going to be a challenge to bag a gobbler in some areas, especially in northern Missouri,” said Dailey. “Hunters who bring in big birds will have even more reason than usual to be proud of the accomplishment.”

    The good news is that a larger-than-usual proportion of mature gobblers will be big 4.5 years or older, with long beards and spurs like scythe blades.

    Also on the plus side of the ledger is the fact that 1-year-old gobblers, commonly called “jakes,” will be more plentiful than they have been in recent memory. Hunters in southern Missouri are most likely to notice an increased number of jakes this year.

    Dailey said the relative abundance of jakes presents an opportunity for hunters who are concerned about declining gobbler numbers.

    “If you want to get back to hearing gobblers sound off from every hilltop next spring, show some restraint and don’t hammer the jakes this year,” Dailey advised. “Concentrate on mature gobblers. Learning to fool those older birds will make you a better hunter, and passing up shots at jakes can have a real impact on how many fired-up gobblers you hear in your area next spring.”

    Novice turkey hunters might find learning to hunt keen-eyed, amazingly wary old gobblers a little more difficult this year. That puts a premium on good coaching. It also meshes nicely with Missouri’s Apprentice Hunter Authorization.

    This document is not a permit. Rather, it entitles people who are interested in hunting but have not met Missouri’s mandatory hunter-education requirement to purchase hunting permits for two consecutive years. When hunting under an Apprentice Hunter Authorization, novices must hunt in the immediate presence of a properly licensed mentor. Mentors must be 18 or older.

    Dailey said Missouri hunters increasingly are discovering that mentoring new hunters enhances their own hunting more than they expected.

    “Turkey hunting never gets old for most of us,” said Dailey, “but it’s really special to see wide-eyed excitement grab a new hunter the first time he hears a frenzied gobbler sounding off before dawn or sees a gobbler in full strut just a few yards away. It’s a way of re-experiencing the excitement of your own first hunts.”

    The Apprentice Hunter Authorization costs $10 and is available wherever hunting permits are sold. For more information about the authorization and mentorship opportunities, visit,

    -Jim Low-

    Prospects bright as Missouri enters its second 50 years of turkey hunting

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    It took just 30 years of careful stewardship to repair 150 years of damage and make the Show-Me State the nation’s top turkey-hunting destination.

    News item photo
    In the early 1950s, Missouri’s statewide wild turkey population was fewer than 2,500. Between 1954 and 1979, the Conservation Department trapped more than 2,600 wild turkeys in areas where they survived and released them in places with no turkeys. By 1987, Missouri hunters were harvesting more than 60,000 turkeys per year. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

    JEFFERSON CITY—When dawn breaks across the Show-Me State on April 19, hunters will mark the 51st spring turkey hunting season since the Missouri Department of Conservation was formed. The story of how Missouri went from nearly extirpating the robust bird synonymous with Thanksgiving Day to being one of the nation’s top turkey hunting destination is a study in the power of science-based conservation.

    At the midpoint of the 20th century, Missouri had fewer than 2,500 wild turkeys. Today, Show-Me State hunters shoot 20 times that number of turkeys every year. What brought about this turn-around?

    One of the first things the Missouri Department of Conservation did after it was organized in 1937 was close the hunting season on wild turkeys. A century and a half of unrestrained exploitation, deforestation, open-range grazing and wildfire had reduced a once-plentiful flock to remnants in remote pockets of the Ozarks. Stopping that relentless exploitation was the first step in bringing back the wild turkey.

    Further action to restore the state’s turkey flock would have been futile if the mindset that prevailed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries had persisted. But Missourians had seen what unregulated hunting could do, and they rallied to support wild turkey restoration work. When the Conservation Department began trapping wild turkeys and releasing turkeys into new areas in 1954, citizens guarded the birds as carefully as seeds for next year’s crops.

    By 1960, transplanted turkeys had multiplied enough to support a three-day hunting season in 14 Ozarks counties. Of the 698 hunters who bought permits that year, 94 shot turkeys. To those lucky hunters, it probably seemed like a fine first return on Missouri’s wild-turkey investment.

    Between 1954 and 1979, the Conservation Department trapped more than 2,600 turkeys and released them at 142 locations in 87 counties. In each new area, the agency enlisted citizen’s help watching over the growing turkey flock. The success of this partnership became evident as the state’s annual turkey harvest grew rapidly from hundreds to tens of thousands. In 1987 – just 33 years after the first release – the combined spring and fall firearms turkey kills topped 60,000.

    Behind that tangible milepost was a less obvious landmark in Missouri’s wild-turkey saga. Around the same time that Missouri entered its golden age of turkey hunting, Show-Me State turkey numbers were nearing their zenith.

    “After 30-plus years of continuous expansion, turkeys had colonized all the suitable habitat in the state,” said Resource Scientist Tom Daily, the Conservation Department’s top turkey biologist. “Once that happened, it was just a matter of time until we stopped having record harvests every year or two.”

    Dailey said wildlife populations typically experience a brief period of super-saturation when they reach the carrying capacity of new habitat. Then predators, parasites, diseases and shortages of food, water and shelter catch up, and the population falls back to a sustainable level.

    “The technical term is ‘biological resistance,’” said Dailey. “Since the 1980s, our turkey numbers have been waxing and waning according to the natural limits of their habitat. Some years we have more turkeys, because of favorable conditions during the nesting season. Other years the weather isn’t so good, and the population declines because of poor nesting success.”

    Habitat usually is defined in terms of forests, fields, water and shelter. However, weather also has a powerful effect on turkey populations, and it is by far the most changeable factor affecting how many turkeys hatch and survive to adulthood each year. In years when spring weather is mild, rainfall moderate and food abundant, turkeys raise lots of young – called poults – and turkey numbers increase. On the other hand, cold, wet weather takes a severe toll on young turkeys, reducing populations in following years.

    Consecutive years of good or bad nesting weather create noticeable peaks or dips in turkey numbers. These variations average out over time and large areas. But in the short term, and on a regional or local scale, the fluctuations can be dramatic. As an example, Dailey points to the current downturn in turkey numbers in Northeastern Missouri, where turkey numbers were unusually high in the early 2000s.

    “People up there got used to seeing flocks of 100 or 200 turkeys at the peak of the population boom,” said Dailey. “Now that turkey numbers have returned to more normal levels, people are disappointed, even though it’s a natural cycle.”

    Although Missouri’s turkey population had peaked by the 1990s, turkey harvests continued to set records throughout the 1990s and finally peaked in 2002. That year, the combined spring and fall firearms and archery harvests topped 73,000. How could hunters continue to shoot increasing numbers of turkeys for more than a decade after the population peaked?

    “Missouri always has taken a very conservative approach to turkey management,” said Dailey. “We still had a two-week spring hunting season when other states were letting people hunt turkeys for a month. We took a slow approach to liberalizing bag limits, and continued to hunt only half days during the three-week spring season. In short, we went for decades without harvesting as many turkeys as we could have, with the idea this was the key to high-quality hunting.”

    With the flock fully fledged, the Conservation Department began cautiously liberalizing hunting regulations. Larger harvests followed. Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, the spring turkey harvest grew more or less steadily. The number of birds killed might bump up or down by 3,000 to 5,000 from one year to the next, depending on weather during the hunting and nesting season, but the long-term trend was strongly upward.

    In part, the harvest increases mirrored growth in the number of turkey hunters. The Conservation Department sold nearly 78,000 spring turkey permits in 1986. By 2003 the figure had increased to more than 130,000. The actual number of hunters was significantly greater, since permit sales figures did not include landowners. However, the trend was clear. A 66-percent increase in hunter numbers was bound to increase harvest … if Missouri had enough turkeys. Apparently the turkey supply was adequate; the harvest increased by 89 percent from 1986 to 2003.

    The biggest jump came in 1998, when the Conservation Department lengthened the spring hunting season from two weeks to three. Whereas hunters had shot 33,000 turkeys in 1997, they bagged more than 48,000 in 1998, a 46-percent increase in one year.

    Although turkey population growth slowed in the 1990s, hunting success peaked in 2004, with a record spring harvest of 60,744. Ninety-eight percent of these birds were males shot after the peak in breeding, so this level of harvest had little or no effect on long-term abundance. Similarly, fall harvest had fallen over the years to a small fraction of the statewide population, translating to little or no effect on long-term abundance or the quality of the spring hunt. From 2000 through 2005, the annual turkey harvest – including fall and spring hunting – remained above 70,000.

    The decline in turkey harvests since 2005 has several causes. One is a long-term decline in participation in the fall firearms turkey season. The fall season’s popularity grew rapidly after it was launched in 1978. But interest waned almost as rapidly. The peak fall harvest of nearly 28,000 turkeys occurred in 1987. Ten years later, the fall firearms bag was fewer than 12,000. For the past two years, the fall firearms kill has been less than 10,000.

    The other major factor in decreasing turkey harvests has been weather. Cold, wet conditions hampered nesting in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Turkeys got a break from the weather in 2006, but a severe and protracted freeze in 2007 piled more misery on turkeys and those who love to hunt them.

    “2007 was an awful year,” said Dailey. “The temperature dropped into the teens over much of the state around the Easter weekend, and we had freezing temperatures at night for the better part of a week. The two weeks prior to that had been unusually warm, and some hens already were laying. Conservation Department staff heard reports of eggs freezing in the nest. That event set turkey mating and nesting back by a month.”

    “We thought we had had it bad in 2005, when we had the second-worst poult production on record up to that time. But the worst was still to come.”

    The worst consisted of more cold, wet spring weather, followed by wetter summers. 2008 was the wettest year on record, with many parts of Missouri receiving more than 50 inches of rain and some topping 80 inches. 2009 was not much better from a nesting turkey’s point of view. Taken together, 2008 and 2009 constituted the wettest consecutive years in Missouri history.

    Little wonder, then that Missouri’s wild turkey population is in a bit of a slump right now. However, Dailey noted that Missouri’s annual harvest of more than 55,000 still makes it the envy of other states. Furthermore, he said, the situation is bound to improve.

    “We had a slight improvement in poult production last year in spite of last year’s heavy rainfall,” said Dailey. He said the increase came mainly in southern Missouri.

    “One thing you can bank on is that the weather will change. Sooner or later, we will get a few good nesting years in a row. When we do, thanks to our careful management, we will still have plenty of turkeys to take advantage of the turn-around, and their numbers will rebound. We might never see the enormous flocks of the late 1980s again. But hunters will sit in the woods at first light on an April morning and get to choose which of several gobblers to chase.”

    Dailey said the Conservation Department uses a combination of field observations and population modeling to track turkey population trends and habitat conditions. Hunting seasons and bag limits are set to maintain maximum recreational opportunities while maintaining a large, healthy turkey population. The agency uses partnerships with landowners and citizen conservation groups, such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, to increase turkey nesting and brood-rearing habitat. To stay in touch with hunters’ experience in the field and their preferences for hunting seasons and regulations, the Conservation Department surveys 9,000 to15,000 turkey hunters each year.

    Landowners who want to improve turkey habitat on their property and those who have problems, such as crop damage, with turkeys or other wildlife can call any Conservation Department office statewide for assistance.

    While the trapping and releasing birds was a useful strategy for turkey restoration in the past, Dailey said it is not necessary to bring back turkey numbers in areas where turkey populations have dwindled in recent years.

    “The whole idea behind trap-and-release was to get enough birds in an area so natural reproduction would fill the habitat. Today we have sizeable turkey populations throughout the state that can repopulate suitable habitat given a few years of good weather and poult production.”

    -Jim Low-

    CWD Test Results Negative in White-Tailed Deer on Property in Linn County

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    (JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) – Today the Missouri Departments of Agriculture and Conservation announced that tests of 50 captive deer sampled in Linn County showed no signs of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Tests were conducted by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The Department of Conservation continues to test a sampling of free-ranging deer within a five-mile radius of the 800-acre tract where the initial CWD-positive white-tailed deer was located.

    “The Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services and USDA have worked cooperatively in putting an aggressive and effective plan in place and quickly executing that plan,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Taylor Woods. “The sampling and negative test results should reassure the public that the infection does not appear widespread.”

    State agencies continue an active and robust tracking plan through which deer near the site are monitored for the disease.

    “We will continue to monitor free-ranging deer in the surrounding area,” said Bob Ziehmer, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation. “The continued cooperation of nearby landowners and support from the sportsmen in the area has been greatly appreciated.”

    CWD is transmitted by live animal-to-animal contact or soil-to-animal contact and has never been reported in humans or cattle. The disease was first recognized in 1967 in a captive mule deer in the Colorado Division of Wildlife research facility in Fort Collins, Colo.

    For more information regarding CWD, contact the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Division at (573) 751-3377.

    MDC to begin targeted testing of free-ranging deer for CWD

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will begin testing a limited number of free-ranging white-tailed deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in areas of Linn and Macon Counties. The effort is part of the Department’s response to a recently confirmed case of CWD by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) in a captive white-tailed deer at a private hunting ranch in Linn County. This is the first case of CWD detected in the state.

    CWD is a neurological disease found in cervids, such as deer, elk and moose. It attacks the brain and results in extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling, tremors and eventually death. CWD spreads through animal-to-animal contact and through soil-to-animal contact. The clinical tests used to detect CWD in white-tailed deer require lymph node and brain tissue.

    “Where CWD does occur, the disease typically has a 2-5-percent prevalence in the deer population,” said MDC State Deer Biologist Jason Sumners.

    “As part of a cooperative response plan, we will focus our initial sampling of about 150 deer within a five-mile radius, or 138-square-mile area, around the ranch where CWD was confirmed,” explained Sumners. “This sample size is a small segment of the deer population in this area.”

    The sample area will include the Mussel Fork Conservation Area and private land. The MDC will work with private landowners to get permission to shoot deer on their property.

    “Landowners will be offered processed venison from deer harvested on their property,” explained Sumners. “Otherwise, the harvested deer will go to a local processor and the venison will be donated to Share the Harvest.”

    He added that the MDC will complete these initial sampling efforts by the end of March and initial test results will be available several weeks later.

    The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services states that there is no evidence CWD can infect people. The MDA states that current research shows there is no evidence CWD can spread from infected cervids to domestic livestock, such as sheep or cattle.

    Sumners added that the MDC will work with hunters during this fall’s hunting seasons to collect tissue samples from harvested deer. The MDC will also collect samples from road-killed deer and other deer found dead. “These efforts are similar to what other states have used when CWD was found,” he said. “We also encourage people to report sightings of sick deer to their regional Conservation Office.”

    CWD was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. It has been found in captive and free-ranging populations of deer and elk in 15 states and two Canadian provinces, including a number of locations in the Midwestern states of Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

    While CWD is new to Missouri, the MDC and MDA have been testing for it for years. The agencies formed a state Cervid Health Committee in 2002 to address the threat of CWD to Missouri. This task force is composed of veterinarians, animal health officers and conservation officers from MDA, MDC, MDHSS and the US Department of Agriculture.

    “Our proactive steps to put testing protocols in place and create a contingency plan years ago are proving beneficial,” said Sumners. “With the help of hunters, we have tested more than 24,000 free-ranging deer for CWD since 2002 from all parts of the state with no cases found. And we hope that continues.”

    - Joe Jerek –

    Slow start likely for paddlefish season, but plenty of fish

    Monday, March 08, 2010

    A larger number of spoonbills should be available to anglers this year, thanks to a larger than normal stocking of juvenile paddlefish in 2001.

    News item photo
    Missouri’s 2010 paddlefish snagging season March 15-April 30 is likely to get off to a slow start, but anglers will find plenty of keeper-sized spoonbills when the water warms up and the action gets underway. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

    JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri’s paddlefish snagging season likely will get off to a slow start this year, but when the action picks up, anglers will find plenty of legal fish.

    Paddlefish season opens March 15 and runs through April 30. Snaggers use heavy fishing rods, hefty lead weights and oversized treble hooks to snag fish that can tip the scales at well over 100 pounds. The paddlefish itself is a holdover from the dinosaur era. They are primitive fish with cartilaginous skeletons and a rostrum or “paddle,” whose sensitivity to electrical fields enables them to detect food.

    Anglers are aided in their quest by paddlefish’s habit of swimming upstream to spawn in the spring. They are easier to locate when they make their spawning runs and become more concentrated in the narrow upper reaches of the reservoirs and rivers. Good places to snag include the James River Arm of Table Rock Lake, the Osage and Niangua arms of Lake of the Ozarks, the Osage Arm of Truman Reservoir and the Osage River immediately below Bagnell Dam and the lower 12 miles before it enters the Missouri River.

    “Although the paddlefish snagging season opens March 15, the real action doesn’t start until warm spring rains increase flows, and the water temperature reaches 50 degrees,” said Fisheries Management Biologist Trish Yasger. “These conditions trigger the spoonbill’s spawning behavior.

    “With warmer weather, more sunshine and increased water flow from warm spring rains, water temperatures should begin to slowly increase,” said Yasger. “On opening day there will be some fish harvested. However, snagging season will most likely get off to a slow start due to the expected cooler-than-normal water temperatures. The smaller male paddlefish swim upstream and usually arrive ahead of the females. The females generally do not begin their spawning runs until the water temperature reaches about 55 degrees.”

    Anglers will enjoy increased action when the water warms up, according to Yasger. She notes that the Conservation Department’s Blind Pony Hatchery in Saline County produced the second-largest paddlefish crop of all time – 145,474 fingerlings – in 2001. Lake of the Ozarks received a stocking of 63,881 that year. Truman Lake received 66,620, and Table Rock received 14,973.

    “Paddlefish take seven or eight years to reach the minimum legal length limit in our reservoirs,” said Yasger. “The 2001 year class began showing up in the 2008 creel. This strong year class will continue to contribute to the annual creel for many years to come.”

    Blind Pony Hatchery’s largest paddlefish production of all time occurred in 2008. That year, paddlefish spawned at the hatchery enjoyed unprecedented survival. When fisheries biologists harvested the fish for stocking, they found more than 260,000 fingerlings. Those fish will start to reach legal size in the reservoirs in 2015 or 2016.

    The Wildlife Code of Missouri does not allow anglers to keep most sport fish that are hooked anywhere but in the mouth. Paddlefish are an exception, because, unlike most sport fish, they do not forage for individual food items. Instead, they swim around with their mouths agape and filter tiny aquatic plants and animals from the water with specially adapted gills. Consequently, snagging is the only practical way to fish for them. Paddlefish caught by accident at Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Reservoir and Table Rock Lake outside the snagging season must be released.

    The minimum legal length limit for paddlefish at Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Reservoir and Table Rock Lake and their tributaries is 34 inches, measured from the eye to the fork of the tail. In the Osage River below Bagnell Dam and in all other Missouri waters, the legal length limit is 24 inches.

    Anglers need current fishing permits to snag paddlefish or to operate a boat for snaggers. If you are fishing on Lake of the Ozarks and its tributaries, the Osage River below U.S. Highway 54 or on Truman Lake and its tributaries, you must stop snagging for any species after taking a daily limit of two paddlefish. Check the Missouri Wildlife Code book for further details about paddlefish regulations.

    Yasger said many snaggers land paddlefish with gaffs, which can injure and kill sublegal fish. Using large nets prevents injury, so anglers can release sublegal fish unharmed.

    -Jim Low-

    Weather continues to create wildfire dangers for Missouri

    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    Ice, wind storms have littered Show-Me State forests with fuel.

    JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri has been lucky so far this winter, but the threat of wildfires could return quickly with dry, windy weather.

    Bill Altman, forestry field programs supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said cold, wet weather so far this year has prevented large-scale problems with forest and grass fires. However, one of the primary requirements for a bad fire season – fuel – remains abundant.

    “The big wind storm we had in the Ozarks in May of 2009 and the ice storm along the Arkansas line earlier that year put a lot of downed timber on the ground,” said Altman. “That added to tons of woody debris from devastating ice storms in 2008. Under the wrong set of conditions, all that fuel could create serious problems for property owners and firefighters.”

    The Conservation Department helps rural fire departments with grants and assistance in obtaining firefighting equipment, but constant vigilance is required to prevent things from getting out of hand when March winds blow.

    “The weather normally turns drier in March,” said Altman. “It only takes a few sunny days with a brisk wind to dry out natural fuels. Then all it takes to create a flare-up is a moment of carelessness with a trash fire.”

    Whatever the cause, fires are serious threats to life and property. People lose homes and businesses to wildfire every year in Missouri. Putting out fires puts firefighters’ lives on the line, too.

    Burning can be done safely. In fact, burning can improve wildlife habitat if done under the right conditions and with professional supervision. The Conservation Department and private landowners use carefully controlled prescribed burns at this and other times of year. Advance preparations – clearing fire lines, checking fuel and weather conditions and coordinating with neighbors and local fire officials – keep the danger posed by prescribed burning extremely low.

    Problems usually arise when people light fires casually. Burning trash or brush piles is a familiar activity for some people, and consequently they don’t give it as much thought as they should.

    “Pay attention to details like clearing an area around the burn, checking the wind forecast and considering the humidity level before striking a match,” said Altman. “Lighting a pile of trash on a dry, windy day without precautions raises the risk of property damage tremendously.”

    The Conservation Department offers the following advice to avoid starting a wildfire accidentally:

    Altman also suggested that landowners consider not burning brush piles, which provide excellent shelter for quail, rabbits and other wildlife. They decay naturally in a few years anyway.

    If you do burn brush piles, Altman urges waiting until May. Once trees leaf out, the humidity level of fuel on the forest floor increases, dramatically reducing the danger of a fire escaping.

    More information about preventing wildfires and protecting property is available at Missourians also can write to MDC, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102 or email and request the following free booklets: Living with Wildfire (F00013), Prescription Fire (F00027) and How to Protect Your Home, (F00015).

    Most wildfires start unintentionally when someone leaves burning rubbish unattended or when a gust of wind carries embers to tinder-dry grass or leaves. However, a significant number of Missouri's wildfires are the work of arsonists. Motives for setting fires range from simple mischief to smoldering resentments against neighbors.

    The Conservation Department and the Conservation Federation of Missouri have set up a toll-free hot line, 800/392-1111, where citizens can report suspicious wildfires anonymously. The hot line is staffed 24 hours a day.

    -Jim Low-

    Seven Missouri schools get Fuels for Schools grants

    Tuesday, March 02, 2010

    Nearly $6 million in grants will help selected school districts reduce energy costs, create jobs and help forests through use of wood products for heating and cooling.

    JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service’s State & Private Forestry program, recently awarded almost $6 million in grants to seven public school districts for “Fuels for Schools” projects. The grants are being funded through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

    Grant recipients and amounts are:

    Southern Reynolds County R-II School District: $970,000

    Perry County 32 School District: $970,000

    Steelville R-III School District (Crawford County): $900,000

    Rolla 31 School District Junior High Building (Phelps County): $760,000

    Gainesville R-V School District (Ozark County): $970,000

    Eminence R-I Elementary (Shannon County): $350,000

    Mountain View-Birch Tree Liberty High School (Howell County): $850,000

    “Fuels for Schools funds will help these schools and school districts install and operate boiler systems that use woody biomass from local public and private forest land to heat and/or cool their facilities,” explained grant administrator John Tuttle, forestry field programs supervisor for the MDC. “Missourians care about conserving our forests, fish and wildlife. This technology will help these schools reduce dependence on fossil fuels, reduce energy costs, create or retain local jobs and support healthy forests and the state’s forest industry.”

    Tuttle noted that conservation pays by enriching our economy and quality of life. He gave the example of the Missouri’s forest products industry, which generates more than $5 billion in economic activity each year and supports more than 30,000 jobs.

    “The Fuels for Schools projects will help create a stronger market for woody material historically considered waste, such as unhealthy or small-diameter trees and wood debris left from logging,” he added. “These forest products currently have little or no commercial value so the Fuels for Schools projects can provide micro-markets for wood chips produced from them.”

    Tuttle explained that the projects also will support forest health, a key part of the MDC’s mission, by making it economical to thin overcrowded forest stands and remove diseased and insect-infested trees.

    He added that the projects also can serve as examples to other schools, businesses and government agencies interested in wood-fueled energy systems.

    Tuttle said that similar efforts in other states have proved successful. Missouri’s projects will be based on the Fuels for Schools and Beyond program. This partnership between the USDA Forest Service and several western states promotes the use of forest biomass waste for heating, cooling and power in public and private buildings. According to the Fuels for Schools and Beyond website (, fuel cost savings for projects that have replaced natural gas boiler systems have averaged at 25 percent while facilities replacing fuel oil systems have enjoyed savings of 50-75 percent.

    The MDC mailed grant solicitations to public schools in the state’s most heavily forested counties: Barry, Bollinger, Butler, Carter, Crawford, Dent, Douglas, Howell, Iron, Madison, Oregon, Ozark, Perry, Phelps, Pulaski, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon, Stone, Taney, Texas, Washington, Wayne and Wright.

    A multi-agency selection committee reviewed grant applications. Committee partners are MDC, USDA Forest Service/Mark Twain National Forest, Top of the Ozarks Resource Conservation and Development Council, Big Springs Resource Conservation and Development Council, Missouri Department of Natural Resources Energy Division, Missouri Forest Products Association and the University of Missouri Extension -Forestry.

    The committee selected grant recipients based on economic needs, dependence on the forest products industry, project feasibility and the ability to implement the project quickly, proximity to public and private forestland and partnerships with other public entities that could benefit from the biomass energy system.

    - Joe Jerek -

    Order seedlings now to improve wildlife habitat

    Monday, March 01, 2010

    George O. White State Forest Nursery near Licking still has a wide variety of tree and shrub seedlings at affordable prices.

    News item photo
    Right now is a good time to plant trees and shrubs for wildlife habitat improvement. The Missouri Department of Conservation has a wide variety of seedlings at affordable prices. For more information, visit at, or contact the George O. White State Forest Nursery, P.O. Box 119, Licking, MO 65542. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)
    LICKING, Mo.–Seed catalogs have begun appearing in mailboxes, providing hours of recreational reading for chilly winter days. If your planting project extends beyond flowers and vegetables, look at trees and shrubs included in the 2010 seedling catalog from George O. White Forest Nursery.

    The Missouri Department of Conservation nursery in Texas County produces millions of seedlings each year to make wildlife habitat improvement affordable for Missourians. The nursery begins taking orders in November. However, seedlings ranging from black walnut trees and white pine to spicebush and blackberry remain available for immediate shipping, according to Nursery Supervisor Greg Hoss.

    “We still have a surprising variety of plants on hand this year,” said Hoss. ”Late winter is a good time to plant, so right now anyone who loves wildlife and has a shovel can get in the act.”

    Hoss said hardwood seedlings available include regular and certified black walnut trees. Both certified and regular seedlings are 12 to 30 inches tall. The certified seedlings are grown from seeds certified by the Missouri Seed Certification Board as coming from plantations where all trees show outstanding vigor, form and rapid growth. The extra-large trees are one year old and approximately 3 feet tall.

    Other hardwood seedlings still in stock at the state forest nursery include pecan, sycamore, bur oak, white oak, bald cypress, river birch, chinquapin oak, swamp white oak and pin oak. Evergreens available include shortleaf, loblolly, red and white pines.

    A few of the seedlings available this year are bottomland hardwood species that do best in the southern third of the state. These include overcup oak, nuttall oak, willow oak and cherrybark oak and water tupelo.

    The nursery also has shrubs and low-growing trees that provide food and shelter for wildlife, from songbirds and box turtles to rabbits and deer. Buttonbush, deciduous holly, redbud, blackberry, wild plum, aromatic sumac, gray dogwood, spicebush, elderberry and black chokecherry still are in stock.

    The forest nursery offers a Quail Conservation Bundle with 15 each of five quail food and cover plants for $30. Plants used for this bundle depend on availability, but typically include aromatic sumac, blackberry, wild plum, false indigo and rough-leaf dogwood.

    Trees and shrub seedlings come in bundles of 25. Most cost $8 per bundle, but some cost as little as $4, and others are $16. Holders of Missouri Conservation Heritage cards can receive a 15-percent discount for up to $20 off their purchases. Heritage cards are available for $2 wherever hunting and fishing permits are sold.

    The state forest nursery’s online catalog at includes an order form, prices and details about the soil, sun and moisture requirements for all the plants. It also has color photographs of many of the plants offered. Printed copies of the catalog are available at regional Conservation Department offices and nature centers statewide or on request from George O. White Nursery, P.O. Box 119, Licking, MO 65542.

    -Jim Low-

    Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Captive Deer

    Monday, March 01, 2010

    (From the Missouri Department of Agriculture)

    (JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., February 25, 2010) – The Missouri Departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Health and Senior Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that a captive white-tailed deer in Linn County, Missouri has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a neurological disease found in deer, elk and moose.

    “There is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to domestic animals or humans,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Taylor Woods. “We have protocols in place to quickly and effectively handle these situations.”

    The animal that tested positive for CWD was a white-tailed deer inspected as part of the State’s CWD surveillance and testing program. Preliminary tests were conducted by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

    Upon receiving the confirmed CWD positive, Missouri’s departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Health and Senior Services initiated their CWD Contingency Plan. The plan was developed in 2002 by the Cervid Health Committee, a task force comprised of veterinarians, animal health officers and conservation officers from USDA, MDA, MDC and DHSS working together to mitigate challenges associated with CWD.

    CWD is transmitted by live animal to animal contact or soil to animal contact. The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in the Colorado Division of Wildlife captive wildlife research facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. CWD has been documented in deer and/or elk in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. There has been no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans.

    “Missouri’s proactive steps to put a testing protocol in place and create a contingency plan years ago is proving beneficial. We are in a solid position to follow pre-established steps to ensure Missouri’s valuable whitetail deer resource remains healthy and strong,” said Jason Sumners Missouri’s Deer Biologist.

    For more information regarding CWD, please contact Dr. Taylor Woods at (573) 751-3377.

    For information on CWD, see the MDC website.