Missourians need to be bear prepared
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Black bears seldom bother humans, but attacks do happen. Follow these tips to help avoid or repel aggressive bears.
JEFFERSON CITY–What would you do if you rounded a bend in a trail and came face to face with a bear? The Missouri Department of Conservation has advice about what to do in that scenario and, even better, how to avoid it.
Missouri is home to a small number of black bears, the only bear species found here. The statewide population is estimated at only 300 to 500 bears. However, the number is growing slowly, thanks to natural reproduction and immigration from Arkansas.
One of the most useful things for avoiding bear confrontations is knowing where you are likely to see a bear. The Conservation Department has confirmed bear sightings in 61 of the state’s 114 counties. However, 90 percent of the state’s bears live south of Interstate Highway 44.
“You could see a bear in the northern two-thirds of the state,” said Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer. “Atchison, Worth and Lewis counties have recorded at least one sighting. But the odds decrease sharply the farther north you go. For the most part, this is still an Ozarks phenomenon.”
Beringer, the Conservation Department’s bear specialist, said Ozark County leads the state, with 102 documented bear sightings since the agency began keeping records in 1987. Adjoining Howell and Douglas counties are second and third with 60 and 51 sightings, respectively. Counties with 40 or more sightings include Carter, Christian, Iron, Reynolds, Shannon, Stone and Taney.
The cluster of bear sightings in and around Reynolds County extends north as far as Crawford, Franklin and Washington counties, each of which has produced more than 30 verified reports since 1987.
Missouri’s top bear counties also happen to contain the Ozark Trail and many of the state’s other popular hiking and camping destinations. While bear sightings remain relatively rare, Beringer said Missourians need to begin making bear awareness part of their outdoor skill set.
“A few years ago, the chances of a backpacker or a mushroom hunter stumbling across a bear were pretty close to zero. That isn’t true today. Anyone who spends time outdoors should know how to avoid run-ins with bears and what to do if they do encounter one.”
Beringer said chance encounters with bears usually are brief, ending when the bear realizes a human is near and retreats. Bears have a natural fear of humans. However, accidental bear meetings can be dangerous if the bear is startled or cornered or if a person gets between a sow and her cubs.
“Black bears are much more powerful for their size than the average person realizes,” he said. “They are unpredictable and extremely dangerous when they feel threatened. They are nothing to mess with.”
Bears are keenly aware of their surroundings, so Beringer said one effective way of avoiding surprise meetings is to make noise. Talking with companions works well. So does whistling, singing or fastening a cowbell to your backpack or clothing.
Bears’ hearing and sense of smell are excellent, but their eyesight is poor. They sometimes do not recognize humans, even at close range, if the wind is blowing the people’s scent away from them. At such times, a bear often rears up on its hind legs. This is not a threat, but an attempt to use its eyes and nose to best advantage.
Beringer said people who see bear that have not seen them yet should leave the area quickly and quietly. If the bear is aware of your presence, Beringer recommends avoiding eye contact, which bears perceive as aggressive behavior. The best thing in this situation is to look down and walk away while speaking in a normal voice.
A bear on a narrow trail may feel cornered. The best strategy here is to step off the trail on the downhill side and leave the area quietly. Do not make sudden movements or run.
When threatened or defending cubs, black bears often make huffing sounds, pop their jaws or beat the ground with their front paws. This is a warning that you are too close. Black bears also make mock charges, rushing at intruders, stopping and then retreating. People who take the hint and withdraw immediately after a mock charge almost always avoid further trouble.
Although attacks by black bears are rare, they do occur. Black bears can run much faster than humans can, and they are excellent climbers. Consequently, fleeing or climbing a tree is pointless. The most effective strategy is to fight back with whatever you have – a knife, a rock, a stick or any other weapon. Black bear attacks have been repelled by people using nothing more than their fists. Striking a bear around the face is most effective. Pepper spray also can stop a bear attack.
Aggressive bears usually are those that have become accustomed to human presence. This most often occurs through intentional feeding. Beringer cautioned against deliberately feeding bears or allowing bears to raid trash, livestock feeders or other human food sources. This puts both people and bears at risk.
If you encounter an aggressive bear, contact conservation office or your local sheriff’s department immediately. The Conservation Department has specially trained employees to deal with problem or aggressive bears.
For more information about living with bears, visit mdc.mo.gov/landown/wild/nuisance/bear/info/.
First-week turkey harvest tops 21,000 despite tough weekend weather
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Hunters persisted, and so will nesting hens.
JEFFERSON CITY–Hunters shot 21,021 wild turkeys during the first week of Missouri’s 21-day spring turkey season, putting them on pace for an overall harvest similar to 2009.
Top harvest counties in the first week of hunting were Franklin with 450 turkeys checked, Ste. Genevieve with 393 and Texas with 381. Juvenile gobblers, commonly called “jakes,” made up 21.3 percent of the first-week harvest.
This year’s spring turkey season opened April 19 and runs through May 9. Since Missouri extended its spring turkey season from two weeks to three in 1998, the first-week harvest has accounted for slightly more than half the total harvest. That held true in 2009, when hunters shot 21,717 turkeys during the first week and ended the season with 41,830 turkeys checked. If this year’s harvest runs true to form, the three-week tally will be a little more than 41,000.
“A lot still depends on weather,” said Resource Scientist Tom Dailey, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s turkey expert. “The extended weather forecast includes some wet, windy weather later this week and extending into the second weekend of turkey season. That is similar to what we had during the first weekend. That kind of weather could hold our harvest down a little. However, our hunters have a track record of persistence. Unless the weather is spectacularly nasty the final weekend of the season, I expect a harvest much like last year’s.”
The fact that one in five turkeys checked during the first week was a jake is an encouraging sign, according to Dailey. He said jakes have made up about 25 percent of the total spring harvest historically. That number has fallen in recent years, as unfavorable weather cut into wild turkeys’ nesting success. This year’s jake harvest reflects a slight improvement in turkey reproduction last year. Dailey said the number of jakes in the first-week harvest does not indicate the young birds are being hit especially hard, so many should survive until next year.
Dailey said widespread flooding is bad news for turkey nesting, but he remains hopeful about this year’s crop of young turkeys.
“April is a wet month, and turkeys are equipped to handle that,” he said. “Hens that built nests in low-lying areas will have to start over again, but those in the uplands should be okay. As long as cold, wet weather doesn’t persist into the brood-rearing period, there is every reason to hope for a good hatch this year.”
Harrisonville man lands second state record in two years
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The hefty black bullhead came from a farm pond in Cass County.
HARRISONVILLE–Missouri has a new state-record black bullhead, and Nicholas J. Wray has his second fishing record in less than two years.
Wray, 23, caught the 2-pound, 4-ounce fish on a jug line April 9 at a farm pond in Cass County. The bullhead nudged aside the previous record by 4 ounces.
In 2008, Wray caught Missouri’s first state-record river carpsucker, a 2-pound, 3-ounce fish that came from Cass County’s South Grand River near Amarugia Highlands Conservation Area. He did it by design, having noticed that no one had bothered to apply for a record for the species previously.
Wray’s latest record fish measured 15 1/8 inches from nose to tail. Black bullheads seldom grow longer than 16 inches and 2 pounds. Missouri’s pole-and-line record for black bullhead is 4 pounds, 11 ounces.
Two other species – brown and yellow bullheads – tend to be smaller than the black bullhead. Yet, Missouri’s pole-and-line record yellow bullhead outweighed its black counterpart by more than 2 pounds. The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisc., recognizes an 8-pound, 15-ounce behemoth from Michigan as the world record black bullhead. That is nearly four times the weight of Wray’s fish.
These might indicate that heftier black bullheads haunt Missouri waters, waiting to be caught and registered as records.
The pole-and-line category is for fish taken on hand-held lines. Alternative methods include trotlines, throw lines, limb lines, bank lines, tree lines, jug lines, spearfishing, snagging, gigging, grabbing (with the use of a hook) and archery.
Entry forms and rules are available at mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/72.pdf. A list of Missouri fishing records is available at http://mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/69.pdf. The Conservation Department also has a Master Angler Program to recognize notable catches that fall short of records. For qualifying lengths and weights, visit http://mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/71.pdf.
Ten commandments for camping in bear country
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Follow these rules to keep you, your campsite and bears safe.
JEFFERSON CITY–“Bear country.” What mental image does that phrase conjure up for you? A fern-choked valley in the Appalachian Mountains? A high meadow in the Rockies? Missourians often forget they could encounter a black bear while camping or hiking in their home state. The rules for camping and hiking in bear country apply in Missouri, too.
The Show-Me State is home to a small but growing black bear population. Female bears with cubs are an increasingly common sight here, and the average size of Missouri bears is increasing as young bears that come north across the Arkansas border and those born here mature.
Bear sightings have been confirmed in more than half of Missouri’s counties, ranging as far north as Lewis County in eastern Missouri and Buchanan County on the west. However, an estimated 90 percent of Missouri’s bear population lives south of Interstate Highway 44. Although the human population of southern Missouri remains relatively sparse in many areas, the likelihood of human-bear encounters increases annually.
Most Missouri bear encounters are brief. Black bears are instinctively afraid of humans and normally flee when they realize people are nearby. However, hunger occasionally overrides this shyness.
“If a bear is hungry enough and smells something that is tempting enough, it may investigate, even if it knows people are around,” said Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s bear specialist. “Gaining access to a human-related food source can break down a bear’s natural fear of people even more, and a bear that gets in the habit of eating from trash cans or camp coolers can lose that fear altogether. At that point, the bear is in mortal danger itself, besides posing a danger to people.”
He said bears that lose their fear of humans sometimes have to be killed. This fact is behind the old saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”
Campers can help avoid creating “fed bears” by following the Ten Commandments of Camping with Bears.
I. NEVER FEED BEARS
Not only does feeding bears and other wildlife encourage an unhealthy loss of wildness, it can help spread diseases by concentrating animals around an unnatural food source. Attempts to hand-feed wildlife are even more dangerous.
II. KEEP A CLEAN CAMP
Bears don’t discriminate between food and garbage. They find food scraps and wrappers as enticing as a full meal. Check the area around dog bowls for stray food after feeding.
III. WASH UTENSILS AFTER COOKING
Bears’ keen sense of smell can detect food odors long after cooking is done.
IV. START FOOD PREP AT HOME
Peeling and slicing vegetables, cooking meat and doing other food preparation at home reduces the amount of garbage and smell produced in camp. It also allows more time for outdoor activities.
V. STORE FOOD IN AIRTIGHT CONTAINERS
Rubberized dry bags, jars with tight-sealing lids and sealable plastic bags help minimize tantalizing aromas. Store food in locked vehicles or car trunks at night.
VI. DON’T COOK OR EAT IN TENTS
With people hidden from view, a bear can mistake a tent for a food source.
VII. KEEP GARBAGE SEALED UP
Double bag refuse and lock it in a car trunk or airtight container.
VIII. TREAT SCENTED ITEMS LIKE FOOD
Soap, cosmetics and other scented items don’t smell like food to you, but they do to a bear.
IX. NEVER APPROACH BEARS
Wild animals are unpredictable and can be dangerous when brought into unnatural contact with people. Don’t put yourself and them at risk by trying to create a Disney moment.
X. KEEP DOGS LEASHED
Bears normally flee when they encounter people, but if cornered by a dog they will defend themselves.
If a bear enters your campsite, shout, wave your arms and use an air horn or bang pots and pans to make noise. Throw rocks and sticks at the bear. If it does not leave, get in a vehicle or building and make noise by honking the vehicle’s horn, banging pots and pans or shouting. If the bear does not leave, call your conservation agent or local law-enforcement agency.
Beringer asks Missourians who see bears to report the sightings to him or to Liz Forbes by calling 573-882-9880. He recommended using the bear reporting form at www.mdc.mo.gov/18427 to ensure that all the important facts are included. For more information about living with bears, visit mdc.mo.gov/landown/wild/nuisance/bear/info/.
Opening day turkey harvest up from 2009
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Perfect weather and last year’s slightly improved nesting success helped hunters better last year’s figure.
|Hunters checked 6,759 turkeys during the opening day of Missouri’s three-week spring turkey season. That is a 12-percent increase from 2009. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)|
JEFFERSON CITY–Flawless weather helped hunters harvest 6,759 turkeys on the first day of Missouri’s spring turkey season.
Top turkey-harvest counties on opening day were Franklin with 164 turkeys checked, Ste. Genevieve with 151 and Cape Girardeau with 127. Other counties that broke the 100 mark included Benton, Bollinger, Callaway, Gasconade, Osage, Perry, St. Clair and Texas.
The opening-day harvest was 12 percent larger than last year’s. Hunters were helped by flawless weather and a slight improvement in turkey nesting success in 2009. Turkeys hatched last year made up 20 percent of the opening day harvest this year, compared to 17.5 percent last year.
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Telecheck database, which went into operation in 2005, shows the following opening-day harvest statistics.
2005 – 10,119
2006 – 7,860
2007 – 6,010
2008 – 7,004
2009 – 6,013
Resource Scientist Tom Dailey, the Conservation Department’s turkey specialist, said he was particularly interested in the opening-day harvest statistics from northwest Missouri.
“I have been watching the northwest closely because of the low poult count there in summer 2009,” said Dailey. “The number of poults per hen was down 16 percent from 2008, and the lowest in the state at 0.8 poults per hen.”
Dailey suspected the poor nest success of turkey hens in 2009 might hold down this year’s turkey harvest in the 19-county Northwest Region whose corners are Ray, Atchison, Mercer and Chariton counties. That turned out to be true on opening day. The per-county harvest there averaged 41, compared to a statewide average of 59 turkeys per county.
Turkey numbers also apparently are down in the 15-county Northeast Region, where hunters checked an average of 54 turkeys per county. The average in the state’s remaining regions, comprising 80 counties, was 65 turkeys per county.
“This probably was a result of last year’s cool, wet spring, followed by a rough winter,” said Dailey. “There was snow on the ground for most of mid-December through the end of February. On top of all that, we had the freak Easter freeze that hurt reproduction in 2007 and record rainfall in 2008. Ground-nesting birds have had a tough time for a few years now.”
Dailey said he was glad to see that jakes – year-old male turkeys – accounted for about 20 percent of this year’s opening-day harvest. Historically, jakes have made up about 25 percent of the total spring harvest. That number fell to 17.5 percent of the opening-day harvest in 2009 as a result of poor reproduction in previous years. This year’s larger jake harvest reflects a slight improvement in turkey reproduction last year. However, the number of jakes in the harvest is not likely to cut deeply into future years’ supply of mature gobblers.
Dailey said the mild temperatures and relatively dry weather that prevailed the first three weeks of April make him optimistic about a good turkey hatch this year. If those conditions hold through May, this year could mark the start of a turkey population recovery in north Missouri.
“Sooner or later we will get a few years in a row of favorable conditions and good nest success,” he said. “When that happens, turkey numbers will rebound a bit. Even so, we might never again see the big harvests we had from 1999 through 2006, when the spring kill topped 50,000 each year.”
The Conservation Department recorded one nonfatal firearms-related hunting incident on opening day.
Conservation Department wants to recognize young hunters' achievements
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
First-Turkey Certificates are free on request.
JEFFERSON CITY–Did a youngster you know shoot her or his first turkey during Missouri’s recent Youth Turkey Season? Why not memorialize the achievement with a lasting memento from the Missouri Department of Conservation?
No matter how many turkeys a hunter might kill in subsequent years, regardless of how big they are, the memory of that first gobbler remains special. To help keep those memories vivid, the Conservation Department offers a personalized First Turkey Award.
Any hunter age 15 or younger can get one of the certificates, which are suitable for framing. If you have a photo of the young hunter, this can be incorporated into the certificate. The original photo will be returned with the award.
Application forms are available at mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/806.pdf.
MDC monitoring new bat disease in Missouri
Monday, April 19, 2010
|This little brown bat shows symptoms of White-Nose Syndrome. The disease has been named for the white fungus, Geomyces destructans, typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)|
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently confirmed Missouri’s first signs of a new disease in bats that scientists have named “White-Nose Syndrome” (WNS). The name describes a white fungus, Geomyces destructans, typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats.
“The WNS fungus appears to spread mainly through bat-to-bat contact and has not been found to infect humans or other animals,” explained MDC Cave Biologist Bill Elliott. “It thrives in the cool, damp conditions found in many caves, which are also ideal hibernation and roosting sites for many bat species.”
He said that the scientific community is still learning about WNS, which was first discovered in a cave in New York state in 2006. Elliott and other MDC scientists have been tracking the westward progression of the disease since its discovery. Laboratory tests recently confirmed the presence of the WNS fungus on a bat found in a cave in Pike County.
The disease causes infected bats to awaken more often during their winter hibernation and fly outside in search of insects to eat. This activity uses up stored fat reserves needed to get them through the winter, and they usually freeze or starve to death.
According to Bat Conservation International (BCI), a leading authority on bat conservation, education and research, WNS has killed more than a million bats in 11 states and Canada.
Elliott noted that the MDC has a WNS action plan in place that focuses on MDC lands. The Department is working with other state and federal agencies, conservation groups and private cave owners, including owners of Missouri show caves, to develop a Missouri-wide WNS action plan to address the threat of WNS to the state’s valuable bat populations.
“There are more than 6,300 caves in Missouri with 74 percent of them privately owned,” Elliott said. “More than 500 are known to house bat colonies, but that number may be as high as 5,000.”
He added that the state’s numerous show caves are great places for people to discover nature by learning about the value of bats and the unique ecosystems of cave environments.
“Missouri is home to at least 12 species of bats,” Elliott explained. “They are our front-line defense against many insect pests including some moths, certain beetles and mosquitoes. Insect pests can cause extensive forest and agricultural damage. Missouri’s 775,000 gray bats alone eat more than 223 billion bugs a year, or about 540 tons.”
BCI information states that the more than one million bats killed by WNS would have consumed just under 700,000 tons of insects each year. That equals the weight of about 175,000 elephants.
Elliott added that bats are long-lived but slow-reproducing animals with most species having an average lifespan of about 15 years and giving birth usually to only one pup each year.
“They also play a vital role in cave ecosystems, providing nutrients for other cave life through their droppings, or guano, and are food for other animals such as snakes and owls,” he said.
"Disturbing bats in caves while they roost or hibernate could increase their stress and weaken their health.”
As a longstanding policy to help protect bats and the fragile and unique ecosystems found in caves, MDC restricts access to many of its caves. Access to MDC caves is permitted only if there is a “CAVE OPEN” sign posted at the entrance, or if a person has a special MDC permit for research, recreation or education purposes.
Elliott cautioned that people should not handle any bats, and contact MDC if they find dead bats with white, fuzzy fungal growth.
For more information, visit MissouriConservation.org and search “White-Nose Syndrome.”
- Joe Jerek -
Upper Mississippi duck-blind drawing coming up
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Bring your hunting permits and identification to the event July 17 at the St. Charles Convention Center.
ST. CHARLES–Hunters hoping to get a blind at Upper Mississippi Conservation Area need to be at the St. Charles Convention Center July 17. That is when the Missouri Department of Conservation will hold the drawing for prime hunting spots on the 12,500-acre wetland area north of St. Louis.
The Convention Center is adjacent to the St. Charles Embassy Suites Hotel, just south of I-70 near the Fifth Street exit. Registration will take place from 9 until 10:30 a.m., with the drawing at 11 a.m. The Conservation Department will provide aerial maps for winning hunters to choose their blind sites as they are drawn. Winners also select co-registrants who will occupy the blinds with them.
Registrants must be 16 or older. Hunters age 16 to 64 are required to bring a 2010 Missouri Small Game Hunting Permit. All participants will need a 2010 Migratory Bird Permit, a signed 2010 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp and a photo ID. Drawing winners must also provide names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and conservation numbers for all co-registrants.
Upper Mississippi CA consists of 87 tracts of federal land between Melvin Price Lock and Dam and LeGrange. For more information, call Columbia Bottom Conservation Area at 314-877-6014 or the St. Louis Regional Conservation Department Office at 636-441-4554.
Fair weather boosts youth turkey harvest
Monday, April 12, 2010
The percentage of adult gobblers remained steady.
|Hunters age 6 through 15 checked 3,945 turkeys during Missouri’s two-day youth turkey season. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)|
JEFFERSON CITY–Young hunters checked 3,945 turkeys during Missouri’s youth turkey season April 10 and 11, thanks in large part to ideal hunting conditions.
Top counties for the youth season were Franklin with 133 turkeys checked, Osage with 101 and Ste. Genevieve with 77.
Male turkeys gobble most actively on warm, sunny days with moderate wind. Weather during this year’s youth hunt closely matched this description, paving the way for an excellent hunt.
This year’s youth harvest represents a 37-percent increase from last year, when cold, windy weather hampered young hunters. Previous harvests have ranged from a low of 2,530 in 2001, the first year of the youth hunt, to a high of 3,894 in 2005.
Mature gobblers made up 70.6 percent of this year’s youth harvest, compared to 69.6 percent last year and 70.2 percent in 2005.
Missouri’s two-day youth season is open to hunters age 6 through 15. It provides an opportunity for adults to focus on mentorship. The impact on the state’s wild turkey flock is minimal, since the youth harvest usually accounts for approximately 5 percent of the annual harvest.
Turkey hunters never too old for education
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Turkey hunters old enough to be exempt from mandatory hunter education could benefit from training their younger counterparts receive.
JEFFERSON CITY–As a rule, people develop better judgment as they mature. Education can speed up this process, however. In fact, 2009 turkey-hunting incident statistics provide strong evidence that education has helped young hunters surpass their elders’ judgment.
The low point for turkey-hunting safety in Missouri was 1986, two years before hunter education became mandatory. That year, 31 people suffered gunshot wounds in spring turkey hunting incidents. Two of them died.
From 1985 through 1988, Missouri averaged 23 spring turkey-hunting incidents per year. Since then, however, the number of firearms-related spring turkey hunting incidents has decreased dramatically. In the past five years, the average has been 4.8 incidents per season. Missouri’s safest spring turkey-hunting season was 2007, when only two incidents – neither fatal – marred the spring hunt. The shooter in one of those incidents was 39 years old. The other was 61.
“It isn’t merely coincidence that we have seen a steady decrease in hunting injuries and deaths since the advent of mandatory hunter education,” said Tony Legg, hunter education coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “The decline in number of injuries is a direct reflection of the increasing number of hunters who have been through formal safety training. You can also see the difference in the number of incidents involving people who have not received hunter education.”
In 2009, the Conservation Department recorded four spring turkey-hunting incidents. Three of those incidents involved hunters who were born before Jan. 1, 1967 and therefore exempt from Missouri’s hunter education requirement. None of the three had taken hunter education training.
In one of last year’s incidents, a 53-year-old hunter fired when he saw what he mistakenly thought was a turkey 21 to 30 yards away. In fact, the movement was a friend turning to take a shot at a turkey.
Last year a 70-year-old hunter shot his son, who was using a shaker-type gobble call to attract a turkey for his own son. The shooter mistook the motion of the call for a turkey beard blowing in the wind. The incident report said the shooter knew the other two were in the area and was trying to show them up by shooting the turkey out from under them.
“If you need proof that age is no guarantee of good judgment, this is it,” said Legg. “If this grandfather could commit such a potentially disastrous judgment error, anyone can. Everyone might have been spared a lot of emotional and physical pain if the grandpa had been through hunter education.”
The final 2009 spring turkey-hunting incident, and the only fatality, occurred when a 56-year-old hunter tried to pull a loaded shotgun from the seat of his vehicle by the barrel. The trigger caught on something and the gun discharged, striking him in the chest.
“Incidents like that are preventable,” said Legg. “The proof is in the last 20 years’ hunting incident statistics. Most of them are being prevented. The best thing older hunters can do for themselves and their families is to attend a hunter-education course.”
Hunter education classes are available throughout the state between now and the opening of spring turkey season. To find a class near you, visit http://mdc.mo.gov/hunt/huntered/, or call the nearest Conservation Department office.
Another way to gain the benefits of hunter education is to visit www.mdc.mo.gov/17844, and review hunter-education course material there. You can check your mastery of the subject by taking the accompanying chapter reviews and pre-tests.
Last year’s spring turkey hunting incidents are typical in that most involved victims who were mistaken for game. Legg said confusing an adult human weighing 150 pounds or more with a 20-pound turkey is much easier than it seems. To begin with, turkey hunters go out of their way to look like anything but a human, wearing camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. Beyond that, he said, it helps to understand the turkey hunter’s mindset.
“You are looking for a very elusive, wary animal that can appear any place at any time,” he said. “Trying to see a turkey is like trying to put a puzzle together. Is that a beard or a leaf blowing in the breeze? Is that patch of blue a reflection of the sky or a gobbler’s head? When you see something that could be a piece of the puzzle, there is a natural tendency for your mind to fill in some of the other pieces that you expect to see. You have to keep that gun in your lap until you have seen and positively identified the whole bird,” said Legg. “Anything less is courting disaster.”
Legg said hunters can do several things to avoid becoming victims. The simplest is wearing hunter orange when moving between hunting spots.
“A hunter wearing blaze orange is much harder to mistake for game than one slipping through the woods in full camouflage,” he said. “You still need to be alert, but it decreases your chances of being mistaken for game by a factor of 10 or so.”
Legg said some hunters are shot in spite of not looking or sounding like a gobbler. One of the hunters injured last year saw the shooter and tried to move away but was shot when the other hunter saw his movement. Legg recommends shouting to another hunter the moment you realize you are not alone in an area. However, he admits that most hunters have difficulty forcing themselves to do this.
“No one wants to scare all the turkeys in the neighborhood or bust somebody else’s hunt by yelling,” he said. “The chances of being mistaken for game seem so small, and it is hard to believe it could happen to you. But it does happen every year. It could happen to you as well as anyone.”
Legg cautioned against waving, whispering or whistling to get other hunters’ attention. Only a clear human voice provides immediate, positive identification.
Hunters can protect themselves when sitting and calling by tying a hunter-orange vest to a tree trunk nearby to alert others to their presence. A Missouri company makes a banner designed especially for this purpose (see www.hunterbanner.com).
As a further safety measure, hunters should look for hunting spots that provide an unobstructed view in front and a physical barrier behind. A tree trunk wide enough to shield the hunter’s entire body is ideal.
These and many other safety tips are covered in approved hunter-education classes. Legg says he wishes more older hunters would make use of the safety advantage they provide.
“One day, I would like to record zeros in the ‘injuries’ and ‘fatalities’ columns for the spring turkey season,” he said. “Getting older hunters into hunter education would go a long way toward accomplishing that.”
Dogwood, redbud season is upon us
Monday, April 05, 2010
Blossoms already are appearing on trees in southern Missouri.
|Barring unusual cold snaps, Missouri can look forward to a beautiful display of dogwood blossoms, starting in early April near the Arkansas border and reaching northern Missouri two or three weeks later. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)|
WEST PLAINS–If you are among the many Missourians who take long drives in April to see hillsides painted pink and white by flowering dogwood and redbud trees, fill your gas tank. The big bloom is on its way.
Dave Mayers, the Conservation Department’s fisheries regional supervisor in West Plains, says he saw dogwood blossoms starting to open March 25 while hunting mushrooms. (He found one morel.)
The peak blooming of Missouri’s state tree – the flowering dogwood – typically occurs in mid-April near the state’s southern border and reaches the state’s northern limit two to three weeks later. However, recent 80-degree temperatures have caused buds on some dogwood trees in central Missouri to crack open slightly. Meanwhile, the familiar yet indescribable purplish hue is beginning to show along redbud tree branches. With daytime highs forecast to be in the 70s and 80s across much of Missouri for most of the coming week, the main flowering-tree display could occur early this year.
On the other hand, it is too early to count blossoms. Three years ago, weeks of balmy weather in late March and early April gave way to a freak freeze April 4 through 9. That Easter freeze hammered dogwood flowers and reduced acorn numbers for two years.
At the moment, however, Missouri’s redbud and dogwood prospects seem bright. Trees in urban settings normally bloom earlier than those in the wild, due to heat retention by asphalt and concrete. The following routes provide good viewing for those who want to see wild trees in bloom.
· Highway 19 between Montgomery City and Thayer.
· Highway 5 between Versailles and Gainesville.
· Highway 142 between Doniphan and Bakersfield.
· Highway 72 between Cape Girardeau and Rolla.
· Highway 63 between Columbia and Thayer.
· I-44 between Eureka and Rolla.
· Highway 50 between Eureka and Jefferson City.
· Highway 60 between Poplar Bluff and Springfield.
For more information about flowering trees in Missouri, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/8417.
Mark VanPatten named Water Conservationist of the Year
Thursday, April 01, 2010
This Conservation Department fisheries biologist helped release a flood of citizen stream-conservation efforts.
SUNRISE BEACH–Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Management Biologist Mark VanPatten recently received the Water Conservationist of the Year Award from the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM).
In February 1989, VanPatten applied to make the Roubidoux Fly Fishers Missouri Stream Team No. 1. He went on to become Missouri Stream Team coordinator and has continued to promote the program tirelessly for more than 20 years. Today, Missouri has more than 4,000 stream teams with 80,000-plus volunteers.
VanPatten and his wife, Regina, also get youngsters interested in stream conservation through an after-school Hooked on Fly Fishing program that teaches 6th, 7th and 8th graders how to tie flies and catch fish. He also helped Arkansas launch its own Stream Team program.
VanPatten was one of 11 Missourians honored by the CFM at its annual awards ceremony March 5 at Lake of the Ozarks. The CFM presents awards each year recognizing efforts in several fields of conservation endeavor. More than 300 conservation supporters, including Gov. Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon and Bass Pro Shops founder John L. Morris, were on hand to salute this year’s honorees.
Other 2010 CFM honorees include:
- Charles Drury, Conservationist of the Year
- Ray Eye, Dittmer, Conservation Communicator of the Year
- Katy Schrader, Joplin, Conservation Educator of the Year
- Terry Cunningham, Salem, Forest Conservationist of the Year
- Denny Bopp, Lebanon, Professional Conservationist of the Year
- Bill Miller, Goodman, Water Conservationist of the Year
- Bruce & Jan Sassman, Bland, Wildlife Conservationists of the Year
- Dan Witter, Jefferson City, and Douglas Eiken, California, Outstanding Lifetime Achievement.
The CFM is a broad-based citizen conservation group, representing more than 85,000 individuals and 80 affiliate groups from hunters and anglers to birdwatchers. Anyone can nominate candidates for a Conservationist of the Year Award. For more information, call 573/634-2322 or visit www.confedmo.org.
MDC CWD testing shows no cases in free-ranging deer
Thursday, April 01, 2010
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently completed testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) on a sample of free-ranging white-tailed deer from areas of Linn, Macon and Chariton Counties. Test results showed no cases of CWD.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that can be transmitted among cervids, such as deer, elk and moose. There is no evidence that CWD can infect people, or spread from infected deer to domestic livestock, such as sheep or cattle. CWD has been found in 17 states including Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Missouri was recently added to the list after the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) reported the state’s first and only known case of CWD in late February. It came from a captive whitetail buck at a private hunting ranch in Linn County. The MDA handles CWD testing in captive deer in Missouri. The MDA then tested an additional 50 captive deer from the ranch. Results showed no additional cases of CWD.
In response to this initial case, the MDC collected tissue samples for testing from 153 free-ranging deer within a five-mile radius of the private hunting ranch. The MDC also included 72 samples collected from hunter-harvested deer taken from Linn and surrounding counties during the 2009-2010 deer seasons.
“Our test results indicate that Missouri’s free-ranging deer population remains free of CWD. This is very good news,” said MDC Director Bob Ziehmer. “We greatly appreciate the cooperation and support from the more than 120 area landowners and sportsmen involved in harvesting deer to obtain the samples. And those deer did not go to waste. Missourians will benefit from the approximately 5,000 pounds of processed venison we were able to donate to the Share the Harvest program.”
Ziehmer added that the health of the state’s deer population is important to all Missourians. “Deer hunting and wildlife watching are vital parts of our state’s economy, our outdoor traditions and our communities.”
MDC State Deer Biologist Jason Sumners noted that the Department will continue its ongoing CWD monitoring efforts.
“We will be testing tissue samples from hunter-harvested deer taken in the northern half of the state during the upcoming fall deer seasons, and we will continue sampling efforts in the area where the initial case was discovered,” said Sumners.
He added that, with the help of hunters and landowners, the MDC has tested more than 24,000 free-ranging deer for CWD since 2002 from all parts of the state with no CWD-positive deer found. This long-term testing has been part of Missouri’s ongoing monitoring for CWD through a special task force established in 2002. The task force is composed of experts from MDA, MDC, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Joe Jerek –