Thursday, June 24, 2010

Missourians Asked to Celebrate Freedom from Invasive Species July 4

Exotic plants and animals threaten America’s way of outdoor life.
JEFFERSON CITY–Under threat of attack, people rally in defense of their homeland. That is exactly what the Missouri Department of Conservation is asking citizens to do as they head to the great outdoors for Independence Day weekend.

 “Not too many years ago, you could travel around the country without too much thought about spreading pests that could devastate our natural world,” said Invasive Species Coordinator Tim Banek. “Today, we need everyone to be aware of invasive species when they travel, even short distances.”

Two prime examples, said Banek, are the zebra mussel and the emerald ash borer. Neither was found in Missouri 20 years ago. Both now have footholds here and require constant vigilance by boaters, anglers, hunters and campers to limit their spread.

In the case of the zebra mussels, preventive measures start by knowing where the fingernail-sized, black and white mollusks already are established. Lake Taneycomo, Bull Shoals Reservoir, Lake of the Ozarks, Pomme de Terre Lake, Lake Lotawana, the Osage, Missouri and Mississippi rivers and the mouth of the Meramec River all are known to harbor the prolific mussels.

Boaters and anglers who use their boats in more than one lake or stream are urged to remove any clinging vegetation, drain and inspect boats and trailers for zebra mussels and allow them to dry for at least five days before relaunching in a new location. Flushing live wells, bilges and motor cooling systems with hot water or chlorine bleach also is important. More information about zebra mussel prevention is available at

The emerald ash borer is a green beetle that has caused millions of dollars of damage in forests across the Northeastern United States and the Upper Midwest. Its habit of tunneling beneath tree bark, coupled with Americans’ love of camping and campfires, has caused the pest to spread more rapidly than it might have otherwise. Campers who take firewood with them from one campsite to another can carry emerald ash borer larvae, which emerge and infest new areas.

Campers can avoid spreading emerald ash borers – along with other forest pests or diseases like the gypsy moth and the thousand-cankers disease of black walnut trees – by obtaining firewood in areas where they camp and burning it all before leaving. Even moving firewood from one campground to another in the same neighborhood can spread parasites and diseases. Campers who accidentally move firewood should burn it immediately.

For more information about emerald ash borers, visit, or call 866-716-9974. The Missouri Cooperative Emerald Ash Borer Team also has an emerald ash borer newsletter, Borer Bite, which is available on request from The newsletter also will be available at in the near future.

Even Missourians who plan close-to-home “staycations” can unwittingly contribute to invasive species problems. An excellent example is taking fishing bait from one place to another.

“Most people would never dream that catching crayfish in a pond or stream near home and taking them to a fishing spot a few miles away could cause serious ecological problems, but it can,” said Banek. “Different crayfish species have very specific distributions. Moving one species into the next watershed can put larger, more aggressive crayfish in competition with the native crayfish and crowd them out. Over time, that leads to loss of biological diversity and undermines the stability of aquatic ecosystems.”

Worms, minnows, crickets and other bait purchased from bait shops also pose potential threats to Missouri’s wild resources. Banek urges anglers never to dump leftover bait.

“Just about everyone has thrown live worms or minnows into the water at the end of a fishing trip, thinking they will feed the fish, but we know better now. Invasive species sometimes slip into the bait supply chain and once they are loose, they can multiply.”

He said the same is true of worms, which sometimes are imported from as far away as Canada.

“The only safe thing to do with live bait is to send it to the landfill,” said Banek. “If there is a receptacle with a plastic bag at the boat ramp, you can put unused bait there. Otherwise, take it home and put it out with the rest of your trash.”

You can find more information about how to prevent the spread of invasive species at
-Jim Low-


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Drawings for Missouri Managed Deer Hunts Set to Open

Managed deer hunt applications open July 1, close Aug. 15
Hunters can apply for nearly 100 archery, muzzleloader and modern
firearms hunts, including events for youths and hunters with disabilities.
JEFFERSON CITYDeer hunters have until August 15 to apply for almost 100 managed hunts on public land from mid-September through January.
The Missouri Department of Conservation holds a drawing to determine who gets to participate in special managed deer hunts at conservation areas, state parks, national wildlife refuges and nature preserves. The application period opens July 1 each year. The hunts are open to Missouri residents and nonresidents.
This is the first year that applications must be made online. Wildlife Management Chief Mike Schroer said advancing technology permitted the switch to an exclusively web-based application process.
With the growth of Internet access through home computers, laptops, smart phones and other technology, most hunters have Internet access – if not at home, then through family, friends, hunting partners or community locations such as public libraries,” said Schroer. “We encourage hunters to take advantage of these connections to apply for managed hunts.”
Types of hunts include archery, crossbow, muzzleloader, historic methods and modern firearms – plus youth hunts and hunts for persons with disabilities. Hunt dates, locations and other details will be listed on the managed hunt application Web page, Details about managed hunts also are available in the 2010 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting booklet, which is available from permit vendors statewide.
Hunters may apply individually or as groups of up to six, except for youth hunts. Youths may apply singly or with one other youth. Applicants need a nine-digit Conservation ID number for each hunter to complete the application process. If you do not have a Conservation ID Number, call 573-751-4115 to obtain one.
The Conservation Department will post drawing results at the same website Sept. 14. Successful applicants also will receive area maps and other information regarding their hunt in the mail.
Resident or nonresident managed deer hunting permits are required to take part in managed hunts. These permits will be available to successful applicants after Sept. 14 from any permit vendor statewide.
The Conservation Department implemented a preference point system in 2007 to give unsuccessful applicants for managed deer hunts an advantage in future drawings. Preference points are like extra pieces of paper in a hat. Hunters who apply for the first time or who were drawn for hunts the previous year have only one piece of paper with their name on it in the hat. Those who entered but were not drawn the previous year get an extra piece of paper in the hat for each unsuccessful year. For example, a hunter who was not drawn four years in a row would have five pieces of paper in the hat the fifth time he or she applied.
-Jim Low-
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Battling Invasive Species in Missouri

Ventral view of Emerald Ash Borer adult.Image via Wikipedia
Missourians can help protect our state from devastating invaders
The potential effects of invasive plants, animals and diseases on the state’s economy and outdoor resources are incalculable.

JEFFERSON CITY MO – Will you be camping this summer? Boating or fishing? Planting trees or other landscaping? If so, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages you to help save the Show-Me State’s forests, fish and wildlife resources, along with our economy, from an army of invasive species. 

Missouri’s location in the middle of the continent makes it a crossroads for travelers of all kinds, including a growing number of exotic plants, animals and diseases. Among the better-known invaders are the zebra mussel, gypsy moth and bush honeysuckle. But, the list is much longer. Here are some other key culprits:

Emerald ash borer
These penny-size green beetles were first discovered in southeast Missouri in 2008. They have already killed more than 50 million ash trees in 14 states, including Missouri.

Ash trees make up approximately 3 percent of forests and 14 percent of urban trees in Missouri. In some neighborhoods and parks, that figure reaches as high as 30 or 40 percent.

The adult beetles nibble on ash foliage but cause little damage. However, the larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients, eventually killing the tree.

The MDC is working with other state and federal agencies to help stop the spread of the beetle. A quarantine is in effect in Wayne County that restricts movement of hardwood firewood, ash nursery stock and other untreated ash wood products out of the county.

You can help prevent the spread of this deadly invader by not transporting firewood. Get firewood where you will burn it, and burn it all before you leave.

Thousand cankers disease
This infection of walnut trees is caused by the walnut twig beetle and a fungus it carries. It affects many types of walnut trees to varying degrees, but is lethal to black walnut. It is killing black walnut trees in at least eight western states.

The beetle bores into walnut trees and the fungus then forms thousands of growths, called cankers, under the bark. These cankers disrupt the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients, and can eventually kill it.

Missouri is home to more than 55 million black walnut trees and is the nation’s leader in black-walnut nut production. Missouri is also one of the largest producers of black walnut wood products. While the disease has not yet reached Missouri, estimates of potential damage to the state’s economy -- through the loss of nuts, wood products and planting stock -- could annually exceed $135 million.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has banned the importation of “raw” walnut wood products, such as firewood, green lumber and nursery stock, from states where the disease has been found. The quarantine does not include nuts, nutmeats, bark-free, kiln-dried lumber and finished products, such as furniture. 

Again, don’t transport firewood. Get it where you will burn it, and burn it all.

Rusty crayfish
This invasive species has been spread from its native range in the Ohio River basin by anglers and bait dealers. Its aggressive nature and fast growth rate enable it to displace native crayfish, reducing the biological diversity of Missouri streams. 

You can help by not dumping bait. The Wildlife Code of Missouri prohibits the release of unused bait into waters where it did not originate and prohibits the sale and possession of this invasive crayfish.

Chinese mystery snail
This large Asian mollusk already inhabits several Missouri streams. It competes with less robust native snails, which are important parts of the food chain. Chinese mystery snails are on Missouri’s list of prohibited species and are illegal to possess.

You can help by not dumping aquarium water or contents into Missouri’s lakes and streams.  Dispose of unwanted aquarium animals humanely and deposit them in your trash.   

Northern snakehead
This 2-foot-long Asian import has gained a foothold in southern Arkansas and could spread north into Missouri. It can travel cross-country to new waters, sports a mouth full of needle-sharp teeth and devours game fish, such as bass, sunfish and catfish.

Asian carp
This species has multiplied dramatically since invading the Missouri and Mississippi rivers about 20 years ago.  They compete with important native aquatic filter feeders and can eventually take over bodies of water. Their impact on Missouri’s commercial fishing industry and sport fishing still is largely unknown, but could be devastating.

Spotted knapweed
This non-native member of the aster family takes over pastures and roadsides, rooting out native plants and ruining pastures for cattle. The 2-foot-tall perennial, bedecked with attractive, fringy pink blossoms, probably arrived in the United States in the late 1800s in contaminated hay or seed from Eurasia. Since then, it has spread to more than 45 states, including Missouri. Unlike aster species native to Missouri, spotted knapweed’s roots produce chemicals that are toxic to other plants, killing native species. It is bad news for wildlife and livestock because it is not a good food plant.

It was designated a noxious weed by the Missouri legislature in 2008.  You can help by controlling it on your property.

Purple loosestrife
Native to Europe and Asia, purple loosestrife was first brought to North America in the early 1800s. This attractive but highly invasive plant turns diverse, healthy wetlands into impenetrable stands of vegetation largely useless to native Missouri wildlife. Native wetland plants die out due to shading from the tall, dense purple loosestrife stands.

Purple loosestrife is included on Missouri noxious weed list.  You can help by controlling it on your property.

Common and cutleaf teasel
This pair of prickly thistles from Europe has been in Missouri for more than 100 years, but has multiplied dramatically in the past 10 years. It was introduced to North America, possibly as early as the 1700s, because the prickly stem was used in the textile industry to raise the nap of woolen cloth. Teasel’s unusual -- and by some perspectives, attractive -- flower heads have led to its use as a horticultural plant, in flower arrangements and in the craft trade. These are extremely aggressive plants that can take over livestock pastures and open fields, displacing even a thick stand of fescue.

Again, these are noxious weeds so it is important to control them if you find them on your property.

Feral hogs
These “hogs gone wild” destroy wildlife habitat and private property, compete with native wildlife for food, and can pose a threat to humans, pets and domestic livestock through the spread of disease.

Small populations of free-roaming domestic hogs have been part of the Missouri countryside since the days of open range. These isolated populations were kept in check by local hunting efforts.

The situation took a turn for the worse in the 1990s when hog hunting for recreation began to gain popularity. People started raising and releasing  European wild boars for hunting on private land. Some escaped, or were intentionally released on public land, and crossbred with existing free-roaming swine.

These “hogs gone wild” are prolific breeders and their numbers are growing at an alarming rate. Left unchecked, feral hogs will spread throughout Missouri, causing million of dollars in agricultural, environmental and property damage.

MDC is working with other state and federal agencies to control feral hogs on public lands, and is helping private landowners trap and kill them.

MDC encourages hunters to shoot feral hogs on sight.

It is against the law to release any type of hog on public land in Missouri. Report releases, sightings and kills to your local Conservation office.

For more information on these and other alien invaders, and how to help control them, contact your local Conservation office, or visit and search “invasive species” or a specific invader.
Missouri Hunting Information
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Ailing Oak Trees

Oak galls won’t cause much permanent damage
A little TLC is all that most affected oaks need to recover.
ROLLA, Mo.–Oak trees across a broad swath of Missouri are experiencing an unusual outbreak of a common parasite. Tree experts say the parasite is not fatal to healthy trees, even though the condition can look awful.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is receiving numerous reports from St. Louis to Branson of oak trees turning brown. The problem is especially severe in the area around Rolla, Lake of the Ozarks, Springfield and Table Rock Lake.
The main cause of the problem is a wasp of the family Cynipidae. These tiny wasps deposit their eggs on emerging leaves in the spring. As the eggs hatch and young wasp larvae begin feeding, leaves develop brown spots that grow into “galls.” Each of these button-like growths, which are about the size of a pinhead, provides food and shelter for one wasp larva. In severe cases, entire leaves turn brown over much of a tree.
“It looks worse than it really is,” said Conservation Department Resource Scientist Rob Lawrence. “Some people mistakenly think a tree has died when it turns brown. However, it is extremely rare for oaks to die from this insect. Only a few trees that are in serious decline before infestation are likely to succumb.”
Lawrence said trees that have been stressed in recent years by ice or wind damage are more vulnerable to declining health if they lose most of their leaves to gall damage. If most of a tree’s leaves turn brown or drop by early summer, it may produce a second flush of leaves. This added stress can lead to a long-term health decline.
Lawrence, a forest entomologist, urges tree owners not to cut down infested oaks. He said all that most trees need to recover is a little tender loving care, including supplemental watering during dry weather  and possibly fertilizing next spring. Tree owners also can help minimize the severity of future outbreaks by burning or composting fallen leaves.
Avoiding any further injuries, such as wounds from lawn mowers or trimmers, is important for all trees, but especially those that already are stressed by previous storm damage. The use of pesticides is ineffective on the current gall damage.
Most jumping oak galls eventually drop to the ground. They get their name from the larval wasps’ habit of moving violently, causing the entire gall to jump. This causes them to settle into vegetation and soil crevices, where they are more protected.
Winter weather is one factor that helps determine how prevalent jumping oak galls are from year to year. Fewer jumping oak gall larvae survive in winters with repeated wide temperature swings, which encourage them to emerge early. Larvae survival is better in years when winter temperatures are more constant. Extended snow cover also helps the larvae survive by insulating them from cold.
More information about jumping oak galls is available at
Although jumping oak galls are the main cause of oak trees turning brown, they are not the only cause of leaf discoloration in oak trees. Fungus infections also are causing some problems this year. Like the galls, this problem seldom is fatal to oaks. No actions are needed to help trees recover, other than those noted above.
-Jim Low-
Galls caused by tiny wasp larvae are causing leaves on oak trees from Rolla and Lake of the Ozarks to Springfield and Table Rock Lake to turn brown. The damage is temporary, however. Most trees recover on their own, but tree owners can help by watering during dry weather and fertilizing next spring.
 (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

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