Friday, November 30, 2012

Discover nature with Eagle Days around the state

American Bald Eagle fall mating ritual


Big rivers, many lakes and wetlands make Missouri especially attractive to bald eagles.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Because of its big rivers, many lakes and wetlands, Missouri is one of the leading lower 48 states for bald eagle viewing. Each fall, thousands of these great birds migrate south from their nesting range in Canada and the Great Lakes states to hunt in the Show-Me State. Eagles take up residence wherever they find open water and plentiful food. More than 2,000 bald eagles are typically reported in Missouri during winter.

From December through February, Missouri's winter eagle watching is spectacular. Discover nature with Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Eagle Days events around the state, or enjoy eagle-viewing on your own. Eagle Days events include live captive-eagle programs, exhibits, activities, videos and guides with spotting scopes. Be sure to dress for winter weather and don’t forget cameras and binoculars. Watch for eagles perched in large trees along the water’s edge. View them early in the morning to see eagles flying and fishing.

Eagle Days events:
        Dec. 1-2 at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge south of Mound City (816-271-3100)
        Jan. 5-6 at Smithville Lake north of Kansas City (816-532-0174)
        Jan. 26-27 at Lock & Dam 24 at Clarksville (660-785-2420)
        Jan. 26-27 at MDC Springfield Conservation Nature Center (417-888-4237)
        Feb. 2 at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Puxico (573-222-3589)

Other places for winter eagle viewing:
        Lake of the Ozarks at Bagnell Dam Access east of Bagnell
        Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on Route K southwest of Columbia
        Lock & Dam 25 east of Winfield
        Old Chain of Rocks Bridge south of I-270 off of Riverview Drive in St. Louis
        Riverlands Environmental Demonstration Area east of West Alton
        Schell-Osage Conservation Area north of El Dorado Springs
        Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Sumner
        Table Rock Lake and Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery southwest of Branson
        Truman Reservoir west of Warsaw

Thursday, November 29, 2012

MDC offers incentive payments for CRP enrollment, enhancements

Locator Map of Missouri, United States


Incentive payments will help enhance private land for quail and other early successional wildlife, waterfowl, and grassland birds

JEFFERSON CITY – Landowners in 54 Missouri counties can receive $300 per acre in incentive bonuses for enrolling new land in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and those with existing CRP contracts could receive payments exceeding $200 for management practices that enhance the value of CRP acres for wildlife.

Private Land Programs Supervisor Lisa Potter with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says the approximate 1.1 million acres of CRP on the Missouri landscape serves an essential role in the protection and enhancement of Missouri’s water quality, soil quality and wildlife habitat. In the past two years alone, Missouri has lost over 200,000 acres of CRP to contract expirations and land use conversions.   

Starting Dec. 1, in an effort to increase and enhance the amount of quality wildlife habitat in Missouri, MDC is offering $100 to $150 per acre for new land enrolled in certain CRP practices. The MDC incentives are in addition to $100 to $150 incentive payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency (FSA) for new enrollments.

Qualifying CRP practices include CP33 (Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds), CP38 (State Acres for Wildlife Enhancements), CP42 (Pollinator Habitat) and CP23 (Wetland Restoration).

MDC also is offering an additional $18 to $60 per acre for mid-contract management activities, such as prescribed burning, disking, herbicide application and legume or native forb interseeding on existing cool-season grass (CP1) and warm-season grass acres. These payments are in addition to FSA payments for required mid-contract management activities.

Besides all of the foregoing incentives, MDC is offering landowners incentive payments of $100 to $200 for planting or enhancing shrubby cover within or adjacent to CRP land.

“Today, most of Missouri’s rural landscape provides little habitat for early successional wildlife such as quail, grassland birds and cottontail rabbits,” says Potter.  “These special incentives, in combination with CRP, can provide an ideal mix of early successional habitat.”

Mid-contract management incentives are available Dec. 1. However, incentives for new CRP acres will not be available until Congress passes or extends the federal farm bill.

Counties included in the offer are: Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Bates, Bollinger, Buchanan, Butler, Caldwell, Cape Girardeau, Cass, Carroll, Chariton, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Dade, Daviess, DeKalb, Dunklin, Franklin, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Knox, Jackson, Johnson, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Mercer, Mississippi, Monroe, New Madrid, Nodaway, Pemiscot, Pike, Platte, Putnam, Randolph, Ray, Ripley, St. Charles, Schuyler, Scotland, Scott, Shelby, Stoddard, Sullivan, Vernon and Worth.

More information is available from local MDC private land conservationists (PLCs). To find your PLC, visit the MDC website at mdc.mo.gov and click on the “Local Contact” box.

-Jim Low-

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Conservation Officials work with hunters to monitor deer herd

English: Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disea...


Hunters can compensate for losses to hemorrhagic diseases.
JEFFERSON CITY Conservation officials say they don’t plan immediate measures to compensate for deer losses to hemorrhagic diseases, but they will look carefully at harvest information, reports of sick deer and hunter surveys when considering future hunting regulations. They note hunters’ key role managing deer numbers and suggest shooting fewer does if hunters notice declining deer numbers.
Two hemorrhagic diseases – blue tongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease – occur naturally in Missouri’s deer herd every year. They are unrelated to chronic wasting disease (CWD), which currently is found only in Macon and Linn counties.
Both varieties of hemorrhagic disease are spread by midges, biting flies that breed near water. Outbreaks are worse in drought years, because midges have a better chance of transmitting the disease among deer concentrated around water holes.
“This year’s drought was one of the worst on record,” says Resource Scientist Emily Flinn. “Missouri had significant hemorrhagic disease outbreaks in 1980, 1988, 1998 and 2007, but this year’s outbreak was more widespread and severe than any previously documented hemorrhagic outbreak in Missouri.”
According to Flinn, some counties may have lost 15 to 20 percent of the deer population to hemorrhagic disease countywide, with localized areas within counties having upwards of 50-percent mortality. However, county-wide assessments can be misleading as EHD may impact one part of a county and have little impact elsewhere in the county.
Flinn says depending on the situation, regulations changes might need to be considered. Regulations were changed following the 1988 hemorrhagic outbreak, but not in response to the 1998 outbreak. 
“Reported hemorrhagic disease cases, harvest totals, hunter surveys, herd size, and other factors will assist us in determining whether regulation changes should be considered,” she says. “Hemorrhagic disease losses could be reflected in some county harvest totals this year, but those totals will likely not tell the whole story. Typically, harvest stays up for a year or so after an outbreak and then declines. This is because hunters typically still see enough deer to shoot approximately the same number as before, delaying the harvest decline, but causing a larger decrease a couple years down the road.”
Flinn adds, “There is the possibility that decreases in deer populations due to hemorrhagic disease might not be as apparent to hunters because this year’s low acorn production will make deer more susceptible to harvest, especially in the southern Missouri.”  Most hunters don’t use all their antlerless permits and can cut back doe harvest if deer populations appear low in their hunting area.
In some areas, deer populations will recover in a few years because of low doe harvest. However, some areas are less likely to rebound quickly due to high doe harvest, potentially leading to poor hunting conditions in the coming years. Therefore, if hunters do notice a significant decrease in deer sightings or found numerous dead deer typical of hemorrhagic disease this year, then they should consider harvesting fewer does.  Flinn says overall Missouri has a strong, healthy deer herd.
Citizen reports of sick and dead deer received this year are a key source of information for determining which areas are hardest hit by hemorrhagic diseases. Counties with the most reports this year included Chariton, with 317 reported deer deaths as of Nov. 26, Osage with 313, Benton with 239, Boone with 178, Monroe with 177, Daviess with 176, Shelby with 169, and Randolph with 158. However, the highly localized nature of hemorrhagic disease can be seen even in counties like Benton and Osage, where some areas reported no hemorrhagic disease cases, while other areas had significant deer mortality. 
Further information about hemorrhagic disease and a map showing where in Missouri the 6,100-plus reported cases occurred are available at mdc.mo.gov/node/16479.
-Jim Low-

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Get out and play Nov. 24 at Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park

Just because the weather is cooler doesn’t mean you can’t have fun outdoors! Get out and play Nov. 24 at Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park in Wildwood with fun activities for the entire family. Sponsored by Missouri State Parks, the event will include activities such as making nature bandanas, scavenger hikes, orienteering, outdoor games, and a mini-habitat exploration.
 

The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are required. 


Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park is located in Wildwood 20 miles west of St. Louis on Highway BA, between U.S. 40 and Highway 100. For more information about the event, call the park at 636-458-3813. For more information about state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November deer harvest biggest in four years

A healthy deer herd and hunter participation
are keys to the Show-Me State’s success
JEFFERSON CITY–Hunters shot 204,668 deer during the November portion of Missouri’s firearms deer season, topping the past four years’ harvests and confirming predictions by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
This year’s statewide November deer harvest is 7.7 percent more than last year and only 1.3 percent below the previous 10-year average.
Top harvest counties during the season Nov. 10 through 20 were Howell with 4,037, followed by Texas with 3,916 and Benton with 3,756. MDC recorded five nonfatal and three fatal firearms-related hunting incidents during the 11-day November firearms deer hunt.
County and regional harvest figures confirm the pre-season forecast by MDC Resource Scientist Jason Sumners. He predicted a strong harvest in southern Missouri because of a poor acorn crop. The southern half of the state is dominated by forest, so acorns play a much more important role in deer’s fall and winter diets there. Acorn scarcity forces deer to move more and concentrates them around limited food sources, making them easier for hunters to find.
Eight of the 10 top harvest counties were south of the Missouri River. A ninth county, Callaway, borders the Missouri River and contains a large percentage of forestland. Only Macon County bucked the trend of southern dominance.
Sumners says the Southeast Region reported the largest harvest increase at 30 percent, followed by the Ozark Region, with a 24-percent increase. Other regional increases were St. Louis, 18 percent; Southwest, 17 percent; and Central, 10 percent. MDC recorded harvest decreases of 6 percent in the Kansas City and Northeast regions and a 9-percent decrease in the Northwest Region.
Sumners says the decline in north Missouri’s deer harvest mirrors a decline in deer populations there in the past 10 years. Meanwhile, deer numbers have increased slowly across southern Missouri. He said both trends are the result of MDC’s efforts to maximize hunting opportunity while avoiding unacceptable levels of property damage and deer-vehicle collisions.
Sumners noted that does made up approximately 44 percent of the November deer harvest, a 10-percent increase from last year.
“The increase in doe harvest is somewhat indicative of growing deer numbers in southern Missouri,” says Sumners. “However, it is concerning if doe harvest increased in counties hit hard by hemorrhagic diseases. This could significantly set back deer populations in some areas to the point where it might take some time to recover.”
Nevertheless, said Sumners, “Missouri has a strong, healthy deer herd. Careful management and strong citizen support for game laws allow us to adjust to changes like this and enhance the social and economic benefits that go with deer hunting.”
Deer hunting contributes approximately $1.1 billion annually to the state and local economies and supports more than 12,000 jobs in Missouri.
-Jim Low-

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Story in Honor of Veterans: From USFWS

Warriors in Transition Help Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

November 7, 2012
Refuge Manager Jason Lewis watches Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher Refuge Maintenance Worker and disabled veteran Kevin Bernheisel, saw wood for the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Photo Caption: Refuge Manager Jason Lewis watches Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher Refuge Maintenance Worker and disabled veteran Kevin Bernheisel, saw wood for the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
U.S. Army soldiers Randy Aspacher and Jeff Barrett are no strangers to challenging work. Both men are currently recovering and rehabilitating in Northwest Ohio from injuries sustained during active duty. Through the Army’s Warriors in Transition Program, injured military personnel are given the opportunity to recover off-site from their assigned military base so they can spend time with their families and work to help their hometown communities.
Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher with Refuge Manager Jason Lewis in front the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Photo Caption: Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher with Refuge Manager Jason Lewis in front the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Barrett’s station is Fort Knox, but through the Warriors in Transition Program, he is able to recover near his family in Northwest Ohio. He began volunteering for Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge several years ago when he was laid off from a Chrysler auto plant. He kept his skills sharp by putting his expertise to work and helping to repair equipment at the refuge. Later, after re-enlisting in the U.S. Army, Barrett was injured and returned home for medical care. During his transition, he works at the refuge a few days each week.
These soldiers spend their recovery time outdoors, working to fulfill the goals of the refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “With equipment in tip top shape, our staff are able to improve and maintain parts of the refuge such as mowing along dikes, road sides and trails. These sites provide safe and high quality wildlife viewing access for the public,” said refuge manager Jason Lewis.
Aspacher and Barrett chose to work at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge as part of their recovery program. With budgets getting increasingly tighter, having the extra help makes a huge difference in project completion rates.
Refuge manager Jason Lewis with Warrior in Transition Volunteer Jeff Barrett standing near a mower he is repairing. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Photo Caption: Refuge manager Jason Lewis with Warrior in Transition Volunteer Jeff Barrett standing near a mower he is repairing. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Aspacher and Barrett are skilled mechanics and assist the maintenance staff in several important duties such as repairing and maintaining equipment, construction of trails, restoring facilities and have recently worked extensively on the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform, a large-scale project. The platform took several days to complete, with the help of a dozen volunteers, and having experienced, handy volunteers like Aspacher and Barrett really helped move things along quickly.
Aspacher and Barrett spend their time helping to improve the refuge not only for their community, but also to help wildlife. You may call them warriors in transition but around here we consider them a part of our refuge family.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall firearms turkey harvest up for second year

English: Female Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallop...

The increase reflects another year of improved nesting success.
JEFFERSON CITY–An increase in Missouri’s 2012 fall firearms turkey harvest confirms population gains that turkey managers predicted and hunters hoped for.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Telecheck database recorded a harvest of 8,498 turkeys during the fall firearms turkey season Oct. 1 through 31. Top harvest counties were Webster with 225 turkeys checked, Laclede with 223, and Greene with 216.
This year’s fall firearms turkey harvest is 1,421 more than last year, a 20-percent increase. MDC Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle credits weather in part for the jump in fall turkey harvest.
“As far as production goes, our turkey population struggled through several tough years,” said Isabelle. “2008 was the wettest year on record in Missouri, and 2009 and 2010 weren’t much better. All that took a toll on turkeys and other ground-nesting wildlife.”
Isabelle said the hatch of 2011 was considerably better than the previous four, and it bolstered turkey numbers throughout much of the state. This year’s hatch, with a statewide poult-to-hen ratio of 1.7 poults per hen, was identical to 2011, which was the best since 2002.
MDC sold 16,413 fall firearms turkey hunting permits this fall, an increase of 9.3 percent from 2011.
Isabelle said he is encouraged by the increased fall turkey harvest and optimistic about prospects for the 2013 spring turkey season.
“The last two years have provided a much-needed improvement in turkey production,” said Isabelle. “We have always known that turkey numbers would rebound with favorable conditions. In parts of Missouri, our turkey numbers are still well below where they were five or 10 years ago, but the hatches of the last two years have certainly been a step in the right direction. 2011’s hatch should result in the largest group of 2-year-old gobblers we’ve had in quite a few years, which should make the 2013 spring season exciting for a lot of hunters.”
According to Isabelle, it is unlikely Missouri will ever see the numbers of turkeys it had immediately following restoration. That high-water mark was the culmination of a restoration program in which turkeys were reintroduced into areas where they had been absent for decades. Turkey populations expanded rapidly until they encountered “biological resistance” from factors that limit their numbers. From that peak, turkey numbers decreased to levels that are likely more sustainable in the long-run.
Isabelle says what the state’s turkey population has experienced over the course of the last several decades is not unique to Missouri. There are quite a few other states that have experienced similar trends in their turkey numbers as well.
“As long as we have enough habitat, Missouri will have a great turkey resource,” says Isabelle. “But wildlife populations have peaks during periods of favorable conditions and valleys during less favorable years. In the coming years, fluctuations in our turkey population can be expected. We’ll have our higher years and we’ll have our lower years. That’s just the nature of a species like the wild turkey.”
For the time being, the hatches of 2011 and 2012 represent considerable improvements in production and should serve to bolster turkey numbers throughout much of Missouri. For turkey enthusiasts, this is good news indeed.
-Jim Low-

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Young hunters check 19,277 deer

The ranks of young hunters are swelling as a
result of MDC’s continuing recruitment efforts.
JEFFERSON CITY– Hunters age 6 through 15 checked 19,277 deer during the first weekend of Missouri’s youth deer hunt Nov. 3 and 4, a 17.6-percent increase over last year’s figure.
Top harvest counties for the early portion of the youth hunt were Franklin with 417 deer checked, Osage with 400 and Howell with 395. 
Resource Scientist Jason Sumners with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) credits several factors for the increase.
“Increasing participation is probably the number-one cause of the continued increases youth harvests,” says Sumners. “We have had a youth hunt for more than a decade now, and we have seen fairly steady growth in the harvest since then. That’s partly because we have doubled the length of the season. But it’s also about the growth of a youth-hunting tradition. That, combined with very good weather conditions and a lack of acorns in southern Missouri, contributed to a nice bump up this year.”
Missouri held its first youth hunt in 2001. The season was two days long, and the harvest that year was 6,277.  For the first seven years, the youth hunt consisted of a Saturday and Sunday before the November firearms deer season, and the harvest averaged around 10,000 deer. Starting with the 2008-2009 hunting season, MDC added a two-day late portion in January.
The youth deer season is one facet of ongoing efforts to recruit new hunters. In 2001, Missouri had approximately 40,000 deer hunters under age 16. Today they number approximately 70,000. MDC also uses low-cost permits, partnerships with private mentoring programs, an Apprentice Hunter Authorization, and outdoor-skills training to encourage Missourians to take up hunting.
Last year, more than 114,000 Missourians attended 2,000-plus MDC-sponsored events with instruction in hunting, fishing, trapping and shooting sports. Low permit cost is another reason Missouri is a great place to hunt. Missouri’s $17 Resident Firearms Any-Deer Permit is a bargain compared to the average of $46.63 for equivalent privileges in surrounding states. Missouri charges only $8.50 for a resident any-deer permit for kids under age 16. Resident youths pay just $3.50 for antlerless-deer permits.
The Apprentice Hunter Authorization costs $10 per year and allows people 16 and older to buy hunting permits for two consecutive years without having to complete hunter-education training first. Authorization users must buy the appropriate hunting permits. They also must hunt in the immediate presence of a licensed hunter 18 years or older who is hunter-education certified or exempt from the hunter-education requirement due to age.
Missouri’s hunting tradition is essential to managing the state’s deer herd. It also contributes substantially to the state’s economy. Deer hunters spend approximately $700 million on their sport annually in Missouri, generating $1.1 billion in business activity and supporting 11,000 jobs.
The Conservation Department makes it easy to create a lasting reminder of a young hunter’s first deer. An official First Deer Certificate, complete with congratulations and signature by Conservation Department Director Robert L. Ziehmer, is available at mdc.mo.gov/node/10469. To create a certificate suitable for framing, you need only fill in the hunter’s information, print the form and add a photo.
Next on Missouri’s deer-hunting calendar is the November portion of firearms deer season Nov. 10 through 20. This portion normally accounts for approximately 80 percent of the state’s firearms deer harvest.
-Jim Low-