Friday, March 29, 2013

Bat disease recently found in Franklin, Washington counties


Caves where White Nose Syndrome found closed to public to prevent disturbing remaining bats. 

Courtesy MDC
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center has confirmed that a deadly disease in bats called “White Nose Syndrome” (WNS) has been recently found in a little brown bat and a tri-colored bat from a public cave in Washington County. The USGS has also confirmed that WNS has been recently found in a little brown bat and a northern long-eared bat from two public caves in Franklin County. All three caves are closed to the public, and cave names are not being disclosed to prevent disturbance of remaining bats.  

The name of the disease describes a white fungus typically found on faces and wings of infected bats. The WNS fungus thrives in cool, damp conditions found in many caves, which are also hibernation and roosting sites for many bat species. WNS spreads mainly through bat-to-bat contact and has not been found to infect humans or other animals. The fungus that causes WNS may be inadvertently carried between caves by humans on clothing, footwear and caving gear.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), signs of the disease or the fungus have now been confirmed in 19 bats from caves in Crawford, Franklin, Lincoln, Perry, Pike, Shannon, and Washington counties since WNS was first found in Missouri in 2010.

“Bats with WNS exhibit unusual behavior, such as flying outside in daylight and clustering near entrances of caves and mines during the day in cold winter months when they should be hibernating,” said MDC Bat Biologist Tony Elliott. “This activity uses up fat reserves needed to get the bats through the winter, making them more susceptible to freezing or starvation.”

Elliott cautioned that people should not handle any bats, and should contact their local MDC office or conservation agent if they find dead bats, or see bats flying outside during the day in cold winter months when they typically would be roosting or hibernating.

Missouri is home to more than 6,300 known caves with about 74 percent of them privately owned. Many contain bats. Bats provide tremendous value as natural pest control for farms and forests, and also play an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people. According to the USGS, the number of North-American bats estimated to have died from WNS thus far had the capacity to consume up to 8,000 tons of insects per year.
More information on WNS is available online at whitenosesyndrome.org andfws.gov/northeast/pdf/white-nosefaqs.pdf.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

DNA shows hunter-shot canine from October to be wandering wolf

USFWS confirms animal shot in Howard County last fall to be a gray wolf, not coyote.

HOWARD COUNTY, Mo – Last fall, a hunter in Howard County shot what has been recently confirmed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to be a wolf. According to MDC Resource Scientist and Furbearer Biologist Jeff Beringer, tissue samples from the 81-pound male animal, mistaken as a coyote by the hunter, were sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for genetic testing. Recently received DNA test results confirm that the animal was a gray wolf from the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan. Beringer added that the animal did not have ear tags, tattoos, other identification or physical signs that indicated it was a captive animal.

Courtesy MDC
Also known as timber wolves, gray wolves once inhabited northern Missouri but were gone from the state by the late 1800s due to hunting and habitat loss.

Beringer said that there is no evidence of a breeding population in the state, but wolves occasionally wander into Missouri from northern states. He added that MDC has never stocked wolves and has no plans to restore this once-native species.
A previous case of mistaken identity happened in late 2010 with the shooting of what also appeared to be an unusually large coyote in Carroll County. DNA test results of the 104-pound canine linked the animal to timber wolves from Great Lakes states.

While wolf sightings in Missouri are very rare, another past case occurred in 2001. It involved an 80-pound timber wolf killed by a landowner in Grundy County. The man also mistook the wolf for a coyote, but discovered his mistake when he found the animal wore a radio collar and an ear tag linking it to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, more than 600 miles away. He notified MDC, which was able to confirm its origin with Michigan officials.

For more information on wolves, visit MDC’s online Field Guide at mdc.mo.gov/node/19615.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Birds are back! Discover nature with peregrine falcon webcam


MDC, Ameren Missouri and World Bird Sanctuary again partner on video feed of falcons nesting. Contest being held to name male falcon.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Like swallows returning to Capistrano, a pair of peregrine falcons has returned to a nesting box at Ameren Missouri's Sioux Energy Center in St. Louis. Ameren Missouri, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), are once again providing the public with an online “FalconCam” for a bird’s-eye view of peregrine falcons raising their chicks.

Courtesy MDC
The FalconCam is live for viewing from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. (CDT) seven days a week. The nest can be viewed on MDC’s website at mdc.mo.gov/node/16934, on Ameren’s website atAmerenMissouri.com/FalconWatch and on the WBS website at worldbirdsanctuary.org.

MDC and WBS experts will offer ongoing website commentary on what’s happening in the nest. The FalconCam will be available until nesting activity is complete and the mother’s young have left the nest.

Ameren staff installed the webcam at the nest site in January 2012. Peregrine falcons have been seen at Sioux Energy center since early 2011, with this year’s nesting activities first spotted in the beginning of February.

According to WBS Director Jeff Meshach, the female laid her first egg this year today (March 19). Last year, she laid a total of five eggs. All five chicks survived. She is expected to lay a total clutch of four to five eggs this year. Once the last egg is laid, the chicks will hatch in about 30 days. The male falcon will bring food to the female and take his turns incubating the eggs so the female can feed and preen her feathers.

Employees at the Sioux Energy Center named the female Siouxzee when she first appeared at the nesting box two years ago.

This year, viewers are invited to name the male peregrine falcon. Researchers at WBS and MDC studied the band attached to the leg of the male and determined he was born at Labadie Energy Center in 2004. Contest rules are available at WorldBirdSanctuary.org. Besides bragging rights, the winner of the contest to name the male will become an adopt-a-bird parent to Sirrocco, a male peregrine falcon that makes its home at the World Bird Sanctuary.

“Our cooperative FalconCam will help Missourians discover nature right in the nest of these amazing raptors,” said MDC Director Bob Ziehmer. “The project illustrates the power of partnerships between private and public sector organizations to help conserve native wildlife.”
Ziehmer added that the Department of Conservation’s Discover Nature Schools program for Missouri students in grades K-12 is providing FalconCam educational materials to the more than 800 schools and 153,000 students involved. The program is in sixty percent of Missouri school districts and promotes hands-on experiences in nature to help students become life-long conservationists. FalconCam offerings include fact sheets, classroom activities, and lesson plans to help Missouri students monitor FalconCam activities. Activities and lesson plans for grades K–2, 3–5, 6–8 and 9–12 were developed in partnership with the World Bird Sanctuary. Get more information online at mdc.mo.gov/node/20703

The FalconCam is also helping Ameren Missouri promote conservation.

“The peregrine falcon project continues to be one of the most important projects we have worked on with the World Bird Sanctuary to help preserve the biological diversity of the world around us,” Michael Moehn, Ameren Missouri senior vice president, Customer Operations, said. “It’s part of our ongoing commitment to being responsible stewards of the environment.”

Ameren Missouri and WBS work together to provide a suitable habitat for songbirds. Nesting boxes have been attached to Ameren Missouri transmission towers and the company has spent more than $300,000 to install nesting boxes, monitor the nests and band the babies.

Meshach of WBS added that the peregrine falcon has made an incredible comeback from the brink of extinction. 

“What we will see at Ameren’s Sioux Energy Center nest box is the fruit of tens of thousands of hours of labor to make the peregrine falcon a common sight again,” Meshach said. “There is always something to learn about any of our world's birds and animals. Our camera will provide a window into the nesting life of the world's fastest creature.”
A WBS reintroduction program in the 1980s and early 1990s has placed more than 80 captive-hatched peregrines back into Missouri's wild, and WBS continues to band chicks produced by up to six pairs of wild peregrine falcon parents in the greater St. Louis area each year.

Considered the world’s fastest animal, peregrine falcons have been clocked diving at 261 mph. For more information on peregrine falcons, visit MDC online at mdc.mo.gov.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

MDC research on black bears turning hunches into hard facts


Written By: Francis Skalicky, MDC

Courtesy MDC
SPRINGIELD, Mo. -- For many years, Missouri’s black bears have been elusive to biologists wanting to learn more about them. Now, thanks to data being gleaned from a research study that began in 2010, hunches are beginning to be replaced with hard facts. Information collected from live-trapping, radio collars and hair snaring is taking away much of the mystery that has surrounded black bears in Missouri.

The goal of Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) biologists is to use this information to better manage the state’s largest wild mammal. MDC’s black-bear research study is a joint effort of the Conservation Department, the University of Missouri-Columbia and Mississippi State University. Safari Club International Foundation is providing funding assistance.

To date, MDC biologists have fitted 61 adult bears with radio collars. They have also set 785 hair snares in 11 counties in the southern part of the state. These snares are small wire enclosures that collect small tufts of fur from bears crossing the wire to get to the bait in the center. These tufts of fur, and the tiny skin follicles attached to them, can reveal valuable genetic information about the bears. Hair samples have been collected from 141 bears.

MDC Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer is the project leader of the research study. He said that information gathered so far has led to a state-wide population estimate of approximately 225 black bears, although much work remains to validate this preliminary estimate.

Home ranges of female bears show that most are in four separate reproducing populations ranging over 10 counties in south-central Missouri.

DNA evidence suggests the largest of these populations, located in Webster and Douglas counties, may be a remnant of Missouri’s original black bear population. Those elsewhere in the state are presumably descended from bears brought to Arkansas from 1958 through the late 1960s as part of a re-introduction program and later dispersed into Missouri. Beringer believes that the other populations in Missouri developed when female bears brought to Arkansas travelled north after being released in an effort to return to their birth areas in the upper Midwest.

Research data has also revealed valuable information about the annual life cycle of a Missouri bear. Bears in Missouri spend nearly all their time in forested areas and use wooded corridors when moving cross-country. Adult bears can consume as much as 20,000 calories per day – mostly in the form of acorns – in preparation for winter dormancy. Females den earlier than males and males emerge from winter dormancy earlier than females. The exact timing of this emergence depends on weather and on how much fat they are able to accumulate before denning.

June is the peak month for breeding. This is also the peak month for dispersal of young male bears. Young females tend to remain near or event with their mothers in their home ranges. The study is an example of how the Missouri Department of Conservation works with people and for people to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife.

The study isn’t completed yet. Beringer said there’s still more to be learned about the black bear in this state.

“We think we know how many bears we have now,” he said. “Our next project is to figure out how fast our population is growing. We want to learn female survival rates, how old are they when they have their first litter, how many litters do they have in a lifetime, how many cubs do they have and what is the survival rate of the cubs.”

As a way of reducing the number of bear-human conflicts occurring in Missouri, one of the outcomes of Missouri’s bear study might be the institution of a limited bear-hunting season. If the data supports a hunting opportunity, Beringer said it would be a highly regulated season favoring the harvest of males and would take place in the winter when females are in their dens. However, before recommending a hunting season, Beringer said he needs enough information to predict how an annual harvest will affect the overall population.

In the meantime, Missourians should keep in mind that early spring the time of year when bear activity increases in Missouri. This period, which begins in spring and stretches into early summer, is when black bears may appear around farms and rural outbuildings in search of food. Black bears are inquisitive and intelligent and that’s what can get them into trouble.

Like any wild animal, black bears are constantly searching for their next meal. When they are successful at finding food, they remember where it came from. Most problems people have with bears come from them raiding campgrounds, garbage bins, bird feeders, orchards and beehives.

Missourians care about conserving forests, fish and wildlife, but some people’s fascination with bears over-rides their conservation-oriented instincts. This happens when bears are purposely fed by people who think they’re helping them survive or are trying to lure them into range for a good photo. If a bear visits an area and is rewarded with food, it will very likely return. Though they are generally not aggressive, they are powerful and can cause substantial damage to buildings, trailers, vehicles, and just about anything else that they view as an obstruction in their search for food.

“We have had an increase in bear/human conflicts in recent years,” Beringer said. “Most conflicts can be prevented if folks do not give bears access to food or garbage.”

For more information on black bears in Missouri, including the research project, sightings, and preventing and dealing with black bears around potential food sources, visit MDC online atmdc.mo.gov and search “black bear.” 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Missouri Natural Areas - A Great Place for a Family Outing

Missouri has some incredible places as we all are well aware.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has developed a really nice resource on their website where you can find out what is available.

Courtesy MDC
The idea behind Missouri's Natural Areas is that they are the best, and as their site says, sometimes the last example of some unique feature of nature.  These kinds of places are great places for kids to learn about the outdoors as well as a great place for adults to relax in a great natural environment.

There is almost certainly one of these areas relatively close to you.

You can visit their page with a full alphabetical list at http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places-go/natural-areas/list or go to their main page at http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places-go/natural-areas.  On the latter, you can search by county.

We thank the MDC for this nice addition to their site.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Connecting with America’s Great Outdoors


More than 6 million people visit refuge lands around the Midwest Region each year. Refuges provide many great opportunities to connect with the outdoors. Whether you’re into hunting, fishing, or just getting outside - refuges have something for everyone. Today, more and more people consider refuge lands among their favorite places to visit - both in person and virtually.
To make it even easier for you to connect to all of your refuge lands, we have launched redesigned websites for all 57 National Wildlife Refuges and 12 Wetland Management Districts across the Midwest Region. These websites are designed to provide up to date information and help you find what you’re looking for quickly and easily.
Check out your favorite Midwest Region refuge’s website today!
For clickable map visit site


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Missouri Trails Advisory Board Will Meet March 23rd

English: A map of Missouri showing Katy Trail ...

The Missouri Trails Advisory Board will meet Saturday, March 23, to discuss grants for the federal Recreational Trails Program. The board will review nineteen 2013 Recreational Trails Program grant applications for the federal Fiscal Year 2013 grant funding. The board will make funding recommendations to the Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Highway Administration based on the application’s suitability under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and other federal guidelines. The board will also discuss the status of the Recreational Trails Program funding.



The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Missouri State Parks office, 1659 East Elm St., Jefferson City.



The Recreational Trails Program is a federally funded grant program for trail-related construction, maintenance, restoration and development. In Missouri, Recreational Trails Program funds are administered by the Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration. For more information on the Recreational Trails Program call 573-751-3442.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Conservation Action: March 2013


The Conservation Commission met March 11 at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, 520 E. Park St., in Neosho.
Commissioners present were:
·         Don C. Bedell, Sikeston, Chair
·         James T. Blair, IV, St. Louis, Vice Chair
·         Don R. Johnson, Festus, Member

The Commission:
·         Received presentations from:
  • Chief Financial Officer Margie Mueller regarding February monthly financial summary.
  • Design and Development Division Chief Jacob Careaga regarding major construction projects completed and the status of major CT projects funded in the FY13 budget.
  • Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer regarding black bear management plan and research project.
  • Resource Science Division Chief Mike Kruse regarding deer management review and planning update.
  • Fisheries Division Chief Chris Vitello and Policy Coordinator Stuart Miller regarding flow regimes for Missouri stream systems.
·         Approved recommendation to purchase approximately 77.5 acres in Shannon County as an addition to Rocky Creek Conservation Area.
·         Approved authorization to advertise and sell an estimated 897,441 board feet of timber from 621 acres of Compartment 22 on Sunklands Conservation Area in Shannon County.
·         Approved the report of the Regulations Committee, including the recommendation for changes to the Wildlife Code including but not limited to daily, possession, and length limits for blue catfish on Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake, and amendments regarding commercial harvest of shovelnose sturgeon to align Missouri’s regulations with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s similarity of appearance ruling.
·         Suspended hunting, fishing, and/or trapping privileges of 21 Missouri residents and two (2) out-of-state residents for Wildlife Code violations, and affirmed actions taken by Missouri courts suspending privileges of one (1) Missouri resident. Those whose privileges were suspended are:
  • Joseph B. Barton, Clarence, Hunting, 1/10/2016
o   Glenn B. Beck, Seligman, Hunting and Fishing, 1 year
o   Joshua S. Bisher, Florissant, Hunting, 1 year
o   James L. Groves, Greenville, Hunting, 2 years
o   Donald L. Hammons, Pleasant Hill, Hunting, 1 year
o   David B. Hand, Eldon, Hunting, Add 6 months
o   Joseph W. Hensley, Lebanon, Hunting, 1 year
o   Thomas J. Korn, Bismark, Hunting and Fishing, 1 year
o   Rathe P. Mann, Halfway, Hunting, 4 years
  • Daniel R. Morgan, Kahoka, Hunting and Fishing, 1 year
  • Taylor J. Morris, Eldon, Hunting, 6 months
  • Darren E. Murphy, Billings, All Sport, 2 years
  • Travis W. Reynolds, Doniphan, Hunting, 1 year
  • James R. Ross, Warrensburg, Hunting, 1 year
  • Michael J. Sims, West Plains, Hunting, 1 year
  • Hall E. Solomon, Fort Pierce, FL, Hunting, 1 year
  • Debonnie L. Spires, Moberly, Hunting, 1 year
  • David A. Sudduth, Houston, 3 years and complete hunter education
  • Michael R. Steele, Fairview, Hunting, 1 year
  • Jason B. Thornton, Duenweg, Hunting, 2 years
  • Daniel  Tran, Jefferson City, Fishing, 1 year
  • Michael H. Ulberg, St. Charles, Hunting, 2 years
  • William R. Westbrook, Prairieville, LA, Hunting, 2 years
  • Edward A. Yoder, St. Louis, Hunting, 1 year
·         Approved the suspension or revocation of all hunting and fishing privileges of 220 people who are not in compliance with applicable child-support laws. Privileges suspended for noncompliance are reinstated once the Division of Child Support Enforcement notifies MDC that suspendees have come into compliance with the required laws.
·         Suspended privileges of 141 people under the provisions of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
·         Approved next regular meeting for April 25-26 at MDC Headquarters in Jefferson City.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

MDC and federal agents snag major paddlefish poaching operation


Undercover investigation leads to arrests and/or citations of more than 100 suspects.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Known as the “Paddlefish Capital of the World,” Warsaw, Missouri, is a favorite area for many of Missouri’s approximately 16,000 sport paddlefish snaggers because of its location along the Osage River. Agents with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) discovered that the Warsaw area is also a favorite location for paddlefish poachers.

A cooperative undercover investigation by the two agencies recently resulted in more than 100 suspects from Missouri and eight other states being issued citations and/or arrest warrants for state and federal crimes related to paddlefish poaching.

Missouri’s official state aquatic animal, the paddlefish is an ancient species. Also called spoonbills, they can grow up to seven-feet long and weigh 160 pounds or more. Paddlefish are valued as a sport fish for both their size, and for eating. Paddlefish are also valued for their eggs, or roe, which are eaten as caviar.

The section of the Osage River running along Warsaw in Benton County is a paddlefish hot spot because it is blocked upstream by Truman Dam. When spawning paddlefish reach the dam, their route is blocked and their numbers increase dramatically. This dramatically increases sport anglers’ chances of snagging the big fish with a random jerk on a fishing line equipped with large hooks.

This concentration of female paddlefish laden with eggs also makes Warsaw a prime location for paddlefish poachers to get the fish eggs for national and international illegal caviar markets.

“The national and international popularity of Missouri paddlefish eggs as a source of caviar has grown dramatically in recent years,” said MDC Protection Chief Larry Yamnitz. “This is a result of European sources of caviar having declined from overfishing of the Caspian Sea’s once plentiful and lucrative beluga sturgeon, another species of fish known for its caviar.”

Caviar is a delicacy created by preserving fish roe in special salts. According to MDC, about 20 pounds of eggs or more can be harvested from a large, pregnant female paddlefish. Retail prices for paddlefish caviar vary. A current common retail price is about $35 per ounce.

“Caviar prices in illegal or black markets also vary,” Yamnitz said. “A common black-market price is about $13 an ounce. Therefore, a single large female paddlefish with about 20 pounds of eggs is carrying about $4,000 worth of potential caviar for black market sales.”  

UNDERCOVER POACHING INVESTIGATION PAYS OFF

Over the course of March 13 and 14, approximately 85 conservation agents of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), 40 special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USWFS), and wildlife officers from other states contacted more than 100 suspects in Missouri and eight other states to issue citations, execute arrest warrants, conduct interviews and gather additional information regarding a paddlefish-poaching investigation.

The effort included eight individuals indicted for federal crimes involving the illegal trafficking of paddlefish and their eggs for use as caviar. Other states involved were Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

The arrests and citations were the result of a multi-year joint undercover investigation by MDC conservation agents and special agents of the USFWS involving the illegal commercialization of Missouri paddlefish and their eggs for national and international caviar markets. The undercover investigation ran during the spring 2011 and spring 2012 paddlefish seasons, March 15 through April 30. It was based out of Warsaw, Missouri. Additional MDC conservation agents and federal agents supported the undercover operation.

“Sport anglers may only catch two paddlefish daily and the eggs may not be bought, sold or offered for sale,” Yamnitz explained. “Extracted paddlefish eggs may not be possessed on waters of the state or adjacent banks and may not be transported. Paddlefish and their eggs may be commercially harvested only from the Mississippi River.”
He added that through the undercover operation, agents were able to identify suspects engaged in wildlife violations involving the illegal purchase, resale and transport of paddlefish and their eggs, document other violations of the Missouri Wildlife Code in addition to the core investigation, and determine that paddlefish eggs harvested in Missouri were being illegally transported out of the state for redistribution.

Federal crimes tied to the poaching involve violations of the Lacey Act. The Act makes it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another state and prohibits the transportation of illegally captured or prohibited wildlife across state lines.

MDC and the USFWS worked with the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Benton County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Department of Justice on the investigation.

Identification of suspects in violation of state wildlife charges is pending legal filings.  Copies of the federal indictments may be obtained from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City.

Yamnitz added that additional details about the undercover operation are vital to the investigation and prosecution of cases and therefore not available at this time. 

HELP STOP POACHING

The investigation began with tips from the public about illegal activities.

“Individuals from the Warsaw area first alerted us to potential paddlefish poaching in the area,” said Yamnitz. “We are grateful to them, and encourage anyone spotting suspected illegal fishing or hunting activity to contact their local conservation agent, or call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-392-1111, 24 hours a day. Callers may remain anonymous and rewards are available for information leading to arrests.”
POPULARITY OF MISSOURI PADDLEFISH

Paddlefish are highly valued by both sport anglers and commercial fishermen. Through MDC stocking efforts at three large reservoirs, Missouri is able to offer some of the best paddlefish snagging fisheries in the U.S. The fisheries are at Lake of the Ozarks and its tributaries, Harry S. Truman Reservoir and its tributaries, and Table Rock Lake and its tributaries, primarily the James River arm.

Without MDC’s stocking of these fisheries, and other paddlefish management practices, paddlefish numbers would sharply decline in Missouri’s reservoirs, reducing opportunities for sport snaggers.

In the past, paddlefish were naturally abundant in Missouri, but their numbers declined because of channelization, damming, impoundments and other river modifications. These modifications have greatly diminished the natural habitat paddlefish need to reproduce in the wild.

Today, paddlefish in Missouri must be stocked. MDC stocks about 45,000 hatchery-produced 10-12-inch-long paddlefish fingerlings each year in Missouri’s three main paddlefish locations: Table Rock Lake, Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks.

PADDLEFISH FACTS

Paddlefish are an ancient species of fish that date back to the times of dinosaurs. The sturgeon is a similar species of fish. Both are popular for their flesh and their eggs, or roe, which is used as caviar. Paddlefish, also known as spoonbills, are most easily identified by their paddle-shaped nose, which accounts for about one-third of their body length.

Paddlefish are cartilaginous, which means that they have no bones. They are bluish-gray to blackish on the back and grade to white on the belly. They have small eyes and no scales.

Paddlefish are filter feeders. Despite their large adult size, paddlefish eat tiny crustaceans and insects, called zooplankton, as they constantly swim slowly through water with their mouths wide open.

Paddlefish can grow to a length of about seven feet, weigh up to 160 pounds or more, and live 30 years or more. Females grow larger and heavier than males. It takes about 6-8 years for a paddlefish to reach legal harvest size (34-inches) in Missouri’s large reservoirs. Female paddlefish reach sexual maturity at 8-10 years and spawn every 2-3 years. Male paddlefish reach sexual maturity at 4-5 years and spawn annually. The egg masses of female paddlefish can be up to 25 percent of their body weight, with a large female paddlefish carrying about 20 pounds of eggs, or roe.

Paddlefish live mostly in open waters of big rivers and were historically found in the Mississippi, Missouri and Osage rivers, along with other streams. Paddlefish spend most of the year dispersed throughout large reservoirs and rivers until warm spring rains increase flows and raise water temperatures, which prompts the big fish to swim upstream on their spawning run. Spawning runs occur in late spring at times of increased water flow. It is triggered by a combination of daylight, water temperature, and water flow.

SNAGGING PADDLEFISH

Because they are filter feeders that eat tiny crustaceans and insects, paddlefish have no interest in traditional fishing lures and bait.

The most popular and dependable way to catch paddlefish is by snagging. This involves using a stiff, strong 6-9-foot pole with a heavy-duty reel and line. A sinker weight is attached near the end of the line, and a hook or cluster of hooks is attached to the end of the line.

Snaggers cast their lines so the sinkers hit the bottom of the river or lake. They then sweep the pole back and forth so the line moves through the water. This sweeping motion jerks the hooks through the water, followed by reeling to take up slack from the jerk. This allows the hooks to “snag” paddlefish to be reeled in.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Missouri State Parks attendance tops more than 18 million in 2012

Granite boulders 1.5 billion years old at Miss...
Elephant Rock State Park 

Gov. Jay Nixon today announced that attendance at Missouri’s State Parksincreased in 2012, another sign of Missouri’s economic recovery. More that 18 million guests visited Missouri’s State Parks in 2012, the fourth consecutive increase in attendance since Gov. Nixon took office, reversing a 10-year decline in parks attendance.

“Whether you want to explore the great outdoors, or learn more about our rich history – Missouri State Parks have something for everyone,” Gov. Nixon said. “I encourage all Missouri families to come experience the beauty of the Show-Me State this year by visiting our state parks.”

Increased attendance at Missouri State Parks also strengthens our state’s economy. An economic impact studyfor the Missouri state park system released in 2012 reported that the total annual expenditure of state parks visitors in 2011 was approximately $778 million. The overall economic impact of these expenditures is estimated at $1.02 billion in sales, $307 million in payroll and related income, and $123 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Also, visitors’ expenditures support 14,535 jobs in Missouri.   
For information about state parks and historic sites, visit MO.gov.

Monday, March 11, 2013

MDC News: UPDATE: More than 1, 600 students now competing at state archery tournament, Friday times added

green version of line art drawing of an archer...


UPDATE: More than 1,600 students archers (up from 1,300) now participating in MoNASP state tournament. Friday flights added at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Up to 10,000 viewers expected March 22-23. Missouri state tournament expected to be one of largest in the country. List of participating schools available online at http://tinyurl.com/b3d2wuc

More than 1,600 students now competing at state archery tournament, Friday times added
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) expect a record participation of more than 1,600 student archers (up from 1,300 as previously reported) from 64 schools around the state to compete at the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP) fourth annual state tournament at the University of Central Missouri Multipurpose Building, 500 S. Washington Ave., in Warrensburg. The state tournament was originally scheduled for only Saturday, March 23, beginning at 8 a.m. Due to higher-than-expected participation, additional shooting flights have been added on Friday, March 22, at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The event is free to watch and open to the public.
Student archers who shoot a qualifying score at the state tournament will earn a spot at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) World Championship in St. Louis June 28-30 at the America Center and Edward Jones Dome.
MoNASP is coordinated through MDC and CFM in partnership with participating schools and numerous supporting organizations throughout the state. MoNASP is an affiliate of NASP and promotes education, self-esteem and physical activity for students in grades 4-12 through participation in the sport of archery.
More than 58,000 Missouri students from 266 schools participate in MoNASP. Since NASP's beginnings in 2002, more than 10 million students have participated in the program through more than 10,000 schools in 47 states and six countries.
For more information, including participating schools and communities, visit mdc.mo.gov and search “MoNASP.”