Friday, October 31, 2014

MDC agent receives top honor from 16-state association

Conservation Agent Rob Farr of Benton County honored

Warsaw, Mo. – Conservation Agent Rob Farr was recently honored as the Officer of the
MDC Conservation Agent Rob Farr (right) of Benton County
 was recently named Officer of the Year by the Southeastern
 Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a 16-state cooperative.
 He is congratulated by Randy Doman,
an MDC Protection Division field chief.
Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Farr is based in Benton County.
   “We are tremendously, proud of Rob’s accomplishments over the past year and throughout his 34-year career as a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agent,” said Randy Doman, an MDC Protection Division field chief. “Rob’s ability to genuinely communicate with people under any circumstance, along with his character, integrity and work ethic make him an outstanding ambassador for MDC and the Protection Division.”
   Farr was presented the award on Oct. 21 at a Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Awards Banquet in Destin, Fla. His wife, Jacqueline, also attended. He began his career as an MDC agent in Henry County in 1980 and has served in Benton County since 1982. Farr was chosen for the top honor from agents nominated by 16 states that are members of the association.
   “I’m thrilled and I appreciate it a lot,” Farr said. “A lot of outstanding officers were also nominated by their states. It’s quite a surprise and an honor.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

MDC encourages sending butternut tree seeds to state nursery

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Now is a great time to send butternut tree seeds to the state
MDC Forestry Resource Technician Ed Hovis
shows the leaves of a butternut tree along
 a creek bed in Wayne County. (Photo by AJ Hendershott)
nursery, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Ed Hovis, a MDC forestry resource technician, said butternut trees are somewhat rare in our area and they desperately need help. This is why he takes time on and off the job to find and collect butternut tree seeds and send them to the George O. White State Nursery.
“This tree is declining faster than it can reproduce so with our help in seed collection and replanting, maybe we can get it back on track,” Hovis said.
Hovis said the butternut tree is in trouble, although it’s not yet listed as endangered in Missouri.  It was listed as endangered in Canada in 2005 and is of concern to Missouri foresters because of its weakness to butternut canker disease.
“Canker disease is causing a major decline in these trees,” Hovis said.
He said collecting butternut tree seeds is a fun activity for families because it’s a rare tree, which makes it a challenge to find.  The fruit is edible and was used by Native Americans for food, fabric dye and medicinal purposes. The attractive wood produced by the tree is preferred by wood workers.
Butternut trees have alternate,
 compound leaves which help
 to identify the species. (Photo by AJ Hendershott)
According to the MDC’s Trees of Missouri guide, the butternut tree is a medium-sized tree, growing up to 60 feet tall. It has a short trunk which divides into several ascending limbs that form an irregular or round-topped crown with whitish bark. The tree has alternate, compound leaves. Butternut trees bear edible fruit that has a drooping husk, 1 ½ to 3 inches long, with dense hair. Hovis said butternut trees are found in bottomland areas, mainly along creek and river banks. The seeds are also popular as a food source for wildlife, which can lead to competition when trying to collect it.
“If the critters don’t get them first you can just pick them off the ground,” Hovis said. “Since they grow along stream banks, most of the fruits fall in the water.  Out of the five buckets I gathered, four of them were in the water.”
Besides ensuring the prosperity of the butternut tree,  there’s also advantage to taking personal responsibility for protecting and caring for nature and our natural resources.
“Just knowing I took a small part in saving these trees is very rewarding,” Hovis said. “I hope through seed collection and seedlings from the nursery the butternut can make a strong come back.”
Hovis said seeds can be collected in a trash bag, boxed up and sent to the George O. White
Butternut tree seeds can be gathered
 in buckets or trash bags and mailed
 to the George O. White State Forest Nursery
in Licking. (Photo by AJ Hendershott)
State Nursery in Licking.
George Clark, the MDC forest nursery supervisor, said it’s important that the seed is sent quickly after it’s gathered.
“Seed can dry out sitting in a garage, house or just sitting on the ground during an extended dry period in the fall,” Clark said.
To send butternut tree seeds, mail them to the George O. White State Forest Nursery, 14027 Shafer Road, Licking, MO, 65542. For more information on the nursery, call (573)674-3229, or go online For more information about butternut trees, contact your local MDC forestry office.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MDC will display historic archery deer mount and gear

A proud hunter and the 10-point buck bagged with bow and arrow made the front page of
The Kansas City Star newspaper on Oct. 8, 1959. Voris Dibben of Lake Waukomis killed the white-tailed deer in wooded hills near the Missouri River west of Parkville when deer were making a comeback from near extirpation in Missouri thanks to conservation.
   “Bags Buck 10 Miles From Downtown,” said the The Star’s front-page headline accompanied by a center-page photo of Dibben with his bow and the deer.
    Now, the trophy mount, antique archery gear and framed newspaper clipping will showcase a proud moment in conservation history. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently accepted the Dibben family’s landmark keepsakes for a future display at MDC’s Parma Woods Shooting Range and Education Center. Janice Alexander, Dibben’s daughter, and her husband, John Alexander, made the donation.
    “I think my dad would really appreciate this,” Janice Alexander said of the future history display at Parma Woods.
    Dibben’s newsworthy deer marked a wildlife recovery success story. Today, deer hunting is a revered tradition that provides provides food and enjoyment for thousands of families and pumps more than $1 billion annually into the state’s economy. But white-tailed deer were almost extirpated from the state and a rarity in western Missouri by the 1920s. Then citizens in 1936 voted for a constitutional amendment creating the Missouri Conservation Commission and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Science-based deer management that began then continues today with broad hunting opportunities that create a balance between people and deer.
   But just seeing a deer was a novelty in most neighborhoods in 1959.
   A second photo in The Star story shows Dibben shaking hands with Dick Rotsch, a longtime MDC metro coordinator in Kansas City. Rotsch said the county’s herd in 1959 tallied about 300 deer. MDC that year opened all counties in the state for deer hunting for the first time in the modern era.
   By comparison, hunters killed 1,211 deer with firearms and archery gear in Platte County in the seasons from autumn 2013 into early 2014. Missouri today has a healthy herd estimated at more than one million deer. Deer are often seen in urban areas and special managed hunts help control their population.
    Rotsch told The Star that Dibben’s deer was likely the first taken in Platte County with an arrow in a century, perhaps the first taken by any method in 50 years. His recurve bow was a wood and fiberglass laminate and the arrow shafts were wood. To reduce glare off his bow he painted it green.
    “It was quite a tough challenge with the old-fashioned bow,” Dibben told The Star. “But it’s a good feeling to have accomplished it.”
   Janice Alexander was a third grader at a brand new school in Kansas City’s Northland,
Janice Alexander (right) donated to MDC the buck deer mount and the
archery gear her father, Voris Dibben, used to kill the deer
 in 1959. Nathan Woodland, MDC supervisor for the Parma Woods
 Shooting Range, holds the recurve wood and fiberglass laminate bow
 and wood-shaft arrows. Conservation Agent Doug Yeager
 holds the mount. Dibben's deer was front page news in 1959
 as Missouri's deer herd was still recovering statewide thanks to
 conservation, and it was the first deer killed in Platte County in decades.
 The mount and gear will be displayed at Parma Woods Shooting Range.
Thomas B. Chinn Elementary, when her father shot the buck. Her memories are faint of the day. But then the deer became a conversation piece in the family home and later in her home in Kansas City, North. Her father, a lifelong, hunter and angler, died in 1997. Her mother, Marian Dibben, worked as an administrative assistant for MDC when the agency had an office on Grand Avenue in downtown Kansas City.
   The hunting keepsakes will now tell a story about conservation and hunting traditions for future generations to see, said Nathan Woodland, MDC supervisor at Parma Woods. They will be displayed in a room used for outdoor skills classes offered by MDC. Ironically, the shooting range is in southern Platte County near the Missouri River and could be near or where Dibben shot the buck.
   “This is a chance to keep conservation history alive,” Woodland said. “It’s really wonderful they are generous enough to realize the significance and they want to share this with other people.”
   For more deer hunting lore and opportunities, go online to

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Night Hikes at Crowder State Park Oct. 31

Crowder State Park will be hosting Halloween Night Hikes on Friday, Oct. 31. Sponsored by
Missouri State Parks, the event will be held at Camp Grand River, the park’s organized group camp.

Hikes will begin at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Participants are encouraged to dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes.

At 8 p.m., guests can enjoy an outdoor showing of the movie “Frankenweenie”. Participants will also have the chance to make a Halloween craft and enjoy snacks from 6-8 p.m. This family-friendly event is free and open to the public.

Crowder State Park is located west of Trenton off Highway 6. For more information about the event, call the park directly at 660-359-6473. For more information about state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Celebrate opening of new accessible fishing dock at Cuivre River State Park Oct. 29

English: Lake Lincoln in Cuivre River State Pa...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The public is invited to celebrate the opening of a new accessible fishing dock at Cuivre River State Park onWednesday, Oct. 29. Sponsored by Missouri State Parks, participants will have the opportunity to try their luck fishing in the 55-acre Lake Lincoln using the new, recently completed fishing dock. The project was made possible thanks to a generous donation by Toyota Bodine located in Troy, Mo.
At 2 p.m., visitors can attend a dedication ceremony that will be held at the park boat ramp, near the new fishing dock. At 2:30 p.m., visitors are encouraged to try their luck at fishing using the new dock. Park staff will be on hand to provide assistance. If you plan to fish, please make sure that you have a current fishing permit and your own equipment. This program is free of charge and open to the public.
Cuivre River State Park is located on Highway 147, just 3 miles east of the Troy/Highway 61 exit. For information about the event, call the park at 636‑528‑7247. For information about state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MDC Stocks Trout at Jackson’s Rotary LakeV

The annual winter trout fishery at Jackson’s Rotary Lake begins Nov. 1, according to the
Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), marking the opening of Missouri’s winter trout season in lakes around the state.
According to MDC Fisheries Management Biologist Mike Reed, approximately 1,900 trout, as well as a number of ‘lunkers,’ will be stocked in Jackson’s Rotary Lake prior to the opener.
Rainbow trout are purchased by the City of Jackson and MDC and stocked in Rotary Lake each fall. Anglers are then able to fish for this popular cold-water fish through the fall and winter months on a catch-and-release basis. Anglers may harvest trout as of Feb. 1, 2015. Rainbow trout are cold-water fish which live in water temperatures less than 70 degrees. They do well in waters such as Rotary Lake during the colder months. 
Reed cautions anglers to remember that from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, all trout must be released unharmed immediately. During this time, anglers may only fish with flies, artificial lures and unscented plastic baits. In addition, they may only use one fishing rod at a time and chum is not permitted. Starting Feb. 1, any bait may be used and four trout may be kept regardless of size. All anglers between the ages of 16 and 64 must have a valid Missouri fishing permit and any angler harvesting trout must possess a trout permit as well. 
Trout can be caught on a wide variety of lures, according to Reed.
Flies, which imitate aquatic insects, are popular with fly fishers,” he said, “but spinners, small spoons, and various small lures are also effective.”  
Light line and tackle will typically produce more fish than heavier tackle. Successful anglers typically use 2-6 pound test line when fishing with lures, and add little or no additional weight to the line. Set the drag light as a trout often hits hard and makes strong runs which can break weak or frayed line.
For more information, contact MDC’s Southeast Regional Office in Cape Girardeau at (573) 290-5730.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Missouri Deer Season Forecast

Hunters’ harvest decisions determine the number and quality of deer on private land.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.–Some parts of Missouri will have more deer this year, and a bumper crop of corn will affect hunting strategies. The Missouri Department of Conservation says decisions that hunters make in harvesting deer are among the most significant factors affecting deer numbers this year and in the future.
Conservation Department Resource Scientist Emily Flinn says this year’s mild summer will send deer into autumn in good physical condition. Hot, dry summers, like those of 2012 and 2013, cause physical stress on deer, increasing their nutritional needs while simultaneously reducing food supplies. Deer got a break from the weather this year, with cooler than average temperatures and plenty of food.
 The Conservation Department tracks deer populations at the county level by analyzing the number and sex of deer checked during deer season and through surveys of hunters and landowners. It also factors in other influences, such as disease.
Deer populations in central, northern, and western Missouri have decreased steadily over the past decade partially as a result of regulations that allowed hunters to shoot more does.
“It’s important to remember that deer numbers were significantly above target levels in the early 2000s,” says Flinn. “The liberal regulations were intended to gain control of the deer population, and they did. Then the hemorrhagic disease outbreaks in 2012 and 2013 pushed populations even farther below desired levels in some areas. The Conservation Department reduced the number of firearm antlerless permits that hunters can fill in some counties this year to allow the population to increase back to desired levels.”
Flinn says the effects of previous hemorrhagic disease outbreaks will continue to be felt this year. That is particularly true in the northern half of the state. However, losses to blue tongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease were not spread evenly across any region of the state.
“Localized deer populations that experienced moderate to high hemorrhagic mortality from the 2012 outbreak and last year in northeast Missouri have likely not recovered to levels prior to the outbreak,” says Flinn. “Due to the localized manner in which hemorrhagic disease operates, it is important that hunters and landowners continue to reduce doe harvest if deer numbers in their areas are below desired levels. On the other hand, if numbers in a localized area are at or above desired levels, then the continuing doe harvest is necessary to reduce or maintain populations.”
In contrast, she says, several years of conservative harvest regulations in southern Missouri have allowed deer populations to slowly increase. However, deer population levels are still largely below desired levels in much of southern Missouri. 
Deer population size affects deer harvest, but other factors are important, too. One of the most important factors is food availability.
In southern Missouri, acorns dominate deer diets in the fall and winter. When acorns are plentiful, deer can find all the food they need without moving around much. This tends to spread deer across the forested landscape, making them difficult to find. Conversely, in years when acorns are scarce, deer move around more and tend to concentrate around available food sources, making them easier to find. Early reports indicate that Missouri will have an average crop of acorns from both white and red oaks this year, neither helping nor hindering hunters in the Ozarks.
“Scouting can help hunters figure out deer travel routes and where they might be visible,” says Flinn.
She also advised hunters to consider how agricultural activity on neighboring land might affect deer behavior.
Flinn emphasizes the important role hunters play in determining local deer population size and structure. Shooting one or two does on your property might not seem very significant, but in combination with deer harvest on adjacent land, it can add up.
“Most people think the Conservation Department manages deer, but in reality it is a collaborative effort between the Department and hunters and landowners,” says Flinn. “On private land, our management is on a large scale. We can regulate how many antlerless tags a hunter can fill in a particular county, but hunters and landowners ultimately make the decision about how many deer to harvest within constraints of regulations. So hunters and landowners have a great deal of influence on local deer numbers.”
Flinn says the patchy nature of losses to hemorrhagic diseases across the landscape makes hunter involvement in managing deer more important than ever. Hunters who see that deer numbers are down where they hunt should consider the future when deciding whether to harvest does.
The first step in managing local deer populations is coordinating your hunting activities with neighbors. Forming a deer cooperative can be as simple as sitting down over coffee to discuss what you want to achieve. Once you agree on goals for the local deer herd, the next step is tailoring your deer harvest to achieve those goals. More information on the status of Missouri’s deer population and regional trends in deer populations is available in the 2013-2014 Missouri Deer Season Summary and Population Status Report
This year’s deer-hunting regulations include changes to availability of firearms antlerless permits in some counties. Details about this and other regulations, including season dates, are available in the 2014 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulation and Information booklet. It is available wherever hunting permits are sold or

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Conservation Commission takes action to protect deer in Missouri

Public comments and dozens of public meetings showed overwhelming support for
proposed regulations to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.  The Conservation Commission unanimously voted to approve proposed amendments to regulations regarding the operation of hunting preserves and wildlife breeding facilities that hold white-tailed deer, mule deer, their hybrids, and other members of the deer family, known as cervids, to prevent the spread of diseases, including chronic wasting disease, to the state’s deer herd.
Actions by the Commission include:
  • Banning the importation of live white-tailed deer, mule deer, and their hybrids from other states.        The regulation still allows for the importation of semen for artificial insemination.
  • Requiring all facilities, existing and new, to maintain or construct a single 8-foot fence following specific standards detailed in the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Existing facilities would have 18 months to bring fencing into compliance. 
  • Requiring Class I and Class II wildlife breeders and big game hunting preserves to test all mortalities of deer that are older than six months for chronic wasting disease and allow permittees to apply for an exemption from mandatory testing requirements in the event of a mass-casualty event.
  • Requiring Class I and Class II wildlife breeders that hold deer to participate in a United States Department of Agriculture-approved chronic wasting disease herd certification program.
  • Set requirements for disease testing, record-keeping, reporting disease test results, and complying with an established disease response plan in the event a disease is discovered.
  • Prohibiting any new captive-cervid facilities within 25 miles of a confirmed chronic wasting disease location for five years.
The regulation changes will go into effect Jan. 30, 2015.
More than 500,000 Missouri citizens enjoy deer hunting, sharing their hunting heritage and passing that heritage onto future generations. The spread of chronic wasting disease could negatively impact the future of Missouri deer hunting as well as negatively impacting deer-dependent businesses that support more than 12,000 Missouri jobs and generate over $1 billion in economic activity annually.
“Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disease that affects members of the deer family and, with no known cure, it is 100 percent fatal,” said MDC Deputy Director Tom Draper. “These amendments work to reduce the risk of chronic wasting disease spreading beyond the limited area where it has been found in northern Missouri to ensure the health of Missouri’s entire deer herd, including free-ranging and captive-cervids.”
In June, proposed amendments to the Wildlife Code of Missouri were filed with the Secretary of State and published in the Missouri Register with a 30-day public comment period, beginning July 16, with comments provided to the Conservation Commission for its consideration. 
In addition, MDC held public meetings around the state last summer to share information and gather public feedback. More than 40,000 comments were received with strong support for each of the proposed amendment changes. 
The final regulations will minimize risk associated with the movement and holding of captive deer and help protect Missouri’s deer herd from chronic wasting disease.
In 2011, the Conservation Commission approved regulation changes related to the free-ranging deer herd to help limit the spread of chronic wasting disease in northern Missouri. 
To learn more about these regulations or chronic wasting disease, go online to

Friday, October 24, 2014

MDC to host workshop on deer research project

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is beginning a five-year research project in6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the Empire Prairie Community Building in Andrew County. The workshop location is eight miles west of King City on Missouri 48, about one-quarter mile west of the Missouri 48 and Route PP intersection.
northwest Missouri to evaluate white-tailed deer survival, reproduction and movement patterns. A workshop for landowners or hunters interested in the project will be held at
   This study will begin in January and is being done in partnership with the University of Missouri at Columbia (UMC). The study will include monitoring deer of all ages and sex. Biologists will capture and place GPS tracking collars and small metal ear tags on deer, which will be immediately released. Hunters will be encouraged to harvest deer as normal in study areas, including those with collars.
   Plans call for lands to be utilized in the study area in Nodaway, Gentry, Andrew and DeKalb counties. Concurrently, a similar study will occur in Douglass, Howell, Texas and Wright counties in the southern Missouri Ozarks. The two studies will give biologists a look at trends in deer populations in both the agriculture areas of north Missouri and the timber-dominated areas of the Ozarks.
   MDC utilizes several sources of data to monitor deer populations in the state. That information enables science-based decisions for deer hunting seasons and harvest limits. The new deer survival, reproduction and movement study will provide an even broader data base for MDC biologists to use for decisions about deer management. This will be one of the largest white-tail deer research projects in the nation and is being funded with assistance from Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Funds.
   Landowners interested in allowing deer trapping on their property may contact Jon McRoberts, UMC project leader, at or 573-881-1978.
   For information about deer management in Missouri, contact Emily Flinn, MDC deer biologist, or 573-815-7901, ext. 3619.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MDC program to give tips on how to process deer

 A hunter's work is not done when he harvests a deer. How to field dress it, skin it, process
the meat and store it for future tasty meals are beneficial skills for hunters to know.
People who are interested in processing their own deer should plan to attend the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) “From Field to Freezer” seminar. This event will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday at the Wildcat Glade Conservation and Audubon Center (201 W. Riviera Drive, Joplin, MO).
Attendees will learn how to field dress and properly care for their harvested deer and will also learn how to process venison for freezer storage. Joplin-area taxidermist and long-time meat processor Don Scott will cover field dressing, prepping for taxidermy, de-boning deer and packaging meat for the freezer. This program is free to the public, but pre-registration is appreciated. To register or to get more information, call the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Joplin Office at 417-629-3423.

October 2014 Conservation Action

The Conservation Commission met Oct. 16 and 17 at Conservation Department
Headquarters in Jefferson City.  Commissioners present were:
James T. Blair, IV, Chairman
David W. Murphy, Vice Chairman
Marilynn J. Bradford, Secretary
Don C. Bedell, Member
The Commission approved final recommendations for changes to the Wildlife Code pertaining to captive cervid facilities.
The Commission:
Received presentations from
  • Outreach and Education Supervisor Claudine Lamb regarding the Discover Nature Schools program.
  • Resource Scientist Sara Tripp regarding The Mississippi River Basin: A River Divided or Migratory Swimway?
  • Wildlife Programs Supervisor Dennis Figg regarding Strategic Guidance for Healthy Forests, Fish, and Wildlife.
  • Human Resources Division Chief Tom Neubauer regarding Personal Services Trends.
Approved amending an agreement for professional engineering services for the design of the new Grand River Pump Station at Fountain Grove Conservation Area (CA) in Livingston County.
Approved the exchange of a 90-acre tract of Clubb Creek CA in Bollinger County for an 85.9-acre tract in Wayne County as an addition to Coldwater CA.
Approved the sale of approximately 1.64 acres of Little Black CA in Ripley County.
Approved the sale of approximately 5 acres of Hollister Towersite in Taney County.
Suspended hunting, fishing, and/or trapping privileges of nine Missouri residents and two nonresidents for Wildlife Code violations. Those whose privileges were suspended are:
  • James E. Arnold, Richland, hunting, 1 year
  • LaVerne H. Brancamp, Algonquin, Ill., all sport privileges, 1 year
  • Holden B. Browning, Sedalia, hunting and fishing, 1 year
  • Thomas Kussman, Dalton, fishing, 1 year
  • Charles Leonard, Keytesville, commercial fishing, 1 year
  • Ethan R. McAdams, Salisbury, all sport privileges, 1 year
  • Brandon D. Steen, Freeburg, all sport privileges, 1 year
  • Duc Tran, Camdenton, fishing, 1 year
  • Raymond E. Wagler, Bowling Green, commercial deer breeder, 1 year
  • William J. White, Argyle, Iowa, all sport privileges, 1 year
  • Ryan W. Wolf, Weatherby, fishing, 1 year
Approved the suspension or revocation of all hunting and fishing privileges of 415 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 310 people under the provisions of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
Imposed hunting privilege suspensions of three Missouri residents who injured other persons in hunting incidents. The hunters must complete a hunter-education training course before restoration of privileges.
Set the next regular Commission meeting for Dec. 11 and 12.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MDC: Risk of encountering stinging caterpillars in Missouri is minimal

The Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center has received several inquiries about
stinging, or venomous, caterpillars, as a result of high populations of the puss caterpillar in more southern states. Because the occurrence of stinging caterpillars is so rare in Missouri, local naturalists reached out to Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Forest Entomologist Rob Lawrence for information on the possibility of stinging caterpillars in the local area. According to Lawrence, the chances of encountering a venomous caterpillar in Missouri are minimal, due to a small population of these specific caterpillar species.
“The numbers of stinging caterpillars encountered by Missourians each year is relatively low compared to other insects and compared to the numbers of stinging caterpillars in some other states,” Lawrence said. 
“Their populations fluctuate from year to year, but occasionally one type will have an outbreak, such as the puss caterpillar’s fluctuation in Florida this year,” he said.
Of over 1,000 individual species of caterpillars in Missouri, Lawrence said there are about 15 species that are known to be present in Missouri with some sort of venomous capacity.  The species that can deal the most painful sting or severe reaction in Missouri is the puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis), also known as the flannel moth caterpillar. This is the same caterpillar featured in the news in southern states recently because of the surprising high populations occurring there this year. 
“These puss caterpillars are present in Missouri, but they’re just not as common,” Lawrence said, adding that the puss caterpillar doesn’t look like a caterpillar at all, but looks more like a piece of fur. 
“No head or legs are visible when it’s in its usual position and the stinging hairs are hidden within its mass of ‘fur,’”   he said.
Lawrence said one of the most unusual looking of the stinging caterpillars in Missouri is the hag moth caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium), also called the monkey slug. 
“It looks like some sort of brown, hairy, alien being with several pairs of hairy arms projecting out from its body,” Lawrence described.
Other stinging caterpillars in Missouri are the saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea), stinging rose caterpillar (Parasa indetermina), buck moth caterpillar (Hemileuca maia), and the io moth caterpillar (Automeris io).
But these few venomous species of caterpillars are drastically outnumbered by their harmless relatives. Lawrence said it’s important to remember the value caterpillars hold in pollinating Missouri’s many plants, and as a food source for many birds, other insects and animals.
“We often have a love-hate relationship with caterpillars,” he said. “Butterflies are beautiful, and it’s fun to try to raise caterpillars until they turn into a butterfly or moth.  Most caterpillars are harmless to humans and pets and can be safely handled, but some are not.”
Most of the stinging caterpillars have either hairs or spines, but not all hairy or spiny caterpillars are venomous. Lawrence said the best rule-of-thumb is not to touch hairy or spiny caterpillars if you’re not sure which species it belongs to.  Some stinging caterpillars are brightly colored. He said it’s also a good practice to get to know some of the common species that reside in our area, by researching them online at sites like, and
Stings from some venomous caterpillars can be quite painful, but not deadly, according to Lawrence. Stings can be covered in scotch tape to remove any remaining spines, and then washed thoroughly with soap and water to clean the wound.  Applying ice or baking soda may help reduce the pain. Lawrence said stings should be observed to ensure allergic reactions don’t occur, which could require medical attention.
Lawrence said there are some common caterpillars that look threatening but are harmless and interesting to hold. One example is the hickory horned devil (Citheronia regalis), which is a very large green caterpillar with bright orange horns that feeds on leaves of hickories and other hardwood trees.
“Overall, caterpillars are fun and interesting creatures we have the opportunity to witness in nature,” Lawrence said. “A person could spend time outdoors and go through their whole life without encountering one of these stinging caterpillars.  They just aren’t too common in Missouri. It’d be a shame for someone to discount the whole lot of these fascinating little insects because of a few stingers.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Informational meeting at Grand Gulf State Park Oct. 23

Grand Gulf State Park in Missouri. The stream ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The public is invited to bring their ideas to an informational meeting at Grand Gulf State Park on Thursday, Oct. 23. The open-house style meeting will be from 3-6 p.m. at the park.

Park representatives will provide information on future plans for the facility and answer questions. Visitors are invited to share comments and suggestions about park services and operations. This informational meeting is part of an ongoing effort by Missouri State Parks to ensure citizens have input regarding the facilities and services offered in state parks and historic sites.

During the meeting, a solar eclipse will occur at 4:45 p.m. and continue until sunset. Telescopes will be available to observe the event.
Grand Gulf State Park is located just outside of Thayer. Individuals requiring special services or accommodations to attend the meeting can make arrangements by calling 417-264-7600. For information about state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

MDC Cape Nature Center hosts Duck Decoy Carving program

The Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center will host a Duck Decoy Carving Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. through Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Education Consultant Bridget Jackson said participants will be able to make beautiful duck decoys to use for waterfowl hunting or as unique art for their home or business.
MDC Education Consultant Bridget Jackson demonstrates
how to carve the body of a duck decoy. The Cape Girardeau Conservation
Nature Center will host a Duck Decoy Carving program
 (MDC photo by Candice Davis)
“People make decoys for several reasons,” Jackson said. “In the past, they were made solely to hunt over. Today, it may be more cost and time efficient to purchase decoys, but people enjoy learning an old traditional skill and art. It’s also a fun activity to enjoy as a family.”
Participants will learn how to shave down a cork block to form the decoy body, how to attach the pre-formed head, and how to paint it to resemble a duck that might be seen at any Missouri wetland. Additionally, they’ll learn about the different types of ducks, such as dabblers and divers, and a bit about waterfowl biology. Jackson said duck identification, duck ecology and decoy history will also be taught throughout the program.
“We discuss the importance of waterfowl identification as a hunting skill in the class, with pictures and diagrams of the ducks to help with the painting process,” Jackson said. “Most people try to make their ducks look realistic, but others take a more artistic approach and that’s ok.”
Jackson said the program is perfect for anyone interested in ducks, those who may like different or old fashioned projects, and those looking for a hands-on activity to enjoy with family members.
“It is not a difficult project and no special skills are required,” she said.
Anyone over the age of eight can take the class, but children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Though the program is facilitated for free as part of the 1/8 of 1% Conservation State Sales Tax, each participant must cover the $15 required to pay for their decoy materials. Class size is limited, so reservations are required by calling 573-290-5218 on or after Oct. 15.
For more information on this and other programs at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, go online to

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Informational meeting and presentation at Route 66 State Park Oct. 19

English: This is a picture of the Meramec Rive...
This is a picture of the Meramec River as it flows past Route 66 State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The public is invited to bring their ideas to an informational meeting at Route 66 State Park on Sunday, Oct. 19. In conjunction with the meeting, visitors are invited to attend “Route 66 – Crossroads of the Past and Future,” a presentation by author Jim Hinckley. Hinckley has written many books on Route 66, several of which are available at the park gift shop.   A book signing of his most recent book, Travel Route 66, will follow the presentation.
The meeting will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at the park’s visitor center, with the special Route 66 presentation beginning at 1 p.m. During the informational meeting, park representatives will provide information on future plans for the facility and answer questions. Visitors are invited to share feedback and suggestions about park services and operations. This informational meeting is part of an ongoing effort by Missouri State Parks to ensure citizens have the opportunity to provide input regarding the facilities and services offered in state parks and historic sites.
Route 66 State Park is located two miles east of Eureka off of Interstate 44 in St. Louis County. Individuals requiring special services or accommodations to attend the meeting can make arrangements by calling the park directly at 636-938-7198. For information about state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.