Waterfowler and researcher honored posthumously for lifetime of conservation work.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Conservation Commission recently inducted Richard “Dick” W. Vaught posthumously into the Conservation Hall of Fame on Aug. 21 at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City. The Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame honors deceased individuals who made significant contributions to the cause of conservation in Missouri during their lifetimes.
Vaught’s granddaughter Lisa Davis, son David Vaught, daughter Valerie Brown, and daughter-in-law Dawn Vaught accepted the award on his behalf. “Thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for this special honor for the man we loved as much as you did,” said daughter Valerie Brown.
Vaught began his 36-year career with the Department of Conservation in 1948 at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in the St. Louis area. By 1951, he had begun research for MDC on goose nesting at Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Missouri near Sumner. From 1975 until his retirement in 1984, Vaught oversaw management of wetland areas statewide.
“Dick Vaught was a pioneer in banding and research on young, flightless geese and ducks and traveled to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada multiple times to assist with those efforts,” said MDC Director Robert Ziehmer. “That work led to an early understanding of waterfowl migration, and the baseline data he collected is still held in trust by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Dick implemented innovative and effective methods to estimate goose populations and harvest numbers at Swan Lake, which lead to improved management of one of the largest Canada goose populations in North America.”
Vaught was also instrumental in efforts to implement shell limits to reduce goose mortality, and in the development of the cannon net trap, which has become a primary tool for capturing waterfowl and other wildlife. He was also influential in lead shot studies, which ultimately resulted in federal regulations that require waterfowl hunters to use non-toxic shot.
Throughout his career, Vaught was also heavily involved in state and national waterfowl policy. For 15 years, he was Missouri’s representative on the Mississippi Flyway Council and served two terms as chair of the Flyway’s Technical Section. In 1983, the Council presented him with the Mississippi Flyway Waterfowl Conservation Award, one of only three presented since 1952. In 1979, he was recognized by the Missouri Chapter of The Wildlife Society with the E. Sydney Stephens Award for his efforts.
“Dick Vaught’s legacy to the citizens of Missouri includes a large snow goose population at Squaw Creek, nesting Canada geese, and abundant hunting opportunities at multiple managed wetlands around the state,” Ziehmer said.
Ziehmer noted that the recently published book, Waterfowl Hunting and Wetland Conservation in Missouri — A Model of Collaboration, was dedicated to Dick Vaught because of his waterfowl work and legacy. Many of the book’s co-authors also worked with or for Vaught during his time with the Conservation Department. Proceeds from sales benefit wetland and waterfowl conservation. The book is available through the MDC Nature Shop by calling 877-521-8632.