By Jill Pritchard
MDC volunteers logged more than 250,000 hours in outreach efforts, citizen science, program support, and more in 2019.
MDC extends a big thank you to its volunteers for another year of hard work and dedication supporting conservation initiatives and helping to educate others about Missouri’s fish, forest, and wildlife resources.
“We so appreciate and value our volunteers,” said MDC Volunteer and Interpretive Program Coordinator Syd Hime. “These individuals are assets to the department as they connect with the public and help to educate them about Missouri’s natural resources.”
More than 1,600 volunteers donate their time and energy to MDC through the Missouri Master Naturalist program, shooting ranges, nature centers, interpretive sites, Hunter Education programs, and fishing instruction. Nearly 3,000 people volunteer as part of the Missouri Forestkeepers Network, which is a forest-health monitoring program that educates the public about tree care and helps monitor forest health. Additionally, nearly 30,000 people volunteer their time helping to improve Missouri’s streams through the Stream Team program.
While the current public-health crisis has slowed volunteer duties and opportunities, MDC encourages people to continue to support and connect with the outdoors as citizen scientists. The public can help conservation efforts by downloading mobile apps, such as iNaturalist or eBird, and sharing their observations. These nature observations can be done as a solo endeavor out on a trail or with family in the backyard.
“Though we’re currently limited in our recruitment and engagement with our volunteers, citizen science is a great way to donate your time to contribute to conservation efforts,” explained Hime. “We look forward to welcoming back our volunteers and to having more opportunities on the horizon.”
For more information on citizen science or on activities you can do from your home, backyard, or neighborhood, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/Z7D
Missouri State law requires each state agency to thoroughly review its rules and regulations every five years. To comply with that requirement, MDC initiated a comprehensive review of the Wildlife Code of Missouri in July. As part of that review process, MDC invites the public to provide thoughts and suggestions on existing regulations through August online at short.mdc.mo.gov/Zia. Learn more about the Wildlife Code and the MDC rule-making process at short.mdc.mo.gov/Z8T.
The Missouri Secretary of State publishes a list of agencies due to conduct their annual rule reviews in the July 1 edition of the Missouri Register each year. Learn more at sos.mo.gov/adrules/moreg/moreg/2020.
With the current public-health emergency caused by COVID-19, MDC reminds people to continue to heed recommendations for hand washing, physical distancing, and all other public-health measures during outdoor activities.
Make outdoor activities as safe and enjoyable as possible by taking the following actions:
MDC’s new Migratory Bird and Waterfowl Hunting Digest 2020–2021 is now available online and wherever permits are sold. Learn more about waterfowl hunting in Missouri and view the digest online at short.mdc. mo.gov/ZQg.
This handy, free guide has detailed information on permit and duck-stamp requirements, hunting seasons and limits, hunting areas, regulations, and more. New points of note for the upcoming season include:
Buy Missouri hunting and fishing permits from vendors across the state, online at mdc.mo.gov/permits, or through MDC’s free mobile app, MO Hunting, available for download through Google Play or the App Store.
The new 2020 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet is now available wherever permits are sold and online at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZgS.
The booklet has detailed information on fall deer and turkey hunting seasons, limits, permits, managed hunts, regulations, conservation areas to hunt, post-harvest instructions, and more.
Send it to AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.
Q. I have seen what appears to be a hybrid of an eastern fox squirrel and an eastern gray squirrel. Since the species breed around the same time, is it common for squirrels to produce hybrids?
A. The two species are separate and not known to hybridize. However, gray squirrels do have substantial color variation, so it could be an unusual color pattern that you are seeing. Additionally, color variation may be most noticeable when the animal is molting in preparation for its winter coat. For more information about eastern fox and eastern gray squirrels, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/Z8G.
Q. What is this? A. Named for their long orange and black horns and behemoth size (5 inches), hickory horned devil caterpillars (Citheronia regalis) are fierce in appearance, but harmless to handle.
These massive caterpillars eat a variety of trees found in Missouri, including ash, walnut, hickory, pecan, persimmon, sweet gum, sycamore, and sumac.
Hickory horned devils feed for about 35 days and then leave their host plant in search of loose soil. Once they find a good spot, caterpillars burrow into the ground and pupate. They spend the winter as pupae and then emerge the following summer as adult moths. The adult, known as the royal walnut moth, is a gigantic orange-veined beauty with a wingspan as large as 6¼ inches.
Adult moths — unable to feed — mate during their second night of adulthood and lay eggs the following evening. The eggs hatch within 6–10 days into tiny caterpillars with voracious appetites. This species has one generation per year.
Q: What species of raptor are these?
A. These are Mississippi kites (Ictinia mississippiensis).
They occur most commonly in the southern Great Plains of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, southwestern Missouri, and along the Mississippi River. This bird’s breeding range is expanding northward, and they are found nesting as far north as mid- Missouri in open woodlands and are becoming more common in suburban areas.
Individuals perch and hunt from exposed sites, like this dead tree, but also take prey on the wing. These graceful and acrobatic aerialists swoop through the air in search of large insects. They skim low to catch prey near the ground and over cattle to snatch insects flushed by the grazing animals. Sometimes, they pursue bats and other flying birds in the air. (Notice the eastern red bat clenched in the kite’s talons.)
Males and females cooperate to build nests. The resulting shallow cup-shaped nests are typically 10–14 inches across and consist of loosely woven twigs from many tree species. Usually, each clutch includes one to three eggs.
For more information about Mississippi kites, visit: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mississippi_Kite/overview.
Can you guess this month’s natural wonder?
Scattered clumps of woody cover, located at Stony Point Conservation Area (CA), makes this field ideal for quail and other grassland birds. At 960 acres, Stony Point CA, located in Springfield, is a mosaic of prairie, brushy draws, and thickets. In addition to grassland birds, fair populations of rabbits and deer inhabit the area. Prescribed burning, grazing, and haying are used to maintain the area.
Matthew Easton, Ralls County Conservation Agent
Sept. 1 marks the opening of dove hunting season, an action-packed, fast-paced firearms sport. Before you head to the field and the feathers start flying, take some time to prepare. Get comfortable with your shotgun at a local shooting range. Practicing with clay pigeons can reinforce how to properly lead a target using the swing-through method. This method is imperative afield when you must maintain a safe firing zone. Before heading out, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ Z4V for area-specific regulations, including information on shot. Finally, be sure to obtain a Small Game Hunting Permit and a Migratory Bird Hunting Permit before going afield. When you’re safe and prepared, dove season can be lots of fun.
Invasive nonnative species destroy habitat and compete with native plants and animals. Please do what you can to control invasive species when you landscape, farm, hunt, fish, camp, or explore nature.
Introduced in the mid- to late-1800s for landscape ornamentals, wildlife cover, and erosion control, bush honeysuckles are native to eastern Asia. Depending on the variety, bush honeysuckle can grow from 6 to 20 feet tall. Leaves are green with a pale green, fuzzy underside. Twigs of all bush honeysuckles are thornless and hollow. In the spring, fragrant white or pink flowers appear, but become yellowish as the flower ages. The shrub’s red berries mature in pairs near the origin of the leaves in September to October. Each berry contains seeds that are distributed by foraging birds and small mammals.
“Bush honeysuckle are born competitors,” said Nate Muenks, natural resource management planner. “Their leaves appear early in the spring and remain late into fall, giving them an advantage over native plants. They can grow in almost every habitat type and form a thick understory that limits sunlight to native plants, inhibiting seedling establishment. They also compete for soil moisture, nutrients, and may produce a chemical that inhibits native plant growth. Bush honeysuckle competes with native plants for pollinators, potentially resulting in fewer seeds set on native species. Unlike native shrubs, the fruits of nonnative bush honeysuckles are carbohydrate rich (sugar) and do not provide migrating birds with the high-fat content needed for long flights.”
When the plant is small and the soil is moist, hand pulling is an option if the entire plant, including roots, can be removed. For larger plants, the cut-stump method and basal bark treatments can be applied. The cut-stump method involves cutting the bush off at the ground level and immediately applying a herbicide solution to cover the surface of the freshly cut stump. The basal-bark method consists of spraying a herbicide mixture to the bush’s stems to a height of 12 to 15 inches from the ground. Their competitive edge also leaves them vulnerable to control — spray the leaves in early spring or late fall with a herbicide solution before or after the leaves of native plants are present. Finally, fire assists in the control of honeysuckle if there is enough fuel and the area can be burned safely. Burn every spring or every other spring for several years to control resprouting.
For more information visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZhH
Missouri adults 16 and older can complete hunter education training all online.
The all-online course includes engaging video and animation on hunter safety, firearm safety, ethics, regulations, and wildlife management.
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