by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
Winter is a restless season in the outdoors during February. Trees are bare of leaves but on sunny days sap is moving from roots to treetops. Opossums and coyotes breed, great horned owls sit on eggs in nests. Visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs to learn more about wildlife, trees, and plants and what they’re doing during the winter season.
Individuals and families are invited to learn about owls and dissect owl pellets from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4. Owls eat a variety of small mammals or birds during winter. What they discharge as solid dung holds bones, feathers, and other clues to their diet. MDC Naturalist Jada Tressler will talk about owl lore and help visitors dissect pellets and identify parts. The program is open to participants ages 6 and older. Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4fV.
Hike in the snow or past mud puddles and pond banks and you will see wild animal tracks. Learn how to tell what they are and where they’re going at Wildlife Track-Tective from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11. Sarah Weekes, MDC natural resource assistant, will help participants create notebooks to aid in identifying animal tracks. This program is for ages 6 and older. Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4ft.
Those squirrels prancing around in trees in winter, and visiting bird feeders, can play a role in fishing success. Learn how to use the hair from squirrel tails to make fishing lures from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 18. The meat from harvested squirrels is what most hunters seek, but the tails have a traditional use in fishing lures, too. For example, many forms of the venerable Mepps spinner lures utilize hair from squirrel tails. Participants are encouraged to bring their own fly tying and lure making equipment. But MDC will provide squirrel tails, hooks, and thread and can also provide loaner lure making gear. Alek Lanter, MDC conservation educator, will provide instruction. This class is for participants ages 14 and older. Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4fj.
Sharpen your bird watch senses with a cup of hot coffee or tea and join others for Nature Rx: Coffee with the Birds, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25. The monthly Nature Rx series immerses participants in nature with coaching on ways the contact can improve physical and mental health. The session starts indoors near the big glass windows watching birds at the center’s outdoor feeders. If weather permits, Lisa Richter, MDC naturalist, will lead a short birding hike outdoors. This session is for participants ages 18 and older. Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4f9.
Visitors are invited to watch feeding time for fish and wildlife such as turtles and frogs every Wednesday and Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m. The snakes are fed every other week. Registration is not required. COVID-19 safety precautions are observed at all nature center activities. Don’t forget, hiking trails are also open throughout the winter. For more information about Burr Oak Woods, call 816-228-3766 or visit https://mdc.mo.gov/burroakwoods.
Visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs to learn more about wildlife, trees, and plants and what they’re doing during the winter season in a variety of February programs. Photo credit: MDC
by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
Learn about firearm safety and skills with classes and individual instruction offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) at the Lake City Shooting Range east of Independence in Jackson County. Lake City has staffed rifle, pistol, shotgun, and archery ranges for target shooting. But the MDC staff also offers free instruction to introduce people to the shooting sports or improve their skills.
by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
Enjoy an autumn evening outdoors when the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and partners host HOWLoween from 5:00 to 8:00pm on Saturday, October 15th, at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City. Special decorations and activity stations in the center’s native plant garden will welcome visitors of all ages for treats and fun. Visitors in costume for the season are welcome.
HOWLoween is hosted by MDC, the Kansas City Police Department, and other neighborhood partners. Visitors can take a hike on the Wild Side Walk through the garden for a close look at displays of nocturnal wildlife. Children will have a howling good time exploring nature stations like Track or Treat, The Bone Yard, Buggy Bistro, Operation Wildlife and much more.
This event is open to all ages. Registration is not required. COVID-19 safety precautions will be observed. For more information, call 816-759-7300 or visit https://mdc.mo.gov/discoverycenter.
by Joe Jerek, Missouri Department of Conservation
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants deer hunters to know some key information for harvesting whitetails in Missouri this season.
Deer hunting opens Sept. 15 with the archery season, which runs through Nov. 11 and then again from Nov. 23 through Jan. 15, 2023. The two firearms youth portions occur on Oct. 29 and 30 and Nov. 25-27. The firearms November portion runs Nov. 12-22. The antlerless portion runs Dec. 3-11. The alternative-methods portion runs Dec. 24 through Jan. 3, 2023.
New This Year
Hunters who are 15 years or younger on Sept. 15 are now exempt from the antler-point restriction during the archery season and all portions of the firearms deer season. The antler-point restriction has been removed for Barton and Vernon counties. Hunters may now fill additional firearms antlerless permits in a number of counties. Get details at mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-regulations.
Share the Harvest
MDC encourages deer hunters to share their harvests by donating surplus venison to the Share the Harvest program to help feed hungry Missourians. The program is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and MDC and has provided nearly 5 million pounds of lean, healthy venison to help feed hungry Missourians since it was started in 1992.
Donating is easy. Simply take harvested deer to an approved meat processor and let the processor know how much venison to donate. Meat-processing fees are covered entirely or in part by numerous local sponsors, along with statewide sponsors. The donated deer meat goes to local food banks and food pantries to help feed hungry Missourians all around the state. For more information on Share the Harvest, visit MDC online at mdc.mo.gov/share.
Follow CWD Regulations
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a deadly, infectious disease in deer and other members of the deer family (cervids) that eventually kills all animals it infects. There is no vaccine or cure. CWD is in Missouri and MDC continues its efforts to limit the spread of CWD by finding new cases as early as possible and managing the disease to slow its spread to more deer in more areas.
MDC’s CWD Management Zone consists of counties where or near where CWD has been found: Adair, Barry, Barton, Camden, Cedar, Chariton, Christian, Clark, Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, Greene, Hickory, Howell, Jefferson, Knox, Laclede, Linn, Macon, McDonald, Mercer, Oregon, Ozark, Perry, Polk, Pulaski, Putnam, Ripley, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Vernon, Warren, and Washington. MDC notes that Barton, Greene, Ripley, and Vernon counties are new to the CWD Management Zone this year.
Special regulations apply in CWD Management Zone counties, including:
CWD Sampling and Testing All Season
As part of its efforts to find cases of CWD early and help slow its spread, MDC is again offering free voluntary CWD sampling and testing of harvested deer during the entire deer season at select locations throughout the state, including some MDC offices and participating taxidermists and meat processors.
MDC also offers self-service freezer drop-off locations within the CWD Management Zone for hunters to deposit harvested deer heads to have tested for CWD. Instructions, packing supplies, and information tags are available at the sites. Get more information on voluntary sampling and drop-off locations online at mdc.mo.gov/cwd.
Hunters can get their CWD test results for free online at mdc.mo.gov/cwdResults. Results are usually available within four weeks or less from the time of sampling.
Watch for Cyclists
MDC reminds hunters that bicycles and certain types of electric bicycles are now allowed on service roads and multi-use trails at about 300 conservation areas, including some also open for deer hunting. Approximately 30 of these areas will be closed to bicycle and electric bicycle use during all portions of the firearms deer hunting season. Bicycle use on most of MDC’s approximately 1,100 conservation areas is still restricted to roads open to public-vehicle traffic and some multi-use trails. Cyclists may not ride off-road or off-trail.
Find MDC multi-use bicycle trails and service roads online through the MDC webpage -- Find Places to Go -- at mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places. Bike trails and service roads can be searched for by using the Advanced Search feature. Learn more about cycling on MDC areas at mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/activities/bicycling.
Get More Information
Get more information on deer hunting in Missouri -- including seasons, CWD restrictions and other regulations, permits, methods, where to hunt, and more -- from the MDC website at mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer and from MDC’s 2022 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where permits are sold and on the MDC website.
Buy Missouri hunting and fishing permits from numerous vendors around 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.
MDC offices will be closed for permit sales and other activities on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
The last chance for a dip in the pool comes this Labor Day weekend. The last swim of the year at the Grain Valley Community Center is Monday, September 5th from Noon - 4:00pm. The pool then goes to the dogs on Tuesday, September 6th when the pool hosts its annual Dog Paddle Day. Pups and their owners may pay $5 per pup at the gate from 6:00pm - 8:00pm. One dog per person, and all dogs must be current on vaccinations and current city license tags worn and displayed at all times.
Grain Valley Parks and Recreation recently hosted the first round of its popular Popsicles in The Park program. The activity allows families to spend quality time together during the summer season while members of Parks and Recreation read stories and hand out free popsicles. The most recent round of Popsicles in The Park took place at the Armstrong Park Gazebo located off of Main Street in Grain Valley on June 14th.
The children and their respective guardians were presented with three special stories, each containing an important takeaway.
The first book read was titled “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” by Ryan T. Higgins. This tale commends readers to put themselves in their peers' shoes, and to respect and come to appreciate each other's differences.
The second title was “The Butterfly That Could” by Ross Burach. This story preaches perseverance and inspires kids to keep on trying, even when their efforts seem useless.
The third and final title was “The Duckling Gets a Cookie” by Mo Willems. The book teaches the importance of sharing and the value of manners.
The children listened intently to each story, taking in the exuberant performance done by the Grain Valley Parks and Recreation reader, which was Mrs. T, a local first grade teacher.
Although the stories conveyed valuable life lessons, the popsicles were the main attraction of the event. With temperatures upwards of 90 degrees, and rising humidity levels, the summer treats were that much more rewarding.
Grain Valley’s Recreation Supervisor Justin Crutchfield was in attendance to hand out the popsicles, interact with families, and to collect any resulting trash.
The event ended with dozens of smiling faces and high spirits. The kids were encouraged to play on the nearby playground and meet new friends.
Popsicles in The Park is one of the many programs planned by Grain Valley Parks and Recreation to spread joy and create opportunities for summer fun. The next session of Popsicles in The Park will be held at the Armstrong Park Gazebo on Tuesday, July 12th, at 6:30pm.
Jackson County and community partners will join millions of people from across the country on Saturday, June 4 from 9:00am - Noon in celebration of the 30th Annual National Trails Day, an event designed to promote and celebrate the importance of trails in the United States.
Jackson County Parks + Rec, the country’s third-largest county parks system, is home to over 150 miles of hiking, biking, walking and equestrian trails.
The County’s newest trail is the Rock Island which spans 13.5 miles, connecting communities to the Truman Sports Complex and features an historic tunnel, a 300-foot bridge and multiple trailheads. People of all ages and abilities are invited to explore the Rock Island on National Trails Day while enjoying fun events along the way.
Activities include live music, food vendors, special prizes and giveaways for trail walkers and bikers who check in along the trail during the event.
Activities will be centered at trailheads and access points including Hartman Park in Lee’s Summit, the 98th Street Trailhead at the Vale Tunnel, downtown Raytown and the Stadiums Trailhead at the Truman Sports Complex.
Explore the many and varied ways to enjoy nature in Jackson County at the 2nd Annual GET OUTDOORS event on Saturday, April 23rd from 10:00am - 2:00pm at Jackson County’s Kemper Outdoor Education Center located at 8201 Jasper Bell Road in Fleming Park near Lake Jacomo. This free event is open to all ages and families are encouraged to attend.
Visitors will have an opportunity to experience kayaking, fishing, archery, atlatl (spear-thrower), hiking, birding, outdoor yoga and more. All equipment will be provided, and no experience is necessary as experts will be on hand to assist. Pick up a slice of pizza from the Minsky’s Food Truck to enjoy a picnic while exploring.
by Bill Graham, Missouri Dept. of Conservation
Fishing jigs are among the most effective fishing lures for catching fish that are big or small, from bass and crappie to bluegill and trout. Jigs are hooks with a lead head adorned with marabou, chenille, and various colors to mimic baitfish. They can be hand tied by anglers.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will offer three free jig tying classes on Saturday, March 19, at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City. The one-hour classes will begin at 10 a.m., Noon, and 1:30 p.m.
Participants will learn about the materials, tools, and techniques needed to tie jigs and flies. MDC will provide materials. Instructor Steve Jacobsen, assistant Discovery Center manager, will talk about the various styles and sizes of jigs and flies and the types of fish they can catch. For example, anglers may use larger jigs to catch largemouth bass but smaller jigs to catch crappie. Some anglers favor certain colors for water conditions and the species they are targeting.
This class is for participants ages 9 and older. COVID-19 safety precautions will be observed. Registration is required. To register, visit the following links:
Photo credit: MDC
by Dan Zarlenga, Missouri Department of Conservation
Breeding season for coyotes begins in February, which makes them more active this time of year. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says it’s important to be vigilant of pets during this time in areas where coyotes are known to live.
Unlike many other kinds of wildlife, coyotes adapt particularly well around human development and coexist with people in many places. These areas can include municipal parks and other urban green space, golf courses, cemeteries, suburban wooded common areas, and even within subdivisions themselves.
As a result, it’s possible for encounters to occur between these wild canines and people’s pets. Coyotes have also been known on occasion to attack small dogs. Coyotes may attack family pets not as a food source, but instead because they see them as territorial competition.
One of the secrets behind the coyote’s survival success is their diet. As scavengers, coyotes will eat just about anything, including foxes, groundhogs, mice, rabbits, squirrels, fruits, vegetables, birds, insects, carrion (dead animals) and common household garbage.
Coyotes typically breed in February and March. Females give birth to four or five pups about 60 days later.
Because food requirements increase dramatically during pup rearing, April through May is when encounters between humans and urban coyotes are most common. At that time, coyotes are on the move more seeking food, and may act more aggressively toward any animal they see as potential competition, like family dogs.
So how can encounters between coyotes and people be minimized? These three things are key: food, scare tactics, and vigilance.
Firstly, ensure that your yard or property has no food sources readily available to coyotes. If food is deliberately or inadvertently provided by people, adult coyotes and their pups quickly learn not to fear humans and will develop a dependency on these easy food sources. MDC urges dog and cat owners not to leave pet food outside, to securely cover all trash containers, and consider waiting to put trash containers out as close to pick up time as possible.
Think about bird feeders too. While coyotes are usually not interested in bird food, bird feeders attract rodents, especially squirrels, which in turn attract coyotes.
MDC recommends the use of scare tactics to instill fear of humans into coyotes. If a coyote should approach or be seen in the yard, homeowners should do everything possible to make it feel unwelcome. This could include yelling or making other loud, threatening noises, throwing rocks, spraying garden houses, or blowing air horns. If its encounter with humans is unpleasant, a coyote will be less likely to come back.
Finally, vigilance regarding pets is extremely important. MDC cautions that pet owners should not leave their pets outside unattended, especially during the hours of dusk, nighttime, and dawn. These are the periods coyotes are most active. Owners should be with their pets and have them in constant view during these times.
Installing a fence around yards may also help. Fences should be at least six feet high and dug into the ground six inches deep, so the agile and resourceful canines cannot jump or dig under them.
More information on dealing with nuisance coyotes can be found at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zaa, or in a free brochure obtainable by writing: Controlling Conflicts with Urban Coyotes in Missouri, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Or e-mail email@example.com
Photo credit: MDC