Category Archives: Outdoor/Nature

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Hellbender Conservationists Continue Saving An Endangered Spiecies

Hellbender at Saint Louis Zoo. Photo: Ray Meibaum, Saint Louis Zoo

Over 800 hellbenders from Saint Louis Zoo released into native Ozark rivers by Missouri Department of Conservation this summer

Over 800 Ozark and eastern hellbenders raised from eggs at the Saint Louis Zoo were released into their native Missouri Ozark rivers this summer by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) State Herpetologist Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., in cooperation with the Zoo and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Since 2008, 9,476 Saint Louis Zoo-raised endangered hellbenders (8,599 Ozark and 877 eastern) have been reintroduced to the wild in Missouri.

Even through the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of biologists from MDC and the Zoo have continued to collaborate while staying safe and providing the best care for the hellbenders. In 2020 and 2021, more than 1,800 hellbenders were successfully reintroduced.

“We have continued our COVID-19 safety precautions, such as reducing contact and maintaining social distancing, when transporting and releasing hellbenders into their native rivers. Release quotas for 2021 were achieved and successfully conducted, and now we prepare for upcoming collections of eggs from the wild and captive breeding to obtain future release animals,” said Jeff Briggler, Ph.D., Missouri Department of Conservation State Herpetologist.
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Squirrel Photo Winners To Be Awarded At Magnificent Missouri Event On Oct. 17

Squirrels are frantically flipping out and burying acorns. It’s their pre-winter thing. Which makes squirrels great photo subjects this time of year.

A squirrel photography contest is now frantically underway.

Send your best squirrel images to the Missouri Nature Blog, EnvironmentalEcho.com. Limit of three photos per photographer, please. Deadline is October 15.

Squirrel photograph images should be sent on the worldly squirrel wide web to the email address: environmentalecho@gmail.com. Photograph winners will receive Squirrel Baskets packed with plenty of squirrel goodies.

Three winners will be announced at the Squirrel Day Table at Magnificent Missouri’s Elevator Days on Sunday, Oct. 17 at Treloar on the Katy Trial. Shuttle will be available to take visitors to the Peers Store just east of Treloar on the Katy Trail.

Professor Don Corrigan will give a Powerpoint lecture on his book, “Nuts About Squirrels” at the Peers Store at 1 p.m. The lecture and his book detail the importance of squirrel characters in our American popular culture.

Some tips about photographing live squirrels: Good squirrel photos should be close-up showing their character. Action photos are best.

Squirrels make good subjects because they are just plain cute. They are very cunning and will work very hard to get to a food source, i.e., your bird feeder. They offer endless opportunities for great photos with their gymnastic abilities.

They can be difficult at times to photograph because they are constantly on the move and you have to anticipate what they are going to do next. This is what makes photographing them so much fun.

Missouri Prairie Foundation Bestows 2021 Awards

The 55-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust honored champions of prairie and native plant conservation on August 20 during its virtual Annual Dinner. Awardees hail from Marshall, Columbia, Harwood, Springfield, Meadville, and Eminence, Missouri, as well as Hudson, Wisconsin.

The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Annual Dinner, held virtually on August 20, 2021, is a celebration of Missouri’s prairie legacy. During the event, the 55-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust paid tribute to seven awardees.

“Missouri’s remaining prairies are rare and priceless treasures,” said David Young, Missouri Prairie Foundation President. “Protecting and promoting them requires dedication and commitment from many people. Our award program recognizes individuals who have made or are making a positive difference in the conservation of Missouri’s prairie legacy and in the promotion or protection of native plants.”

The Missouri Prairie Foundation 2021 awardees are:

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Introducing the Forest Park Experience Vlog Series

Photo by Holly Shanks

Check out the new vlog from Forest Park Forever.

Forest Park Forever recently announced a new video series highlighting visitors of Forest Park. This new mini-series will feature a video each week. During the first episode, we encourage you to flow with yoga instructor Spenser Gaines, who says, “Forest Park has always played a role where I knew I could come and just feel centered.”

Other episodes in the series will include sketching, dancing, circuit training, fly fishing, birding and more!

Visit the Forest Park Forever YouTube page for more videos like the one below.

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Expanding Bicycle Use On Conservation Areas Proposed by MDC

MDC has proposed regulations that would allow the expanded use of bicycles and electric bicycles on most department-area service roads and multi-use trails, such as at Canaan Conservation Area in Gasconade County (shown). Photo: MDC

Proposed regulations would allow expanded bicycle use on many conservation area service roads and/or multi-use trails while restricting access to heavily used areas and natural areas.

The Missouri Conservation Commission gave initial approval to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) at its Aug. 27 open meeting on proposed regulation changes that would allow the expanded use of bicycles and electric bicycles on most department-area service roads and multi-use trails. The Commission also gave initial approval to MDC definitions of bicycles and electric bicycles.

According to MDC, conservation-area users have expressed interest in expanding the use of bicycles and electric bicycles to include conservation-area service roads and multi-use trails for greater access to the areas.

Bicycle use on MDC’s approximately 1,100 conservation areas is currently restricted to roads open to public-vehicle traffic and some multi-use trails. Bicycle use is currently not allowed on conservation-area service roads.

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The Plants of Creve Coeur Park: Walk & Learn

Pictured: Mitch Leachman.

Mitch Leachman will lead a tour of the bottomland forest, prairie restoration and lake edge at Creve Coeur Park on September 11, starting at 8 a.m., located at Creve Coeur Park Lake, 2160 Creve Coeur Mill Rd., Maryland Heights, MO 63146. The tour is free and registration is required.

 

Find more information about the event below from the Sustainable Backyard Network.

Don’t miss our first in-person gathering since the 2019 Shindig! In this outdoor lesson in biodiversity, Mitch Leachman will lead a tour of the bottomland forest, prairie restoration and lake edge at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park’s Mallard Lake. Both native and non-native plants will be highlighted as the group traverses a 2.5 mile loop trail. Commentary will be offered on plant behavior, wildlife value and suitability for landscaping projects.

Group size is limited to 20 and advance registration is required. Please note: All are welcome to attend, regardless of vaccination status. Should you not be fully vaccinated, we do ask that you wear a mask at all times out of consideration for the presenter and each other.

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Fall Color Flop? Maybe.

By Holly Shanks

Well, I was looking forward to Fall this year. It happens to be my favorite time of year and the drive from St. Louis to Hannibal or Branson usually shows off the colors of nature.

CNN recently posted an online article, “Why autumn weather won’t be the same this year,” by Hannah Gard and Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologists.

The article offers several interesting updates, but I was certainly bummed about the colorful foliage I was looking forward to. Just another thing to add to the list of disappointment this year.

However, I will remain hopeful and look forward to the possibility of a few reds, golds, yellows and oranges this year. And, next year, as I remain hopeful for, will see me and my husband on the Fall color search road trip again!

Check out the CNN online article HERE.

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Prairie Chicken Count At 100 In Missouri As Habitat Losses Continue 

Photo Credit: Dan Wundrock. Public domain.

By Allison Hagene

The farming industry has been the biggest threat to the bird’s survival, destroying thousands of acres of natural habitat to use for agricultural purpose. Agricultural pesticides also kill insects that prairie chickens depend on.  

Greater Prairie Chickens are non-migratory bird. When their habitat is destroyed, they have nowhere to go. They have no alternate destination. The tall, dense grasses in Missouri prairies enable the birds to nest, hide, and raise their young, without the ecosystem they depend on, they are extremely vulnerable. Deprived of their homes the Prairie Chickens are unable to reproduce productively and lose diversity. 

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For God’s Snakes, Give the Reptiles a Break!

Photo by Dan Zarlenga, Missouri Department of Conservation.

By Don Corrigan

Residents in the Times reading area are no strangers to snakes. Forested properties near local homes mean the vipers can be as close as your fire pit wood pile or a rock border on your garden.

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood gets phone calls, emails and even photos of snakes found at residential homes. Residents want to know if the creature they took a selfie with is venomous.

The two most common venomous snakes in our area are copperheads and timber rattle snakes, according to Erin Shank, urban wildlife biologist at the conservation center. Visitors to Powder Valley can see these two poisonous snakes in captivity.

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Spiny Soft-Shell Turtles: Healthy In Missouri, Struggling In Canada 

Turtle found traveling near a private lake in Crawford County Missouri. Photo by Allison Hagene

Allison Hagene

Missouri is home to a wide range of turtle species, with many different ecosystems to inhabit. A wide variety of turtles reside all over the state. One specific turtle has a very unique look: a large smooth speckled shell, a pointed, pig-like nose, and wrinkly feet. 

The Spiny Soft-Shell Turtle is found in Missouri in large lakes, rivers, and ponds with sandy or muddy bottoms. They can be found throughout the United States, and even in Mexico and Canada. They are exceptionally good swimmers and spend much of their lives in water, even burying themselves in lake bottoms to avoid cold temperatures in wintering months. 

The soft-shell turtle is actually not currently listed as endangered in the United States but is endangered in Canada. The major issue in Canada is the advancement of industry and water structures. The turtles are losing habitat due to dams, waterside development, water level changes, and human recreational intrusions. 

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