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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.

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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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ZOOFARI 2021: Biennial Fundraiser To Benefit the Saint Louis Zoo

Enjoy dinner, drinks and music under the night sky at the Saint Louis Zoo’s most-anticipated fundraiser! Proceeds support the Saint Louis Zoo and its conservation efforts here and around the world.
When: 7 p.m. until midnight on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021
On Sept. 10, the Zoo is open to the public from 9 a.m. until noon, when it will close for preparations.
Where: Saint Louis Zoo
Event Information: The biennial creative black-tie party for ages 21+ includes:
  • Live music by local bands and DJs on multiple stages, including the Fabulous Motown Revue, Miss Jubilee, Mo Egestion, The Usual Suspects, Wax Museum, DJ Chris Brown and DJ Micro
  • Food stations throughout the Zoo offering unlimited sweet and savory dishes with catering provided by the Zoo’s executive chef and culinary team.
  • The 2021 event format has changed and does not include local restaurant vendors this year.
  • Premium open bars with beer, wine, and specialty cocktails
  • Special fundraising activities to benefit the Zoo, including a wine and spirits pull, local restaurant gift card pull, and Kendra Scott Color Bar™ experience
  • Take a ride on the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel and the Emerson Zooline Railroad
Tickets: Advance tickets are required. Purchase tickets online at stlzoo.org/zoofari.
  • General Admission tickets available at stlzoo.org/zoofari:
    • $200 per person for Zoo Members
    • $250 per person for non-members
  •  Sponsorship-level tickets available at stlzoo.org/zoofari:
    • $1,000: 2 tickets, access to VIP reception, table accommodations and program listing
    • $3,500: 10 tickets, early admission, reserved table and program listing
    • See stlzoo.org/zoofari for additional sponsorship levels and benefits

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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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Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Endangered Due To Human Encroachment 

Photo by Paul Burton/USFWS.

By Allison Hagene

Listed as endangered since 1955, the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly has struggled to maintain healthy populations. One main concern is habitat loss – humans have destroyed their ecosystems for development and agricultural purposes, which not only eliminates food sources, but also changes water levels where the dragonflies lay their eggs. 

The farming industry has also caused setbacks for the dragonfly with the use of pesticides and herbicides. Toxic pollutants damage reproductive abilities, reduce healthy ecosystems and insect populations, and contaminate water sources – making them unable to support offspring.

The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is a unique insect with a long, dark body containing two yellow stripes, and large explosively green eyes. They live in high calcium carbonate spring-fed marshes and meadows where they eat mosquitos, gnats, and other small aquatic bugs. Dragonfly larvae can live up to five years, while adults live for, at most, seven weeks. Their short life span is filled with feeding, reproduction, and egg laying, making those seven weeks vital to species growth and survival. 

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