Mo. Dept of Conservations Hosted “Evening With Wildlife” March 31
By Beth Hunolt
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) hosted ”Evening With Wildlife,” Wednesday, March 31st at the Knox County School. This was open to the public and it is estimated that the event only comes around this area about every ten to fifteen years. Nearly 520 people visited the free event and were welcomed by many MDC agents and exhibitors.
Thirty-five exhibitors, with MDC sponsoring nearly half of the exhibits and the second half of the exhibitors being local organizations and merchants. Exhibitors filled the high school’s gymnasium and presented education and souvenirs to their visitors from six p.m. until nine p.m. Exhibitors include; Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri State Water Patrol, Knox County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri Trappers Association, Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Natural Resources Conservation Services, Forest Kelling Nursery, Burkholder’s Nursery, Harrison Fisheries, Great River National Wildlife Refuge, Wilson’s Taxidermy, Cardwell Lumber Company, Knox County 4-H, University of Missouri Extension, and the Girl Scouts.
Guests of the “Evening With Wildlife” where also offered the chance to meet Miss Missouri 2009-2010 Tara Osseck. Osseck is from St. Charles, Missouri and attended Truman State University, in Kirksville.
The MDC featured presentation was held at the Knox County Elementary School gymnasium and discussed the presences of Mountain Lions and Black Bears in Missouri. At seven o’clock, Missouri Department of Conservation’s Knox County Agent Adam Doerfhoff introduced Rex Martensen to a flowing audience of spectators. Martensen is the agency’s Field Programs Supervisor for Private Lands Services. He is a member of the MDC’c Mountain Lion Response Team, which provides better mountain lion service to the community.
Martensen shared his knowledge with his audience of pupils, explaining the necessities of contacting the conservation agency when you spot or come into contact with either one of these animals. He explained that both animals presented tonight have had historical links in Missouri, but during the settling of the state the populations were almost completely eradicated.
He started his presentation with the Missouri native, the Black Bear. He discussed ways to classify the Black Bear and what tracks to look for. His visual aids gave the audience a sense of the growing Black Bear population in the southern half of the state. He noted that most of the area’s Black Bears where coming from the Arkansas Bear Release Plan that became effective in the late 1970’s. Martensen told the listeners that he estimated that a bear season could possibly come to Missouri within the next ten years.
He continued his lecture after some questions from the audience and moved forward on to Mountain Lions in Missouri. He confided that there have been ten confirmed mountain lion sightings in Missouri and that these sightings were of the migratory male’s decent from the Black Hills of South Dakota or from western Oklahoma. He told the crowd that most mountain lion sightings are false and misidentification of the animal is constant. “Nearly 90 to 95 percent of all sights of mountain lions are false identifications.” Stated Martensen. He explained ways to tell if you have an authentic sighting, such as tracks, colors, size and build and eating habits of the animal, and the differences between these characteristics and the animal’s smaller cousins, the bobcat. Martensen continued to say that there is no confirmed dens of mountain lions in Missouri and that the mountain lions have been spotted here were from other areas. He told the captive audience of one male’s over 700-mile journey to another location in the nation. Martensen banished any rumors that the Missouri Department of Conservation are releasing mountain lions into the state, nor is the department or planned to release mountain lions in to the state.
He cautioned the audience on the dangers of the animals present and told them to contact the Missouri Department of Conservation if the animals are spotted.
Martensen offered to answer any questions that the audience had at that time and then ended the hour-long educational presentation.
Next year the Evening With Wildlife event will be in either Macon or Randolph County. “It was a great opportunity for the community to come together,” says Knox County Agent Adam Doerhoff, “ The department had the chance to share their knowledge of wildlife and conservation with the people of Knox County.”