Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of outdoor Missouri. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.
Q. What’s wrong with this cardinal?
A.There could be many reasons why this cardinal has lost its feathers. Ornithologists have historically attributed the loss of plumage to either nutritional deficits or feather parasites picked up when a bird spends too much time tending to its young in the nest. Or the bird could be molting. This is the process of new feathers slowly pushing the old ones out. Most birds molt after nesting to rid themselves of unwanted mites and lice. Cardinals tend to molt from mid-August to late November.
However, other scientists have surmised a small percentage of cardinals may be genetically disposed to unusual molt patterns, such as the one seen here. So it may not be an external factor — such as nutrition, lice, or mites — initiating the loss of feathers on this cardinal’s scalp. Rather, a genetic factor may be at work.
Lastly, ornithologists believe a traumatic injury could be to blame.
Q. We have discovered a den of red foxes near our home. It looks like they have mange. Should we be concerned?
A.Unfortunately, mange — a class of skin diseases caused by parasitic mites that embed themselves either in the animal’s skin or hair follicles — is a common occurrence in furbearers and is often fatal to red foxes. Veterinarians recommend people keep themselves and their pets a safe distance away from animals suspected of having the disease. If handling the animal is necessary, always wear gloves and wash hands and clothing thoroughly afterward.
Q. Can you tell me more about this spider?
A.This is a crab spider. A member of the flowering crab spider genus, it has adapted to blend into its environment. This adaptation is called “crypsis” and can be used for predation or to avoid detection. Common methods of crypsis include camouflage, transparency, and mimicry.
This particular spider, as it crouches inside a Queen Anne’s lace bloom, is practicing the art of camouflage. Not only do flowering crab spiders resemble the form of the flowers they inhabit, they also have the capacity to change color from white to yellow, depending upon the blossoms they choose.
Crab spiders don’t use silk webs to capture their prey. Instead, they are ambushers, hiding and waiting for insects to fly or crawl to them. Unlike web-spinning spiders, crab spiders have good vision. When a bee or fly lands on a flower seeking nectar, the crab spider attacks and injects venom into its prey.
Hunting is a tradition in Missouri. For many, it is all about the experience and time spent with good friends and family. Passing on that tradition by mentoring a youth hunter can be both exciting and rewarding.
Youth portions of the firearms deer seasons are for people at least 6 years old, but not older than 15. If a youth is hunter-education certified and hunting with a resident or nonresident firearms deer or turkey hunting permit, he or she may hunt alone. However, if a youth is not hunter education certified, he or she must hunt in the immediate presence of a properly permitted adult who is in possession of a valid hunter-education certification card or was born before Jan. 1, 1967.
Adult mentors may not hunt deer with a firearm during the youth portions of the firearms deer season. In addition, adults accompanying youths hunting deer must wear hunter orange. Regardless of age, the youth must be capable of holding, aiming, and shooting the firearm without assistance.
As a mentor, you must understand the hunt is for the youth. They may miss, but it’s all part of the experience. By teaching someone the proper methods of hunting, we can ensure that Missouri stays a great place to hunt for generations.
David McCorkell is the conservation agent for Monroe County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
The bearded tooth can be found statewide from August to November on trunks of living deciduous trees and fallen trees and logs. It is a choice edible mushroom, but it is tasty only when young and fresh. It gets sour and bitter as it matures. This species lives as a network of cells (mycelium) within dead trees as a scavenger, and in living trees as a parasite, digesting and decomposing the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the beardlike ”fruiting body” that emerges from the wood — this is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced in the ”teeth” and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. —photograph by David Bruns
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler