KubotaoftheOzarks

Wildlife seeks higher ground to avoid dangers from flooding

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A flock of ducks descends on Duck Creek Conservation Area near Nevada, Mo., during a winter migration rest stop. The wetlands will soon get a major upgrade from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Heavy rains have caused historic flooding throughout much of Missouri, impacting homes, neighborhoods, roads, and even entire towns. Flood waters have also caused damage at some Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) conservation areas, particularly to roads, boat ramps, buildings, and other infrastructure.

Wildlife, however, is often well adapted to extreme weather conditions. Regarding wildlife and flooding, MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee explains most wild animals simply move to higher ground when areas begin to flood.

“Many species have the ability to move to higher ground and can avoid flooding and high waters,” she explains. “Although there are likely to be localized negative impacts, wildlife populations generally recover over time from these types of extreme natural events.”

MDC Deer Biologist Barb Keller echoes the same message.

Hen turkeys stand watch over young poults. Young hunters in the Ozarks can apply for a weekend permit in advance of the hunt April 8-9 through the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“Deer and elk are pretty resilient to these types of events because they’re mobile, and in most cases, move to high ground as flood waters rise,” Keller explains. “Deer and elk are also strong swimmers and are occasionally sighted swimming across rivers as large as the Mississippi and Missouri.”

Keller adds that deer fawns and elk calves would certainly be more vulnerable to extreme weather events such as flooding, but the peak timing for elk calving and deer fawning is still a few weeks away.

“Anytime we have a big rainfall event during spring, it’s never a good thing for turkey nesting success,” adds MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle.

“That being said, this spring’s flooding does not necessarily mean that we’re in for a poor hatch this year,” Isabelle says. “Weather over the next 4-6 weeks will still have a big influence on the success of this year’s hatch.”

MDC Fisheries Division Chief Brian Canaday notes that the state’s fish populations are resilient.

“During floods, some fish move long distances, while others find refuge in local habitat such as root wads, logs, boulders, and flooded back waters,” he said.

Canaday added that fishing in Missouri will continue to be good.

“Your favorite fishing spot may look different after the flood, but the fish are still there and fishing will still be good in Missouri’s lakes, rivers, and streams,” he says.

As waters recede over the next few days, conservationists in the field will assess impacts of flooding at MDC facilities, conservation areas, hatcheries, and accesses.

Before visiting conservation areas around state, check the MDC website for area closures due to flooding under “check for closings” at MDC.Mo.gov.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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