Missouri Chapter TWS: Drift Fences and Fish Fry

By Ted Seiler, MOTWS Past-President

Missouri Chapter of TWS
Image Credit: Missouri Chapter of TWS

The Missouri Chapters of The Wildlife Society and American Fisheries Society joined forces this year to hold a joint spring student workshop on April 17 – 19 in St. Louis, MO. Students from Missouri State University in Springfield, University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, and Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau all made the trek to St. Louis for a weekend full of fun and education.

Missouri Chapter of TWS
Image Credit: Missouri Chapter of TWS

On Friday evening, students arrived and set up camp. Tony Elliott (Missouri Dept. of Conservation, MDC) led the students on a herp sampling presentation then had them dig in a drift fence array. We then showed a series of videos highlighting the propensity of lead ammunition to fall apart as it penetrates an animal, compared to copper bullets which leave no lead fragments in the meat. To cap off the evening, we went to the river and tried our hands at catching some of the abundant gamefish the mighty Missouri has to offer. I’ll take credit for how good the fishing was because I generally have success like that when I go fishing. You probably guessed it; we didn’t even get a bite.

Saturday morning started bright and early with Veronica Mecko and friends from the Missouri River Bird Observatory demonstrating mist netting, banding, and recording data from song birds. Since the activity involved getting up close with live animals, it was well worth crawling out of the tent early. After a little breakfast, Bob Alexander and Alec Sonnek from USDA APHIS Wildlife Services gave a presentation about wildlife damage prevention and management and again students got to get up close and personal with the wildlife.

Missouri Chapter of TWS
Image Credit: Missouri Chapter of TWS

Ryan Diener and Mary Crowell taught the students some quail management practices, complete with the students installing a shrub planting. Then Emily Flinn and Gus Raeker (MDC) presented about the current deer research project and forest management for wildlife. It was a packed morning, and students got to learn about a lot of different wildlife management techniques. Everyone had worked up an appetite, so we grabbed a quick lunch and headed out to the Missouri river for some fisheries management experience.

Kyle Winders, Adam McDaniel, and Quinton Phelps (MDC) demonstrated electro-fishing, trotline sampling, trammel nets, and gill nets as sampling methods. There was a lot of good discussion about fish sampling and management, and the students once again got the chance to get their hands dirty by pulling fish into the boats.

 Missouri Chapter of TWS
Image Credit: Missouri Chapter of TWS

After we got off the river, Andy Tappemeyer and Jeromy Boze (MDC) gave a tour of Columbia Bottom Conservation Area and talked about the management they do on the area. This conservation area is pretty unique in the amount of public use it receives because it is in urban St. Louis. The heavy public use presents different challenges than most areas in the state. After a trip to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, we stopped to check the herp traps we’d set on Friday. There were only a few herps in the traps but it was a good opportunity to show a trapping technique and how it works.

Missouri Chapter of TWS
Image Credit: Missouri Chapter of TWS

While a delicious fish fry was in the works (thanks to AFS!), we took the remaining daylight and let students try their hands at breaking clays. As always, people got a little competitive with their shooting skills, which made for some great jawing. While their peers were trying out their shotgun skills, their friends were doing a radio telemetry exercise.

As darkness settled in and the mosquitos threatened to carry us off, we went back to camp for dinner. Asian carp was on the menu and the AFS guys did a fantastic job of making it taste great! It was one of the few times during the day that the conversations about wildlife and fisheries management were at a minimum because everyone’s mouth was full!

Unfortunately, an impending storm was bearing down on us, so we cut the event short and people headed home. Only a few of the bravest souls camped that night and packed up in the rain the next morning. In spite of the weather knocking off a few events, it was a full weekend and a great learning opportunity for all those in attendance. Thank you to all who helped to make it a success!