Outdoor enthusiasts go indoors for exhibits

Sunday, January 14, 2007
Missouri Department of Conservation outdoor skills specialist Dee Dee Dockins helped 7-year-old Jacob Priest aim at ducks in the "Laser Shot" video game at the Arena Building on Saturday. (Kit Doyle)

Turkey calls could be heard from the lobby of the Arena Building Saturday, beckoning outdoor enthusiasts to come in from the dreary winter gloom for "An Evening With Wildlife."

Nearly 40 exhibitors, from the Missouri Department of Conservation's Operation Game Thief trailer to wildlife rehabilitators John and Carolyn Watkins, provided handouts with more in-depth information.

About 1,100 people attended the event.

Many were after information on building their own ponds for recreation and fishing, especially in winter.

"The most sought-after information was on ponds. That pile is out of pamphlets," said James T. Hunt, National Resources Conservation Service district conservationist.

Missouri Department of Conservation agent Darin Pettit said the event is usually held in Kirksville and Rolla but that a forum to showcase Southeast Missouri's portion of the state's wildlife was in order.

Boy Scout Troop 16 manned the concessions and with some down time they visited the booths.

"There's lots of free stuff," Cody Aufdenberg said as he displayed a frisbee and rubber bracelets he collected.

Nate Halter and Jacob Cieslewicz rated the event a nine on a scale of one to 10, with the duck shooting simulator being the event's best exhibit. Winning a rubber chicken for shooting the most ducks was a big incentive, but second on the list was the falconry exhibit presented by Bob Dale of Cape Girardeau.

Dale's exhibit included a hybrid falcon named Major and Nilta, a Harris hawk.

Dale said a conservation agent inspired him with a presentation on birds of prey when he was 14 growing up in Caruthersville, Mo.

"At that time they were considered a nuisance and a bounty was placed on hawks, eagles and owls," he said. The fascination led him to trap his own bird of prey. In the 1970s, when he lived in Oregon, he became a wildlife rehabilitator.

Saturday's event was Dale's first experience exhibiting to the public.

Protecting Missouri wildlife from poachers was promoted by Department of Conservation videos, educational literature and displays of poached antlers at the Operation Game Thief trailer.

Conservation agent Mic Plunkett said poachers cheat Missouri taxpayers and their opportunity to hunt or fish legally. Revenue from permits enable the Department of Conservation to manage wildlife populations and habitat. Anyone witnessing a crime is encouraged not to intervene but to make an anonymous call to (800) 392-1111 to report the crime.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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