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What lived in our forests?...

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Back before the civil war our habitats were far different than today...it has been of interest to me all the undocumented subspecies that are now gone...how much different were the elk of Missouri pine savannas? I know during my stay in Texas hill country deer are tiny by our measure, I have seen adults there not much bigger than a dog...something is going on genetically....

as a kid and adult shot and killed about fox faced squirrel, quite the novelty around the campfire. Then, as an adult I understand it now to be a marten, hidden population? Or did it escape? Or long way from home? 

in looking at old tin type pics, I wonder how many different Buffalo types existed, it is said pronghorns were once in Missouri....was it a leftover subspecies? I have read recently that dire wolves were not related to grey wolves new DNA studies show....it would be interesting with today’s taxonomy to understand Missouri forest systems...we have lost a great deal and don’t even know all we have lost







MONKEYS? what monkeys?

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license plates from Mo.at Taneycomo in September.

I guess I’m asking what is anything odd you have seen....personally I have seen a few weasels...once for the life of me a giant dove...seemed to be what was described as a passenger pigeon.....Chain p

There is very little resemblance between what (most) Ozark forests look like now and what they would have looked like in the 1700s and much of the 1800s. Historically, "wildfire" was a huge part of th

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I guess I’m asking what is anything odd you have seen....personally I have seen a few weasels...once for the life of me a giant dove...seemed to be what was described as a passenger pigeon.....Chain pickerel in spring river near Carthage...even found a patch of American Chestnut that was planted in a mine land reclamation near mindenmines......back when I had my health I spent 300 days or more a year a field, hunting trapping fishing....even going on road trips to find odd plants  ashes juniper or animals with a now deceased buddy

Brian Hedgecorth ( miss you Buddy) saw a mountain lion coon hunting one night near baseline hwy jasper county, and the only cottonmouth I have seen was on north fork....look for and never found any lady slipper orchid, but many early springs looking for things like trilliums....taking a botany class opened my eyes a bit. Arrowhead hunting, exploring so many places....I fished a place were I saw king fishers often....not common most places...so much more to the outdoors than releasing into the grease types so much on the net anymore....get out and enjoy nature before you can’t....these crazy days we need release.

MONKEYS? what monkeys?

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The problem with talking about this stuff is that people very often use the wrong names for critters, and it gets confusing.  And people get mad when you dispute what they think they saw.  We like to think there is still mystery creatures and big, charismatic predators around, even though the evidence of them is sparse or lacking.  Join the Missouri Nature Lovers group on Facebook if you want to get excited, or frustrated, with people supposedly seeing all kinds of creatures that simply aren't in Missouri--wrong identifications, unreliable eye witness accounts, etc.

Let's just talk about large predators in the Ozarks; bears, wolves, mountain lions, and the mythical black panther.  

Black bears never went entirely extinct in Arkansas, but they did disappear completely in Missouri.  Heck, nobody even SAID they saw a bear for many years in MO.  And then the Arkansas population began to increase and spread, and eventually spread into Missouri.  People started saying they were seeing bears.  MDC at first didn't agree...no hard evidence.  Then there got to be enough bears that people were not only saying they saw them, but taking photos of them and their tracks, and MDC had enough hard evidence to say that there really were bears back in MO.  Nobody disputes it anymore because it's a fact of life.

Mountain lions were a bit different story.  Cougars disappeared from the state back around 1900.  But once in a while somebody would still say they saw one here and there.  In recent decades, sightings, game cam photos, kills, and finally run-over and shot cougars have shown up.  But we still don't have an idea whether or not there is a breeding population.  DNA studies on a couple dead ones say they came from the Dakotas.  They were young males.  That makes sense, because a young male can't compete in a mature male's territory, and begins to roam until he finds his own territory, and his own mate for the season.  If he happens to take a wrong turn and head too far south, he ends up in a place where there aren't any females, and if he keeps going on in the same direction, he might cover a whole lot of miles seeking love...and maybe ending up in Missouri.  Females, on the other hand, don't have to roam like that.  The males come to them.  So it's far less likely that a roaming female will make it to Missouri.  So far, unless it has changed recently, there is no hard evidence of females or kittens here, so no hard evidence of a breeding population.  But there are definitely a few cats in the Ozarks, both in Missouri and Arkansas.  Maybe there's a breeding population in Arkansas.  Maybe it's spreading into southern Missouri.  Maybe.  Problem is, cougars are secretive and mostly nocturnal.  People live their whole lives roaming around in country that has a LOT of them without ever seeing one; you don't see many run over, and very few are shot except by purposely hunting them with dogs.  And there is a lot of rugged, wooded country in the Ozarks that gives them good hiding places.  So it's simply difficult to know for sure what the situation is. 

And then we come to wolves.  Seems that more people say they see wolves than cougars, but based upon the ecology of wolves, this makes very little sense.  I've spent a LOT of time learning all I can about wolves, because I have painted a lot of them, and I always strive to make my paintings as realistic as possible, both in the appearance of the animal and its behavior and habitat.  I've watched wolves in Yellowstone Park and Alaska.  And I am pretty sure that there simply can't be any wolves in the Ozarks these days, except for the once in a decade or so lone wolf that gets kicked out of a pack up in northern Minnesota or Wisconsin, and starts roaming much like male coungars, ending up in Missouri if it is lucky enough not to get shot or run over on the way.  And Missouri, even the wildest part of the Ozarks, is NOT viable wolf habitat.  Wolves are pack animals.  They need 25-50 square miles per pack.  Out in wolf country in northern Minnesota or Montana, there are still tracts of land that big that are not cut up by multiple roads and dotted with houses.  Not so in Missouri.  I did a little investigation a while back, and found that there is nowhere in Missouri (and probably not in Arkansas) that has a spot that is more than two miles from a public road or house.  And there are a lot of people roaming around in the wilder portions of the Ozarks, hiking, deer hunting, etc.  Wolves are not nearly as secretive animals as cougars.  They run in packs, they howl a lot, and they like to spend the day lazing around out in the open where they can see what's happening around them.  If there were packs of wolves in the Ozarks, it wouldn't be hard to find them.  And most of the sightings of "wolves" are in areas that aren't even very far out into the woods, in farmer's fields and just outside the suburbs.  It just ain't happening.

The wild canids can be confusing, and their genetics are somewhat flexible.  Wolves, red wolves, coyotes, and dogs can all interbreed.  Coyotes were once rare in the Ozarks, their ecological niche was occupied by red wolves as well as a population of timber wolves that was probably always low.  But the timber wolves were killed off quickly, and the prolific and adaptable coyotes spread into the region, interbreeding with the dwindling population of red wolves.  Wolves are big animals, 75-140 pounds.  Red wolves were smaller, 45-70 pounds, and coyotes smaller yet, 30-45 pounds max.  But the coyotes in Missouri might produce a bigger one now and then, a throwback to a red wolf ancestor perhaps.  And as coyotes spread into the eastern half of the country, they appeared to get bigger.  There are theories that they interbred with wolves on the northern edge of the United States and Canada to gain some of that size, and a few genetic studies show some southern Canadian wolf genes in coyotes in the northeastern U.S.  But I think it's more likely that bigger coyotes in Missouri and most points farther east is a case of rapid evolution...bigger ones are more able to take advantage of the abundant deer, so they thrive better than smaller coyotes.

So when people say they've seen a wolf in Missouri, I think it's most likely that it's either a big coyote, or the other hybrid possibility, a dog/coyote hybrid.  It won't be a red wolf, which are basically extinct in the wild, and it sure won't be a wild wolf.  But you'll see lots of people swearing they saw a wolf-like creature "bigger than a German shepherd" (that seems to be the usual measuring stick).  Well, people, unless they are trained and experienced observers, are not very reliable of judging the size of some animal they are excited and surprised to see.  A nice looking coyote out in a field a hundred yards away might look pretty big to an observer.  And the key is, there aren't any good photos, let alone dead bodies, of all these "wolves".  

Now we come to the ultimate mystery critter, the elusive black panther.  I'll bet if you counted, you could find thousands of people who say that they, or their friend or grandpa, have seen black panthers.  But what IS this big cat?  Some say it's a melanistic cougar (melanistic means it has an excess of black pigment in its fur).  But there has never been a documented instance of a melanistic cougar...they simply lack the gene that can produce melanism.  So that's out.  The only other North American cat that CAN be black is the jaguar.  Jaguars haven't roamed the Ozarks since the warm period between the last two ice ages, at least 50,000 years ago.  In recorded history, jaguars have never been found in North America anywhere north of the tier of states that border Mexico.  There may still be a few in northern Mexico, and once in a long, long while one may roam up into southern Arizona.  But that's a long way from the Ozarks, so forget a wild roamer.  Could it be escaped or released pets?  Either jaguars or leopards CAN be black, and there are a few idiots who like to keep exotic and dangerous "pets".  So it's possible, I suppose...but how many pet jaguars are there?  How many of THEM are black instead of spotted (or rosetted, to be exact--and by the way, black jaguars and leopards ARE still rosetted; get them in strong light and you can see the spots)?  And then how many of THOSE end up escaping or being turned loose?  It has happened...once that I know of near Kansas City.  But to establish a breeding population, you'd have to have at least one male and one female, both released in an area close enough to each other than they can find each other.  What are the chances?  Maybe it could happen once, but enough times to have all these black panthers being sighted all over the Ozarks over many years?  There are NO photos.  No other evidence. Never a dead body.

It doesn't make sense.  How could so many people think they've seen a black panther when it is basically impossible?  Well, again we have that unreliability of eye witnesses.  I watched a video that purported to be a black panther on the internet, somewhere in Arkansas if I remember correctly.  It was a cat.  It was definitely black.  But it was also definitely a house cat.  While all the cats are shaped similarly, their proportions vary considerably.  A house cat has a bigger head and its body simply isn't shaped like a leopard or jaguar or mountain lion.  I've painted enough of them, I should know.  In the video, you could even gauge the animal's size by the size of the tree trunks it was walking next to, and if that cat was as big as a panther, the trees were the size of redwoods.  Yet the guy that took the video was sure it was a panther.

Now let's talk about Sasquatch!

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14 hours ago, Al Agnew said:

The problem 

I remember a professor hammering us into using the scientific names...largemouth bass or 

Micropterus salmoides... they called them green trout where I grew up


MONKEYS? what monkeys?

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Before the end of the last ice age some interesting critters, currently DNA studies are rewriting what we knew or thought we knew



MONKEYS? what monkeys?

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