Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Too Many



       I have noticed that there are more skunks in the Ozarks than I have ever seen before, and I want to remind readers that skunks often get rabies, likely carriers of that disease second only to bats.  If you see one during the day, or have one around your home that acts strange any time of the day, shoot it. A skunk killed instantly will not spray its scent.   Don’t take a chance by ignoring them!  Killing skunks will not harm species numbers. From what I see now, there are likely twice as many skunks across the Ozarks as there should be, many more than what is a normal population. 

       I think I wrote about black vultures years ago and their migrations northward.  I notice that people in the Conservation Department are just now talking about what a problem they might become.  Those birds should be shot on sight, and you can only do it with a rifle, because they are very wary, not often approachable with a shotgun.  The problem is, there are so many armchair naturalists out there who are incensed about shooting any wild creature.  They have no idea what Ozarks ecology is and what species like skunks, armadillos, black vultures, cormorants, coyotes and other species can do to that ecology.  

       Invasive species never, ever fit in the Ozarks, and many times native species go wildly out of control as well, like raccoons, beaver, possums and now skunks.  And you never talk to people about the connection of armadillos to the dreaded leprosy disease. In the southeast, humans are contracting leprosy because of that animal.

       I hear constantly from snake defenders who do not want poisonous snakes killed and are upset because I recommend it.  I was a contract naturalist who studied wild areas in the Arkansas Mountains and undammed rivers.  In those areas, I did not kill any snakes, and I came across many timber rattlers, copperheads and cottonmouths.  But if I find them out of that wild habitat, around where humans were found, I kill all I come across.  Last February, Sonya Cansler, who lives near Bull Shoals Lake, enjoyed the several different days of unseasonable 80-degree temperatures, so she went on a walk. On the second day of that month, sat down on a log and was bitten on the hip by a large copperhead. Do you realize that if she killed it, she could have been cited for breaking a Missouri Department of Conservation law?  

       I will have her story in our summer magazine.  She called the MDC and was told that the venom of a copperhead had never killed anyone. Folks need to know that is simply untrue statement.  The MDC put out a color publication about snakes years ago that stated that no one has ever died from a copperhead bite.  At Missouri’s Sam A Baker State Park, a man got the publication and believed it.  A day or so later a copperhead got in his tent and he picked it up.  It bit him and he did not seek medical attention.  He died from the venom a day later. The same year, I think, another man died from a cottonmouth bite. 

       If anyone is bitten and seeks medical attention as Ms. Cansler did, there are antivenin injections today that will save your life.  As a park naturalist for the State of Arkansas and later on the Buffalo River as a naturalist for the National Park Service, I made it a point to interview many elderly people born in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.  I was surprised that many told of people they knew from the past era they lived in, who died or lost limbs from the bite of a copperhead.  It was a time when medical attention for snakebite, didn’t exist. The venom kills if there is a sufficient amount injected.

       In this day of young biologists who grew up in cities, there is much information given out by them that is not correct; that assertion about copperheads being one of them.  The ineptness of people being hired for jobs they have little knowledge about is the reason for many incorrect statements which are taken as the gospel.  See it for yourself in the proliferation of otters, stocked with no forethought.  That is also the reason that wild turkeys have declined in the past years to about 40 percent of what we once had.  Young, city bred biologists in Missouri claim we have 1200 or so bears in the Missouri when the number is likely half that.  But whatever today’s conservation departments say is never questioned by the public nor the news media.  

       That is wrong!! But I can’t see any change coming.  If the people of the Ozarks believe the MDC’s false information about poisonous snakes, there will be more deaths from copperhead bites and cottonmouth bites in the future.  Ms. Cansler didn’t believe what she was told, and she recovered.  In that magazine story, she will tell you what she went through.

       Read about the progress on the Big Piney River museum and nature center, which I believe will open in May, and the big Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet in March on my facebook page. You can email me at, or write to me at P.O.  Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 656132.  If you want a table at that swap meet, call me at 417-777-5227,  spaces are filling up fast.



Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Caves, and a Swap Meet


      A strange thing is happening out in    California, where people are starting to live in caves.  If you remember, I wrote about my grandfather and I staying in caves on the Big Piney River in the sixties.  We found all kinds of arrowheads and pieces of clay pots, and even an ivory artifact in one.  I wrote about him telling me that someday people would live in caves again. 

      Undoubtably, if you consider the thousand of years behind and before us, millions of humans lived in those caves, likely as many as there are humans living in houses today. As a state park naturalist in Arkansas in the 70’s I once talked to an elderly lady who was born in a cave near Devil’s Den State Park.  It had been walled up by her father in the late 1800’s and her family lived there while they built a log cabin.  

      There are hundreds of caves on the Big Piney and Gasconade Rivers, and my grandfather showed me some that were nearly impossible to find. He had spent many nights in them, running the river in years past as a winter trapper. Grandpa and I stayed overnight in some of them, but there was one he wouldn’t enter because he said in a dream that he had met and talked with people who lived in them thousands of years ago.      

       My cousins and I explored many of those caves when we were young.  There is one in particular which has the 3 foot long jawbone of some kind of creature embedded in a cave wall.  

      My grandfather’s predictions often came true.  He told me that about a hundred years from the first atom bomb dropped in Japan, there would be one explode in the United States.  He also talked of the horrible 1918 disease that killed so many, and he said I would see it come back someday to kill many many more people.         

       Grandpa told me to never live in a city and to be independent enough to live without the conveniences of those things most men would die without.  He hated electricity, called television evil and despised what he often referred to as ‘frigidaires’. He said that men were sacrificing their freedom and the quality of their lives to own such things.

      He talked on occasion of our enemies living amongst us and killing thousands and thousands of people in one day!  I really thought he was a little bit crazy at times.  I realize today that he was extremely bi-polar, but back then no one knew what it was.  Now I remember some things he said then that seemed ridiculous and today they are coming to pass.

      But what I most remember as we sat in a Big Piney cave before a warming fire as a storm raged outside, is how he said that someday men would live there again.  And now, the news that in California, thousands of homeless people are living in caves, once again.  I hope that is the last of grandpa’s predictions that comes true.I am going to float the Piney again this year and spend a couple of nights in one of the caves where he and I sat before a fire and listened to the storm as it passed.

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            For about ten years or so, we had an annual Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet in the Brighton Assembly of God Church gymnasium on a Saturday in March. With that, we always raised a few hundred dollars for their youth program. Each year, hundreds would attend the free get-together. About four or five years ago that church got a new pastor, and he put an end to the annual get-together for whatever reason. 

      We  found another church which welcomed the event but the  Covid pandemic ended that idea.  Now we are going to revive the Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet on Saturday, March 9 at the Noble Hills church that is located on Highway 13 about 5 or 6 miles to the north of Springfield. The whole thing is being organized by outdoorsman Steve Johnson.  Steve and I once did an outdoor radio program for station KWTO in Springfield, and we made a fishing trip together a few times, so I know him well and promised I would help.  We need vendors to set up their tables there and bring outdoor items for sale.  

      In a few weeks I will tell you some of what you can find there.  But for now, call Steve to reserve a table before the space is all gone.  His number is 417 414 3128. My number is 417 777 5227 if you need any help or information I can provide. I am going to be there selling my outdoor books and talking to readers of this column, and am anxiously looking forward to it.

      My email address is  The word ‘lightnin’ has no ‘g’ on the end of it.  You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613