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 or on the website, larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.

You can email me at lightninridge47@gmail.com, 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.