Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Boy Scout Troop 4 meets fish of the Big Muddy
Midwest Region, June 13, 2009
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Scouts and troop leaders of Boy Scout Troop 4 were able to get up close and personal to various fish species of the lower Missouri River while camping along its banks near Columbia, Missouri on June 13.  The scouts, many for the first time, were able to see and touch several fish including: freshwater drum, grass carp, shovelnose sturgeon, channel as well as flathead catfish, and smallmouth buffalo.  The scouts were able to learn about sampling with hoop nets, which were set the day before.  Topics such as native and nonnative fish ecology and biology, big river ecology, and finally natural resource concerns related to the lower Missouri River were also discussed with fisheries biologist Andy Starostka and technician Jonathan Spurgeon.


As part of the requirements for the fish and wildlife merit badge, fish were dissected to determine what they had been eating, and to showcase a few unique physical characteristics.  Troop leaders and scouts alike were particularly interested in the grass carp’s pharyngeal teeth (throat teeth).  Grass carp use these structures to shred vegetation which comprises the majority of their diet.  Freshwater drum were also dissected and their otoliths were removed. The otoliths (ear bones) of drum are unusually large with an  “L” shaped groove, and are commonly called lucky bones.    These lucky bones were given to scouts as prizes for answering questions from the Missouri River ecology discussion. 


Many of the scouts live a short driving distance from the Big Muddy yet they have never been to the banks of this unique and threatened resource. The general public continues to perceive the lower Missouri River as dangerous, dirty, and polluted.  This outreach event gave these youth and adults an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the Missouri river’s rich recreational potential and diverse fish community.

Contact Info: Andrew Starostka, 5732342132 x119, andy_starostka@fws.gov
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