When was the last time you have come across a scorpion, prairie chicken, hellbender, jackrabbit or blue racer?
I bet some young people haven’t even seen one of these animals in the wild, much less in a zoo. These creatures have gradually disappeared from view, slowly but surely, in the past 50 years.
When I was a kid and stayed with my cousin in Cedar Hill, near Skull Bones Creek off Highway 30, I remember my aunt reminding us to empty or shake our shoes out in the morning before placing them on our feet in them for fear of trapping and getting stung by a scorpion.
There were many of these little brown translucent creatures under rocks, woodpiles and outbuildings.
We didn’t see too many around the chicken yard or chicken house, though, because I believe the chickens loved them.
Teasing them with a stick to see if they would strike was good sport. I understand that the scorpions have moved out because we have moved in.
Scorpions don’t like human activity so they have relocated to the southern part of Missouri. Since I have never been stung by a scorpion I have no idea what reaction I would have, but everyone reacts differently to different toxins.
I have made it so far without that experience, so I think I will keep it that way.
Although there aren’t many scorpions in Missouri, they still exist in the southern portions of the state. The following was taken from the MDC field guide.
The striped back scorpion (Centruroides vittatus) is venomous and in the class of Arachnida. Striped bark scorpions are pale yellowish brown, usually with two lengthwise dark stripes on the abdomen. This is the only species of scorpion in Missouri.
A scorpion has a pair of eyes in the middle of its back, as well as two to five additional pairs of eyes along the front edge of its body. Hairs along its body probably do more than the eyes to detect vibrations around it.
The average size of the Missouri scorpion is about 1 to 1.5 inches long.
Another animal that fascinated me was the blue racer snake. The blue racer snakes I remember in High Ridge were very shiny, almost like iridescent glass and SUPER FAST.
This snake (Coluber Constrictor Foxii) hunts rodents, birds, and insects. When this snake retreated, it looked like it just slid through the weeds like a shiny bright blue stick of ice.
I do remember someone told me the blue racer would form a circle with its body and roll quickly away (which I dismissed immediately).
The absence of the blue racer in our area seems to have the same people problems as the scorpion. Not only don’t they like human company, people have a negative opinion of snakes — but these snakes are truly beautiful.
Has anyone seen a hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) in a stream or creek in the past ten years? The hellbender is a species of aquatic giant salamander endemic to the eastern and central United States.
A member of the family Cryptobranchidae, these creatureS are now endangered and are being artificially raised in the St. Louis Zoo.
The hellbender, also known as the hellbender salamander, is a species of aquatic giant salamander endemic to the eastern and central United States.
Unfortunately, when I was about 14 years old a mate and I were fishing in Huzzah River and he caught one of these creatures.
Everyone we were with suggested we keep it and show it to our science teacher at school. More than likely, that animal is probably in a jar of formaldehyde at the school to this day.
The prairie chicken is another animal that is hard to find nowadays along with the jackrabbit. When I was a kid my brother and I spent summers on the border of Kansas and Missouri, close to the small town of Drexel Mo.
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My brother and I visited family friends there and stayed for weeks at a time. We were around 12 or 13 years of age and followed our hosts around their property doing everything they did.
We cut, bailed, and pitched bales of hay, cut and stored silage, wormed sheep, fed pigs, rode horses and generally had a ball.
While traversing their 1,200 acres, we came upon many bait traps with poison to keep the coyote population down.
The prairie chicken and jackrabbit were seen at a distance every once in a while one year, but the next year the jackrabbits seemed to be everywhere.
You couldn’t drive a mile on the gravel roads without seeing flat jackrabbits that were hit by cars. There were so many jackrabbits, hunters from the Kansas City area came south to haul pick-up trucks of jackrabbits back home after a hunt.
It seems that the coyotes kept the jackrabbit population in check, and as soon as the coyotes were gone the rabbits took over.
I haven’t been back to the farm for many years but I recently found out that the jackrabbit is an endangered species now.
According to the MDC, the type of jackrabbit we have in Missouri is the black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus). Missouri is on the eastern fringe of this animal’s range, which includes several western states and all of the American Southwest.