Endangered beetle may return to Mo. prairie through work with St. Louis Zoo

Jul 22, 2011

Updated 11:52 a.m.

The endangered American burying beetle could be making its way to a southwestern Missouri prairie.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to work with the St. Louis Zoo to reintroduce the colorful beetle to Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie in St. Clair and Cedar counties.

The Zoo has a population of the beetles. Zoo officials say they have not been seen in Missouri in more than two decades.

(You might remember this earlier feature from our own VĂ©ronique LaCapra on the about some dedicated supporters in St. Louis joining a nationwide effort to save the insect).

The beetles are native to Missouri and are about an inch long with orange and black bodies. They became the first insect designated as a federally endangered species in 1989. They were last documented in the wild in Missouri in the mid-1970s.

As part of the project, the Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking to designate the beetles as a "nonessential experimental" population near the prairie. The agency says that means nearby landowners would not have to change their activities because of the beetles.