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Legislative proposals target Missouri Department of Conservation

Nick Varvel

The Missouri Department of Conservation would have to pay up if two new legislative proposals become law.

One pre-filed bill would require the department to pay for any property damage caused by "wild otters, elk, or bear."

The sponsor, Representative Rocky Miller, R-Osage Beach, says the conservation department's efforts to reintroduce certain species to the wild have caused lots of damage to rural property owners, especially the reintroduction of otters.

"You put $4,000 worth of bass and catfish in a pond, and then they're all gone because these otters will go through them like crazy," Miller said.  "I know one guy that I think has spent in the neighborhood of $12,000 for restocking his ponds."

Elk have been included in the proposal's language, even though Missouri's elk population is confined to a state-run refuge.  Bears were included, as well, even though conservation officials only track their migration into Missouri.  

The other pre-filed bill would require the Conservation department to reimburse automobile owners up to $500 for accidents involving wildlife.  Conservation Deputy Director Aaron Jeffries opposes the measure, which he says could lead to widespread fraud and abuse.

"This legislation has been around for years," Jeffries said.  "We had a representative one year (who) laughed and he said that everybody would be slapping a deer hide on the front of their car just to get that $500 deductible."

The proposal is sponsored by Representative Wanda Brown, R-Cole Camp.  Brown has not responded to requests for an interview.

Jeffries also weighed in on Miller's pre-filed bill, saying the state's hunting and trapping system has proven to be very effective at managing otters and other wildlife.

The 2016 legislative session begins at noon on January 6.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.