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

A female American burying beetle.
(Dan Kirk)
A female American burying beetle.

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 Véronique 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.

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