Exotic animals make Mo. wild this fall

Sunday, December 17, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Don't be alarmed if you see an elk or a cougar mixed in with cattle and horses while driving on Missouri roads this holiday season.

Officials say there is more unusual wildlife roaming the state this year.

The Missouri Department of Conservation already has verified cases of elk, cougars and African porcupines. They don't have any idea where they are coming from or where they are going.

"They show up once in a while, but they don't seem to get established," said Lonnie Hansen, a department biologist. "They either get hit by a car, or somebody fills their freezer."

A bow hunter in September reported seeing a bull elk north of St. Joseph. Another hunter reported a bull elk in Daviess County, northeast of Kansas City.

The first elk was wearing a radio collar that biologists often use to track animal movement, Hansen said. Neither was seen during the recently concluded firearms season.

The two African porcupines were seen this fall north of Columbia, department biologist Dave Hamilton said. But those animals escaped from someone who kept exotic wildlife. State officials are trying to track down their owner.

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