When the elk start eating the flower beds

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Government efforts (I deliberately used an oxymoron) to restore elk herds in Missouri are getting way too serious. I can't stand by and say nothing as human beings, thinking they are smarter than any average large beast, prepare to make another huge blunder.

The first blunder, of course, was killing all the elk when they roamed the hills and valleys of the Show Me State. But those were tough times. Just try being a pioneer for a few weeks. You'd kill an elk too.

There was no Missouri Department of Conservation in those days. So there were no rules against killing all the elk. Thousands of Kentuckians and Tennesseans swarmed into Missouri when they heard about the plentiful supply of protein. Little did they know that a bunch of hungry newcomers would soon wipe out all the elk, then the deer, then the turkeys.

That's when we got the Department of Conservation. Enough is enough, the politicians in Jefferson City said. We've got to put a stop to all these out-of-state freeloaders. The department quickly made up a bunch of rules that forbade hunting elk, deer and turkey. Big deal. There weren't any left to shoot.

Now the department is talking about bringing elk back to Missouri. These experts think that restoring the state to exactly the way it was 200 years ago won't also create another tsunami of immigrants from Kentucky and Tennessee. Don't these folks ever think things out?

There's something fishy about all of this -- not to mix fins into this wildlife morass.

At first I thought the elk deal was because all the members of the conservation commission are men. What would they know about how women, half the state's population, feel about deer and other wildlife eating the blossoms off their prize flowers? Women are a mite upset with deer getting into mischief.

But guess what. There is a woman on the commission. Becky Plattner from Grand Pass is the chairwoman of the conservation commission. What is she thinking?

Then there's this fact: The elk restoration project in Missouri is being underwritten by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation based in ... Montana. There you are. Those folks already have elk. They know what they're capable of. So they're spending more than $60,000 to send elk to Missouri. Does this sound right to you?

Next comes the quarantine. I'm not making this up. The first step in moving elk back to Missouri is to put them in a pen where they can be safely observed. The pen is in ... Kentucky. Don't you see the diabolical pattern to all this?

I know it is the eve of Christmas Eve. I know I should be focused on loftier and happier topics. But when you start thinking about all those reindeer that brought the wise men to the stable in Bethlehem and took Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus to Egypt to escape an angry governor, I can't help but think of the elk.

And why isn't our governor angry? What's he going to say when he looks out on the lawn of the Governor's Mansion one fine morning and sees the elk have destroyed all those flower beds?

Too late?

Joe Sullivan is the former editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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