The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) used to be common but is now a critically endangered species. It only occurs in a few places in the United States. The Saint Louis Zoo, with other conservation institutions including MDC, has a captive breeding program and is working to restore this species to the wild.
Entomologists have not found this carrion feeder on a Missouri native prairie remnant since the 1970s. The Saint Louis Zoo in partnership with MDC is releasing about 150 pairs of American burying beetles at the Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie north of El Dorado Springs, Mo. Also partnering in the project is The Nature Conservancy of Missouri and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This brightly patterned beetle specializes in cleaning carrion from the landscape, burying dead mice, birds, and other creatures. It is endangered in our nation and in our state, and restoration efforts are under way.
American burying beetles feed on carrion, and mating pairs bury small animals to feed themselves and their young. The beetles released at Wah-Kon-Tah were buried in a hand-dug hole with a dead pen-raised quail.
Missouri Department of Conservation employees Rick Swopes (left) and Tyler Harding were among the 70 people who helped the Saint Louis Zoo release American burying beetles on June 4 at the Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie. Beetles in the wild dig holes and bury carrion to feed on while raising young. Crews gave the released beetles a hand by digging holes and covering them with chicken wire staked down to keep animals from disturbing them.
MDC protects and manages Missouri's fish, forest, and wildlife resources. We also facilitate your participation in resource-management activities, and we provide opportunities for you to use, enjoy and learn about nature.