JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri auditor's office says the state's elk restoration program has cost about three times more than what was initially budgeted.
Auditor Tom Schweich said Wednesday the Department of Conservation spent about $1.2 million on the program. The agency had estimated it would spend about $411,000 to introduce about 150 animals in southern Missouri.
Conservation officials say the auditor incorrectly counted expenses for habitat improvements that benefit all wildlife, road maintenance and other costs that likely would have occurred regardless of the elk project. The Conservation Department said it spent about $363,000 to trap, hold, relocate, test and monitor the elk.
The first elk were released to southern Missouri in June. There now are 36 animals released through the project, including five calves at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area.