If West Virginia wildlife officials ever decide to stock elk in the state's southwestern counties, they'd be well advised to learn from their counterparts in Missouri.
Folks in the Show Me State are upset because a stocking project that was supposed to cost $411,185 is apparently costing much more than that.
The Missouri State Auditor says the agency has spent $1.23 million to stock just 39 of the 150 elk called for in the project. Missouri Department of Conservation officials say the auditor counted expenses that weren't part of the project.
When government officials start going back and forth like that, the cold hard truth is tough to pin down.
According to an account by the non-profit Missouri News Horizon media service, state Auditor Tom Schweich criticized wildlife officials for failing to factor employee's salaries, habitat restoration and ongoing monitoring costs into their estimates.
Department officials contend they've spent just $363,000 of their projected budget for the project. They argue that the salaries and habitat improvements cited by the auditor benefited all wildlife, not just elk, and therefore should not be included in the project cost.
As an outsider with no particular ax to grind, it appears that the auditor might be going a bit hard on the agency. It wouldn't be the first time that a state auditor came down hard on a resource agency. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources officials regularly get raked over the coals for perceived shortcomings in deer-management efforts.
I must add, however, that Missouri Department of Conservation officials obviously haven't stayed within the elk project's budget. Using the agency's own figures, $363,000 has been spent to stock 39 animals. Good luck stocking 111 more with the remaining $48,185 earmarked for the project.