Next time you are driving down a forest road, make sure not to crush what might be Missouri's newest state symbol.
Rep. Jim Viebrock, R-Republic, is the sponsor of a bill that would designate the three-toed box turtle the official state reptile of Missouri.
"The three-toed box turtle is a native species found in all but one of the counties, and the Conservation Department agreed that it would be an appropriate choice," Viebrock said. This bill is part of a class project for the sixth and seventh grade classes at Southwest Middle School in Washburn.
Viebrock said the classes did a project to find out which animal would be appropriate to name the state reptile. Viebrock said when he was the age of those students, he used to play with the animals.
"I collected them just like every kid does," Viebrock said. "I'd play with them and then let them go."
But the three-toed box turtle is not the only critter getting attention in the House of Representatives.
The crayfish, commonly known as the crawdad, is being considered for official state invertebrate, also due to the efforts of an elementary school class.
Bill sponsor Rep. Dennis Wood, R-Kimberling City, said the fifth and sixth grade classes at Reed Elementary, which is in his district, approached him with their research and a large presentation about the little crustacean.
"They looked for something indigenous to the state and part of the everyday experience to a young person," Wood said. "The crawdad is the answer to that. Crawdads are also a big indicator of pollution in water if they are not found in a body of water. The crawdad is in every county in Missouri, and every pond, river or creek."
Wood said the only other invertebrate strongly considered was the common earthworm.
"They didn't feel it was an indicator of the life cycle that a crawdad has," Woods said.
Both bills have passed in committee hearings and are headed to a vote in the House.
Being consent bills, neither can be added to or amended, and according to the sponsors, both are expected to smoothly pass through the Senate and to the governor.