General Topics

Elk in Missouri

Background:

Elk had been in Missouri until around 1865. Around 2000, citizens started pushing for restoration. In response to this an elk reintroduction and feasibility study was performed. They found that it was possible in some regions of the Ozarks and the public was in support. But, due to chronic wasting disease and habitat concerns, consideration of elk restoration was suspended.

Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Rocky_Mountain_Bull_Elk.jpg

Renewed Interest:

  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation sent a letter around 2010 showing citizen interest
  • Questions from commissioners also brought the issue to the forefront
  • 90% of the land in the proposed restoration zone was supportive
  • Success in other states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania

Elk Restoration Zone:

The 2000 study identified Peck Ranch Conservation area as a potential spot because of:

  1. Suitable habitat conditions
  2. High public land ownership
  3. Low public road density
  4. Low density of row crops and livestock

Stakeholder Involvement:

The Department actively engaged citizens and organizations by:

  1. Holding 3 informal meetings around the site
  2. Providing restoration info on the MDC website (has a section where the public can comment)
  3. Providing info in the Missouri Conservationist and a brochure
  4. Engaging citizens, state, and federal agencies

Proposed Restoration Protocols:

Disease Testing:
  • Strict animal health guidelines were developed
  • Protocol requires:
    • that all free-range elk brought in originate from herds with no health issues
    • that they go through extensive disease testing
  • Now, there’s a better understanding of chronic wasting disease (even a live-animal test)
Release Protocol:
  • Soft Release (recommended):
    • Confined for 5-6 weeks in the restoration zone
    • Health evaluated
    • Minimize their movements
    • Put a radio telemetry collar on them
  • Many benefits of a soft release over a hard release
  • A temporary holding facility could be constructed at the site
Herd Management and Monitoring:
  • Department will strictly enforce procedures when elk wander where they’re not welcome
  • Survival and reproduction will be monitored
  • Hunting will maintain desired population size
Economic Benefits:
  • Elk ecotourism and hunting can generate benefits for the state
Funding:
  • The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has expressed interest in contributing
Habitat Management:
  • Department will help landowners who want to improve habitat conditions for elk on their property
  • Currently there are several ways that land is managed in order to encourage elk to remain in that area

Elk have resided in Missouri since 1865. Although their survival has been challenged over time, in 2000 people began to push for more extensive restoration efforts.

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