Missouri Department of Conservation Reintroduces Native Elk Into Missouri

  Let’s talk about large Missouri mammals with antlers. You may be thinking “deer right?”, but no, we’re talking about elk. Elk was native to Missouri before they went extinct due to unregulated hunting. Another reason elk went extinct in Missouri was habitat destruction, mainly due to forested land being cleared for farming. During the year 2000, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) did a feasibility study for reintroducing elk into The Show-Me State. After the study, the department concluded that reintroduction was possible in the Ozarks
(a similar plan was already successfully underway in Arkansas) so they began making a plan to bring Elk back to Missouri. In the year 2000 an area around Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Fremont, MO was chosen as a potential site for the restoration to take place. This zone covers parts of Carter, Shannon, and Reynolds counties. This seemed like a good place because it had all the things an elk would need, food, water, and shelter. It also had a high percentage of public land and a low density of public roads. This was the site that the MCD ended up deciding to use as the first area in which to reintroduce Elk in Missouri. 

  Now it was time to start moving elk into the site. 108 animals were brought into Missouri from Kentucky to form the first herd. Additional animals were brought in in 2012 and 2013 too. There were very rigorous disease tests that any given elk would have to pass before being moved into Missouri. Before all the elk were in place the MCD developed procedures they would implement if an elk ever strayed into an area where it was unwelcome, like residential areas or near highways. 

  Now to more recent news. This year’s hunting season is the first to include elk. The only hunting permits (5 in total) were distributed by random lottery. Elk archery season, which is October 17-25 is set just after peak elk breeding season. Elk firearm season is later in the year, December 12-20. The MDC required a $10 entry fee for the permit. Winners were then required to pay a $50 winner’s fee. Lastly, if you win a permit then you are required to wait a 10-year sit-out period, in which you cannot apply for another permit.

  Still, it may be a long time before elk hunting is as widely accessible as deer hunting. Another thing to consider is that the values of reintroducing these animals to Missouri may not be for sporting and hunting but for history and preservation. All in all, I think this effort can be considered a success.