The Missouri Department of Conservation has taken another big step in its plan to restore a small elk herd in the remote hills and hollows of southeast Missouri when they recently received the second batch of live trapped wild elk from Kentucky.
Included in this 35 elk shipment were 22 adult cows, 18 of which were pregnant and should be calving soon.
This group joins the already established herd of 36 elk from last year’s first restoration effort.
This new elk shipment will remain in holding pens for about a month to allow them to acclimate to their new home, and cows will begin dropping calves while still in the holding pens. Most calves should be born by late June, and they will be “native Missourians” from the get-go. During this time, the 12,000 acre central refuge area on the Peck Ranch Conservation Area will be closed to the public to minimize disturbance to the cows and calves as they settle in to their new surroundings. MDC will announce when the refuge will be reopened, probably in July.
The elk restoration program is the result of decades of conservation work by citizens, MDC and other partners across the state is creating and managing habitat suitable for elk and other wildlife, similar to the way it was before Missouri was settled and the native elk were driven out. MDC’s initial goal is to establish an elk herd of about 150 animals, study and manage them carefully, and use carefully regulated hunting to maintain the elk herd at a manageable size. Hunting on a limited basis could begin as quickly as four or five years.
Their intent is to keep Missouri’s elk herd in a largely unpopulated area to avoid elk-human conflict such as agricultural crop depredation or elk-vehicle accidents. Almost no one lives in the area were the elk are being introduced and there are very few roads. It’s a pristine native wild area pretty much as it was years ago when native elk still roamed in Missouri. There will be a few roads available for drive-through “elk viewing” when the area is reopened to the public, although these are truly wild animals and there’s no guarantee that you’ll see one.