Elk were found throughout Missouri prior to European settlement. Historical accounts indicate elk were likely extirpated from the state by 1865. Prompted by citizen requests, the Department conducted an elk reintroduction feasibility study in 2000. Results of the study indicated that elk restoration in Missouri was biologically feasible in portions of the Ozarks, and statewide the public supported the restoration of elk. However, several considerations complicated the restoration of elk at the time. Due to chronic wasting disease and habitat concerns, the Commission suspended the Department’s consideration of an elk restoration in 2001, and directed staff to facilitate additional discussions to determine if concerns regarding elk restoration could be addressed to the satisfaction of citizens.
A recent letter from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, continued citizen interest in elk restoration and questions from Commissioners have stimulated the following update on biological and social issues associated with elk restoration in Missouri. In fact, 90 percent of acreage in the focused restoration zone is held by public and private landowners who have indicated their support of the effort. Recent elk restoration successes in Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are also encouraging. The following recommendations are proposed to address previous concerns and may be modified according to citizen input and Commission guidance if a restoration effort moves forward.
Elk Restoration Zone
A defined geography around Peck Ranch Conservation Area was identified in the 2000 elk reintroduction feasibility study as a potential restoration site. The restoration zone covered parts of Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties. This landscape was chosen because of: 1) suitable habitat conditions, 2) high public land ownership, 3) low public road density and 4) low density of row crops and livestock. The map on this page outlines the area proposed in the 2000 elk reintroduction feasibility study. This range could be modified as a result of input from citizens.
Successful management of Missouri’s natural resources involves a partnership with citizens, organizations and agencies. The Department is actively engaging citizens and organizations to gather input prior to a restoration effort being presented to the Conservation Commission in the following ways:
- Holding three informational meetings at locations around the restoration zone.
- Continuing to provide restoration information on the MDC website, which includes the opportunity for public comment, as well as a video, information in the Missouri Conservationist and a brochure to inform citizens.
- Continuing to engage citizens state and federal agencies, and