elk will each be fitted with a radio transmitter to allow officials to monitor their movement and determine how they use the space. This will help officials keep tabs on their numbers and institute appropriate hunting guidelines to ensure the population is compatible with the available habitat and public interest. Furthermore, if elk wander outside the restoration zone and onto private land where they are not wanted, the Department will immediately respond to landowner complaints and work to resolve the issue.
Dave Pace is Missouri’s volunteer state chair for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The organization has more than 150,000 members nationwide and is committed to maintaining healthy natural habitats for elk and other wildlife. Missouri’s plan calls for the organization to help defray some of the transportation and logistical costs associated with bringing elk to Missouri. Pace applauded the state’s efforts and said habitat improvements made for elk have other benefits.
“A piece of ground conserved for an elk will benefit other wildlife as well,” he said. “I’d like to see us be able to pass this down to future generations.”
Pace lives in Salem, roughly 30 miles from Peck Ranch and says he’s not expecting the animals to ever wander that far.
A Cooperative Effort
The original feasibility study conducted in 2000 identified Peck Ranch Conservation Area in southeast Missouri as an ideal site. The large forested area includes parts of Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties and is made up of mostly public land. The Department considered the area suitable because of its mixed habitat, low number of roads, and low density of crops and livestock.
“We’re looking at an area of 346 square miles, plus or minus,” Hansen said. With an estimated goal of 300 to 400 elk, that would mean a density of one animal per square mile.”
Nearly half (49 percent) of the elk restoration zone is held in public trust by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the National Park Service or the United States Forest Service. Another 27 percent is private land maintained by the L-A-D Foundation, which works to maintain the property through sustainable forestry and woodland management. Another 3 percent is protected by the Nature Conservancy, which works to protect ecologically important lands. Their combined efforts have significantly improved the region for elk since the early 1990s.
Back in Buffalo River National Park, Gray said the success of Arkansas’ elk program is