wildlife, it’s a great day for conservation, and it’s a great day for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and all our volunteers. This is what we work for.”
Twenty-three-thousand-acre Peck Ranch CA is at the heart of a 346-square-mile elk restoration zone that encompasses parts of Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties. After an acclimation period the elk will be released into Peck Ranch’s rugged hills and valleys, where MDC has been working for 30 years to recreate the landscape-scale type of habitat that sustains multiple species of wildlife.
The RMEF is a major supporter of Missouri’s elk-restoration program.
“There is no higher calling in conservation than restoring a native game species to sustainable, huntable, balanced populations,” said RMEF President David Allen in a prepared statement. “We are proud to partner in that kind of effort in Missouri, just as we have been in Kentucky, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. As in those places, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is in this for the long haul in Missouri, too. We will remain by your side to ensure these elk not only arrive, but thrive. And we’ll be here to help you show conservationists around the world what is possible when you dream big and never give up.”
Missouri’s elk will remain in the holding pens at Peck Ranch for up to two weeks to allow them to acclimate to their new home. When the time comes to release the elk from the pens, workers will quietly open gates at night, so the animals can leave on their own when they discover they no longer are confined.
“It’s called a ‘soft release,’” said Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen. “This is a technique recommended by our partners in Kentucky, based on their experience. They found that if they brought elk in and released them directly from trailers, the animals bolted from the area. That increased the risk of injury to the elk, and it didn’t encourage them to stay near the release site.”
For the same reason, said Hansen, MDC had a low-key arrival event at the holding facility when the elk arrived.
Peck Ranch’s refuge area will remain closed to the public through July. By then, all the calves will have been born and adjusted to their surroundings.
Hansen said MDC is counting on landscape scale habitat restoration that has been underway at Peck Ranch for more than 30 years, which is designed to benefit multiple species of wildlife. He said MDC’s elk-restoration plan includes provisions to deal with elk that find their way onto land where they are not welcome. Long-term plans call for hunting as a tool to manage the size of the elk herd. When hunting commences will depend on how quickly the herd grows, but Hansen said it could begin as soon as 2015.