Elk Restoration Background
Restoration Deemed Feasible
Elk were found throughout Missouri prior to European settlement. Historical accounts indicate elk were wiped out from the wild in Missouri by about 1865. Prompted by citizen requests, the Department conducted an elk restoration 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 Conservation Commission suspended the Department’s consideration of 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 most citizens.
Several factors have stimulated renewed interest in elk restoration in southeast Missouri. Successful elk restorations in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania have generated considerable recreational and economic benefits. These restorations have also resulted in the development of proven disease testing protocols with no known cases of diseases being introduced to livestock or wildlife. In addition, a live-elk test for chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been developed. Since the mid-1990’s, significant habitat improvements have occurred on conservation areas and other properties in the restoration zone. Interest from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, continued citizen interest and questions from Conservation Commissioners stimulated a presentation at the July 2010 Conservation Commission meeting. The presentation summarized the 2000 elk study and provided an update on the issues of habitat availability and chronic wasting disease. Following the presentation, the Conservation Commission directed Department staff to reinstate plan development. The Commission approved the plan for elk restoration at the Oct. 15 Commission meeting in Kirksville.
Stakeholder Involvement and Public Input
Successful management of Missouri’s natural resources involves a partnership with citizens, organizations, and agencies. The Department has actively engaged citizens and organizations to gather input on the elk restoration plan.
Recreational and Economic Benefits and Partnerships
Experience from other states such as Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Kentucky indicate that considerable economic benefits can be generated from elk eco-tourism and hunting. The Department has received outside funding from conservation partners to help share the cost of a restoration program. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has provided financial support for restoration programs in other states and is committed to contributing to elk restoration in Missouri.
For more information, read our full Elk Restoration Plan and see our Frequently Asked Questions.