CARTER COUNTY, Mo. -- Business leaders from the Missouri Ozarks took an extensive tour of Missouri’s Elk Restoration Zone during the area’s prime elk-bugling season. According to Elk Program Manager David Hasenbeck, with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), approximately 20 community leaders recently viewed habitat and received an update on elk restoration efforts. The group saw 51 elk during the tour of MDC's Peck Ranch Conservation Area (CA), viewed habitat work on nearby private land and visited MDC's Current River CA.
“Citizens from Eminence, Ellington, and Van Buren are very excited about the increased tourism they have noticed this fall,” Hasenbeck said.
Christy Roberts, president of the Ellington Chamber of Commerce, said the tour was essential to enabling local Chambers of Commerce in their tourism and business efforts related to the elk restoration.
“Area businesses have seen an increase in tourism and we are sure more visitors will come with time,” Roberts said.
Roberts said she and her husband enjoy visiting Peck Ranch CA in the fall to hear elk bugle. “We’ve heard elk bugle each time and we have also been fortunate to see elk in the Current River Conservation Area,” she said.
The Mayor of Eminence, Jim Anderson, was also on the tour. He said he was encouraged to see how the private landowners that participated in the tour were supportive of the elk reintroduction program. Anderson is a life-long deer hunter and has even harvested a few elk in Colorado, he said.
“It is incredible to know that we can see elk and observe them in rutting behavior only 25 miles from our homes,” Anderson said.
Anderson and others also toured some private land where landowners could view elk right in their own habitat.
“They [landowners] are realigning their pasture and forest management styles to benefit elk, deer, turkeys, songbirds and other wildlife,” he said. This, combined with MDC's habitat and feed management for elk, shows commitment to the success of the elk reintroduction program, according to Anderson.
Larry Segraves, a Van Buren Chamber of Commerce board member, said the restoration update included discussion of grasses that were planted on private land and other efforts that make the habitat optimal for elk and other wildlife. These efforts encourage the community leaders that the elk herd will grow and tourism to the area will grow along with it.
“We hope visitors will continue to visit in larger numbers to see the elk, providing economic benefits for our small rural communities,” Roberts said.
“Rutting behavior in the fall months, and calving in the springtime, will be the peak seasons for elk viewing in Missouri,” Anderson said.
Although these community leaders were focused on the economic benefits the elk herd continues to bring to their region, they also couldn’t help but reflect on the personal benefits they’re experiencing as part of the restoration program.
Segraves said Missouri’s elk restoration reminds him of how his grandfather harvested an elk in Arkansas many years ago, which he said was quite an accomplishment.
“We’re trying to help people see something here in Missouri that I never was able to see here when I was a kid,” Segraves said. “Kids can see something here that people saw hundreds of years ago and I think it’s great.”
He said he’d like to “give a pat on the back” to Conservation Department employees who are involved in elk habitat management.
“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have played a small part in this historic program to re-introduce elk to the Missouri Ozarks,” Roberts said.
More information on elk restoration in Missouri can be found online at mdc.mo.gov.