Elk in Missouri Outside of the Elk Restoration Zone

  • Missouri has a long history of elk sightings throughout the state predating the elk restoration. 
    Elk map show elk have been reported.
    Counties where elk have been sighted. (The number below the county name is the total number of elk sighted.)
  • Elk sightings are uncommon but occur every year within the state.
  • Approximately 25 to 30 reported sightings have been documented annually since 2013 when MDC began tracking confirmed reports.
  • Reported sightings have occurred in over 44 of Missouri’s 114 counties and have been documented in all parts of the state.
  • A single elk can generate multiple sightings. The 25 to 30 sightings are usually centered around 12 to 15 individual animals, annually.
  • The origins of most of these elk are unknown. They may be escapes from captive facilities, from free-ranging elk populations outside of the state, or they may be an animal that has wandered out of the elk zone counties.
  • There are free-ranging elk present in all the states bordering Missouri except for Illinois and Iowa (Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska have free-ranging elk).
  • Captive elk are held behind fences across the state.
  • MDC considers all elk outside of the elk zone to be undesirable regardless of their origins due to disease, nuisance, and other risks.
  • The fate of most reported animals is unknown. 
  • MDC has avenues to assist the public or landowners if an elk is being a nuisance, causing damage, or is otherwise unwanted.
  • MDC works closely with the Department of Agriculture in investigating elk issues or when working with elk complaints outside of the restoration zone.
  • Contact your local MDC office to report an elk sighting or to request assistance with any elk issues.
  • It is currently not legal to harvest free-ranging elk anywhere in Missouri.

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