Elk Population Dynamics and Research


Elk Distribution Map
2011-2018 elk distribution.

Our goal is to use science-based information to guide elk management in Missouri

  • Capture and collaring adults and calves:
    • Provides sex and age specific survival rates
    • Provides quality data for population models
    • Guides biologists in harvest recommendations
    • Helps identify habitat utilization and elk movements
    • We have collected approximately 1,000,000 locations collected since 2011

Survival (proportion surviving 1 year) and Reproduction (calves per cow) recorded via collar data

  2011-2014 2015-Present Eastern Elk Populations
Adult cow survival 0.91 0.96 0.92
Adult bull survival 0.94 0.75 0.93
Yearling cow survival 0.82 0.89 0.91
Yearling bull survival 0.91 0.78 0.85
Calf survival 0.45 0.67 0.75
Adult reproduction 0.63 0.82 0.75


Our ongoing research efforts have documented more than 150 mortalities since the reintroduction of elk in 2011. Around half of these mortalities have been calves, which is the most vulnerable age group. Brainworm is the leading identified cause of death for free-ranging elk in Missouri. Infections, trauma, mountain lions, and a single elk vehicle collision are other forms of mortality for free-ranging elk in Missouri.

Population Benchmarks for Hunt Consideration

  • 200 elk
  • 10% or greater annual population growth rate
  • 25 bulls; 100 cows or greater
Chart of elk population

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