Appalachian Wildlife Foundation pledges support for MO elk restoration

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JEFFERSON CITY Mo – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation (AWF) recently entered into an agreement that establishes a framework for cooperative efforts between the two organizations and a commitment by the AWF to assist in funding the reintroduction of elk in southern Missouri.

Under the agreement, the MDC and AWF will work together to restore elk to the indentified restoration zone in southern Missouri. The MDC acknowledges that the AWF is working to raise a minimum of $50,000 towards the costs associated with the capture, disease testing, transport, radio collaring and initial monitoring of elk in Missouri. The MDC and AWF will also collaborate to develop a long-term conservation plan for elk in Missouri, in concert with other entities, through a working group established by the MDC.

“We look forward to the opportunity to partner with the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation as we move to restore elk in Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties in southeast Missouri,” wrote MDC Director Bob Ziehmer in a letter to the AWF.

“As you know, Missourians are connected to the land and value the great natural resources of this state,” wrote Ziehmer. “This dedication to natural resources, firm commitment to conservation heritage, and history of restoration of native species provides citizens with a rich conservation legacy. The partnership between the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation and the Department of Conservation will be another historic chapter in the history of conservation in Missouri.”

The Missouri Conservation Commission approved the MDC plan to restore elk at its October meeting. The plan calls for releasing up to 150 wild elk in a 346-square-mile (221,509 acres) elk restoration zone in parts of Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties. The Conservation Department selected this limited restoration zone because of extensive public lands, suitable habitat, low road density, minimal agricultural activity and landowner support. The plan includes health protocols, herd management guidelines and habitat management recommendations. Releases of elk could begin as soon as early 2011.

The MDC is also in discussions with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other conservation organizations regarding cooperative efforts and funding support.

Elk restoration programs in Arkansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have successfully restored limited elk populations with economic benefits through wildlife viewing and hunting.

Elk are native to the Show-Me State but were gone by the mid-1800s, due to unregulated hunting and habitat changes.

The elk restoration plan is available at