Discover nature with elk driving tour at MDC's Peck Ranch in Ozarks

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – See some of Missouri’s first free-ranging elk in nearly 150 years through a self-guided driving tour at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Peck Ranch Conservation Area (CA). Peck Ranch CA is in northwest Carter County and eastern Shannon County.

Over the past two years, MDC has been working with local communities, local landowners, conservation groups and others to restore almost 70 elk from Kentucky to a 346-square-mile restoration zone in this rugged area of the Ozarks. The heart of the restoration zone is Peck Ranch CA. More than a dozen elk calves born at Peck Ranch CA in 2011 and 2012 have added to the numbers of this once-native animal.

Fall offers a prime time to see bull elk bugling as they woo cow elk into small groups called harems. The best times to see elk are right after sunrise and right before sunset. MDC can’t guarantee an elk sighting, but the tour is a beautiful drive through fields, forests and glades where tourists can also see fall color, along with deer and other wildlife.

The tour route begins at the Peck Ranch CA office and is marked along the way. Driving tours are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, unless closed because of inclement weather. Driving tours will also be closed for deer hunting in the area Oct. 13-14, Nov. 2-4, Nov. 10-20 and Dec. 1-2. Gravel roads on Peck Ranch CA may not be accessible to vehicles without adequate ground clearance. Some roads may be impassible at times due to high water at stream crossings.

People are invited to take photographs, and get out of vehicles for better views, but should not disturb elk or other wildlife in any way.

For more information, call the MDC Elk Information Line at 855-C-MDC-ELK (855-263-2355).

While in the area, also visit MDC’s Twin Pines Conservation Education Center near Peck Ranch CA, one mile east of Winona on Route 60. Twin Pines is open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 573-325-1381.

Just north of Peck Ranch CA lies Rocky Creek CA and Current River CA. Both areas have several gravel roads open to vehicle traffic and also provide wildlife viewing. Nearby communities have information on fall events and other outdoor activities.