|Photo Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation|
If all goes well, MDC hopes to have 50 elk in holding pens by the end of January. When trapping ends and the initial health testing is completed, the clock will start running on a three-month quarantine period in Kentucky.
After arriving in Missouri, the elk will undergo another quarantine period in holding pens at Peck Ranch Conservation Area. These measures are intended to protect the health of Missouri’s domestic livestock and wildlife. The holding period also will allow imported elk to acclimate to the area, reducing the likelihood of their wandering far.
Mills said being part of the elk trapping and restoration team is an exciting assignment.
“To me, this is a career highlight,” Mills said. “I’ve spent over 20 years professionally in conservation and I’m excited to play such an integral part in this chapter of history where we’re restoring an important species to Missouri.”
The Missouri Conservation Commission decided to restore elk in a 346-square-mile area covering parts of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties for several reasons. These included citizen requests, ecological benefits from restoring a native species and economic benefits to Missouri through tourism and hunting. Before making the decision, the commission gathered citizen comments at public forums and by e-mail, mail and telephone. More than 70 percent of the 2,953 comments received expressed support for elk restoration.
The limited elk-restoration zone was chosen because it has extensive public lands, minimal agricultural activity, low road density and public support.
All elk brought to Peck Ranch CA will be fitted with microchips and radio collars. This will permit tracking their movements after they leave the holding pen as part of a cooperative research project with the University of Missouri.
The elk-restoration plan includes provisions for protecting Missouri wildlife and livestock and dealing with elk that wander onto private land where they are not welcome. The Conservation Department will use hunting to maintain the elk herd at a manageable size.