Missouri’s first group of restored elk scheduled to arrive April 30
Apr. 11, 2011
by Joe Jerek
JEFFERSON CITY Mo – The first group of elk that are part of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) elk restoration project are scheduled to arrive in the state on April 30. The 34 elk will complete their 90-day quarantine and final health testing in Kentucky before being transported by a semi-driven livestock trailer to Missouri. The elk will be released from Kentucky pending approval by the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA). The elk also have been fitted with ear tags, microchips and GPS collars.
After their overnight journey, the elk will go into a three-acre, double-fenced holding pen on MDC’s Peck Ranch Conservation Area in southeast Missouri. The pen is divided into four sections with one for young bulls, one for yearling calves, one for cows and one for pregnant cows. Peck Ranch is part of a 346-square-mile elk restoration zone covering parts of Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties.
MDC will record the elk arrival and unloading into the holding pen through video and photography and post the images on its website (www.MissouriConservation.org) the afternoon of April 30.
“We know Missourians are very excited to have free-ranging elk back in the state and are eager to see them,” said MDC Elk Project Coordinator Ron Dent. “While we would like to allow public viewing of their arrival and while they are in the holding pen, that is not compatible with the animals’ welfare.”
Dent explained that MDC’s first priority is the health and safety of the elk.
“These are wild animals that have a strong natural fear of humans,” he said. “The elk can become very nervous if they hear, see or smell people nearby. Minimizing contact with humans while the elk are in this confined space is vital to keeping them from getting more stressed, and possibly hurting themselves or other elk by trying to flee.”
Dent added that MDC staff caring for the elk will also minimize their contact with the animals.
While the elk are in the holding pen, MDC staff will provide food and water daily and keep daily logs on each animal’s activities. MDC staff will also provide around-the-clock security at the holding pen.
The elk will remain in the holding pen for up to two weeks pending results from the final round of health tests performed in Kentucky. Elk will be released from the pen following approval of the final test results by the MDA.
Once the elk have been approved for release from the holding pen, MDC staff will open the gates and allow the elk to move on their own into the 12,000-acre Refuge Area of Peck Ranch. The Refuge Area will remain closed to the public for a few months to allow the elk to acclimate. During this time, the elk may move on their own into the larger restoration zone where public viewing is unrestricted.
Dent explained that this “soft release” into a temporary holding pen is strongly preferred over a “hard release” where the animals are unloaded from a livestock trailer directly into open country.
“We’ve learned from other states with restored elk, such as Kentucky and Tennessee, that a hard release with a crowd of people around increases stress on the elk,” he said. “A hard release prompts them to bolt from the trailer and immediately spread out into a much larger area as they flee human contact. Our soft release into the holding pen will give the animals time to become more comfortable in their new environment. Allowing them to then leave the holding pen on their own will make them less likely to travel far from the release site.”
He added that catching sight of elk in the restoration zone may be a challenge for people.
“This is not a zoo-type environment,” Dent said. “These several dozen animals will have more than 221,500 acres in the rugged terrain of the restoration zone to call home. It will take some time to figure out where they congregate and where good viewing locations are. As we learn more and as the herd grows, viewing will get better and better.”
For more information on Missouri’s elk restoration efforts, visit www.MissouriConservation.org and search “elk restoration.”
Proposal would require Conservation Department to reimburse people for losses
Monday, February 21, 2011
BY Brian Nordli
JEFFERSON CITY — It’s a simple piece of legislation intended to address an unusual problem.
That’s how state Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, presented a bill to the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee that would hold the Missouri Department of Conservation responsible for damage caused by the wild elk it will bring to the state beginning this spring.
By the end of the committee’s two-hour hearing Monday at the Missouri State Capitol, however, it was clear his colleagues saw some complications.
“I think the bill is simple enough on the surface,” said committee member and state Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City. “But there are so many things within it.”
Schad, who normally chairs the committee, stepped down to present his bill. More than 30 people showed up for the hearing, and about 12 officials and residents testified. So many people wanted to speak that the committee didn’t have time to hear them all. It asked for written statements instead.
Some who testified argued that residents of the targeted restoration zone, a 346-square-mile area of Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties, don’t want the elk and shouldn’t be forced to pay for damage they cause. Others said the nature of the land will minimize the danger of elk migration or destruction of farmland. The Conservation Department chose the area because it has a suitable habitat, lots of public land and few farms or roads.
The Conservation Department plans to bring its first group of elk to Missouri in April. Thirty-eight elk have been trapped in a holding pen in eastern Kentucky’s Bell County, where they are being screened for disease.
The elk will be placed in a holding pen in Peck Ranch Conservation Area once they arrive in the state, and they will be released into the wild shortly thereafter.
Plans call for bringing a total of about 150 elk to Missouri over the next three years.
(Watch Video to See Map)
Under the plan, up to 150 elk will be released in Shannon, Reynolds, and Carter counties in early 2011.
Click Here for Full Details