Friday, June 3, 2011

Wild Elk Return to Missouri

When most people think of elk, they picture the mountainous landscapes of the American West. The truth is, before European settlement these animals were most common throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States. Missouri Department of Conservation officials have sought for years to reintroduce native elk, which have been absent since 1865, to the state’s landscape, and as of just a few days ago it seems they’ve finally succeeded.

Photo: Missouri Dept. of Conservation
The 34 elk that will comprise this first herd were captured in a Kentucky conservation area, home to 1500 elk, and trucked to Missouri in May. The elk were confined to a 3 acre holding pen at Peck Ranch Conservation Area for their first few weeks in Missouri to allow them time to acclimate to their new home. On June 1st, the gates to the pen were quietly opened and the elk herd, now with an additional five newborn calves, was allowed access to their entire 221,000 acre range.

All of the animals have been fitted with GPS radio collars, allowing experts at the University of Missouri to track the herd’s movement. The Peck Ranch Conservation area is currently closed to the public to allow the herd to acclimate without human interruption, but state officials are hopeful that the elk herd will grow and eventually become a draw for tourists and wildlife lovers alike.

Photo: Missouri Dept. of Conservation

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