35 wild elk to be relocated to Missouri conservation area

Thursday, May 10, 2012 | 11:50 a.m. CDT; updated 9:43 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 10, 2012

COLUMBIA — Missouri will soon see 35 more wild elk roaming at Peck Ranch Conservation Area.

The elk, captured in an eastern Kentucky site, are scheduled to arrive May 18 at the refuge area after an overnight trip of 400 miles in a livestock tractor trailer, according to a release from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The elk are mostly female, said Ron Dent, elk restoration program coordinator for the department. 

Due to warm and wet weather, they met some challenges in trapping these elk, Dent said in an interview. The elk were less inclined to visit the baited site in eastern Kentucky because there was more food available elsewhere, he said.

Dent said the elk will have full blood scans and be checked for 11 different diseases in Kentucky. After they arrive, the elk will be held in pens for a period of time before being released, he said. 

The elk in the restoration zone at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area will be fitted with radio collars to help monitor their movements, according to the news release.

In total, 54 elk were captured in Kentucky this year as part of the restoration effort, and they will be divided between Missouri and Virginia.

The elk restoration plan is a three-year project of the conservation department that aims to bring 150 elk to Missouri, according to the department's website.

According to a previous Missourian article, 34 adult elk were relocated from Kentucky last year. Three of them died of natural causes after relocation and five calves were born, Dent said. There are currently 36 elk in Missouri.

The project is a joint effort by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the federal Department of Agriculture, state agriculture departments in Kentucky and Virginia, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The 12,000-acre refuge portion of Peck Ranch, including a portion of the Ozark Trail, will be closed from April 1 until July 1 because of the relocation, according to the conservation department website.

Before the restoration plan, elk had been absent in Missouri for 150 years, according to an article from the conservation department website.

Supervising editor is Will Guldin.

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