A bull elk walks through a clearing

A bull elk walks through a clearing Oct. 30, 2015, at the Peck Ranch Conservation Center in southern Missouri.

The possibility of a limited elk hunting season in Missouri will be the subject of three public meetings the state Department of Conservation has scheduled for early December.

All the meetings will be held near the Peck Ranch Conservation Area, where the Conservation Department has been working for several years to re-establish a wild population of elk in the state.

The meetings are scheduled for:

Conservation Department staff will tell the public at each open house about the status of the elk herd, projections for its future and how the department is working with landowners in the area around the elk management zone, according to a department news release.

The public also will be encouraged to provide its own ideas for a future elk hunting season, including how such a season should be timed, how long it should be, what weapons should be allowed and how permitting should be handled.

Aaron Hildreth, a cervid biologist with the conservation department, told the Missouri Conservation Commission at a July meeting that a hunting season would be possible by fall 2020.

The elk population in Missouri started with 108 animals relocated from Kentucky to Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties in the Missouri Ozarks between 2011 and 2013. The population in July was about 170, Hildreth said.

The animals are on track to have a population of about 200 by 2020 and between 400 and 500 by 2024, Hildreth said in his presentation. He also said that 95 percent of elk remained within the elk restoration zone.

A population of 200 is one of three prerequisites to creating an elk season. The other two are a 10 percent population growth for three consecutive years and a ratio of at least 25 bulls for every 100 cows. The conservation department also will consider elk pregnancy and survival rates.

Hildreth and commissioners have emphasized their desire to let the public shape what an elk hunting season would look like.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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