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Missouri Elk Herd Grows, But No Hunting Yet

Missouri’s elk herd is showing slow but steady growth, but conservation agents say there still aren’t enough elk to hunt.

The Missouri Department of Conservation reintroduced about 110 elk between 2010 and 2012. That number has grown to 125 now. The elk were reintroduced to the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Shannon County in southeastern Missouri. The elk are free to roam off Peck Ranch and also range into Carter and Reynolds Counties.

MDC elk program manager DavidHasenbecksaid elk numbers typically grow slowly during the first few years following reintroduction.

“It’s very typical in these Eastern elkreintroductionsthat the first few years reproduction is not real high,”Hasenbecksaid. “We will expect very soon for populations to grow a little bit more rapidly.”

Hasenbeck said some young elk have died from Parelaphostrongylustenuis, orbrainworm, a parasite that’s common in the deer family. 

“Any loss that occurring due to brain worm was not unexpected and it won’t impact the long-term growth of the population,”Hasenbecksaid. “It’s just something that happens in the elk world and we don’t see it as a large, large tragedy. It’s just something that elk have to deal with.”

Brainworm is common among white-tail deer and has no negative consequences,Hasenbecksaid, but it can be fatal to young elk.

Hasenbeck says the MDC will begin issuing elk hunting licenses while the population reaches about 200. He thinks that will take another three to five years.

Elk were native to Missouri until they died out in the 1800’s.

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