New Elk Restore a Part of Missouri's Wildlife History

7 years 7 months 4 days ago Friday, October 15 2010 Oct 15, 2010 Friday, October 15, 2010 8:22:08 PM CDT October 15, 2010 in News

KIRKSVILLE -  It's a victory for the Missouri Department of Conservation after 10 years of planning on a project to bring elk back to Missouri's wildlife.  The Missouri Conservation Commission heard both support and concerns from the public before making a final vote on the new elk at a meeting Friday morning.  Following the commission's approval for the project, the Department of Conservation said it will begin to make preparations to capture elk and test each animal for any diseases.

The Department of Conservation will release the elk in a 346 sq. mile zone in the southeast part of Missouri including parts of Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties.  According to MDC, officials designated this area for the elk because of the suitable habit, high public land ownership, low road densities and limited agriculture activity.  This area includes 33 miles of highway and each road averages between 240 and 470 cars per day.

The department is comparing its elk restoration project with other states like Kentucky and Arkansas that have made similar moves.  MDC officials estimated the cost would be about $411,000 for up to 150 elk brought to the state in the first year.  One department official said some of the money to pay for the project will come from special interest groups.

At Friday's meeting, some Missourians showed support for the new elk while others brought up factors opposing them.

"We think this is going to be a major benefit to the state of Missouri both economically and for wildlife for people like myself," Doug Smentkowski, Mule Deer Foundation chairman said.

"We're worried about the damage that elk would do to farmers' fences.  We're worried about the liability that occurs when farmers' cows get out because elk would destory the fence," said Blake Hurst with the Missouri Farm Bureau.

While Missouri business owners and citizens expressed some of the potential problems associated with the new elk.  MDC officials have already given further thought on likely issues that may result once the elk are released into the wild.

"Every elk that will be brought in will be fitted with a VHF or GPS radio transmitter," Lonnie Hansen, resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said.

With the elk technology, experts would be able to keep an eye on the population's movement, survival, reproduction, habit usage and modeling.

People also addressed issues like if the new elk will cause vehicle accidents, if the animals will carry any diseases and if any members of the species will roam outside their designated living area.

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