The Missouri Conservation Commission voted today at its meeting in Kirksville to reintroduce elk in parts of three southern Missouri counties.
The department will now go ahead with plans to reintroduce a small herd in suitable habitat in Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties.
The decision follows a series of public hearings an open comment period for the public. Some of those comments were in opposition to the plan from property owners who are concerned about damage to property and disease.
Governor Jay Nixon issued a statement following today’s vote addressing the disease concerns; “Firm testing protocols established by the Department of Conservation and the Department of Agriculture, and approved by State Veterinarian Taylor Woods, will ensure that only healthy animals are brought into the state, and that Missouri’s livestock industry, private property, and public health and safety are protected.”
The plan calls for releasing wild elk in a 346-square-mile elk restoration zone in parts of Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties. Conservation Department officials say they set up a limited area for restoration because it encompasses public land, the right habitat, few roads, minimal agricultural activity and landowner support.
Elk are native to Missouri but were gone by the mid-1800s, due to unregulated hunting and habitat changes.