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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bringing elk back to the Show-Me-State

Posted Monday, October 17, 2011, at 3:29 PM

The St Louis Post Dispatch's article titled "Elk are reintroduced into Missouri" tells readers how the Missouri Department of Conservation released 34 elk at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in May of 2011. It briefly goes into the area of conflict, whether these animals should have been brought to Missouri or not, when telling how "critics...have raised concern about crop damage, spreading disease to livestock and accidents with vehicles". The pros of this game release are that this native Missouri species is being restored, which will help long-term conservation of Missouri's outdoors. The biological contents that are affected by this restoration include the elk species itself, any other species the elk will encounter within its food web, and the elk habitat. Economical issues with these elk include who is going to pay for this restoration including any damage done in effect of the elk release, the chance of farmer's livestock getting diseases from the elk, any damaged crops from the elks' new presence, and the safety of humans as far as car wrecks. The Missouri Department of Conservation will be paying for all of this.

The opinions that the elk should have been released, and the second that the elk should not have been released, both have very good supportive points. Those that think it was right to release the elk will most likely include conservationists and hunters. Others who believe it was wrong to release the elk, like farmers and local commuters, are probably concerned about the effect it will have on the environment around the restoration.

I personally agree with the release of the elk. I love the outdoors and having another species returned to Missouri is so fascinating. I would like for the elk to eventually be throughout the state for all spectators to see and even to be hunted. This would draw in revenue for the state when attracting hunters from out-of-state and be another great way to enjoy the outdoors.

The actual date for the elk release was May 5th. They were released at 6:30 a.m. after a 12-hour trip from Kentucky to their new home at Peck Ranch Conservation Area. These 15 bull elk and 19 cows and calves were first put into separate holding pens, where they were observed for veterinarian purposed, and have since been released onto the 346 square miles of Peck Ranch Conservation Area.

The elks' new home of Peck Ranch Conservation Area lies in the mid-south region of the state. This conservation area is perfect for the elk restoration because it is far from roads, has open meadows, opened up forests(from controlled burns by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and is 79 percent open to hunting. Before the herd was released, the surrounding areas, including Van Buren, Eminence, and Ellington, were polled in public forums about whether the wanted elk in their areas. About seventy percent liked the notion of bringing back elk.

Since the May 5th release into the elks' holding pens, the elk have since had their gates of the holding pens opened after final approval of stringent health-testing protocols by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. During this month's time(the gates were opened on June 1st) allowed the elk to get acclimated to their new home. The Missouri Department of Conservation issued a "soft release" that night. That is, the gates were opened quietly and at night so the animals can leave on their own when they discover they are no longer confined. This reduces the chances of elk bolting from the holding site, which increase the chances of them staying in the area and decreases the chances of injury.

Restoring this native species back to Missouri brings many benefits to Missourians. Citizens will be able to enjoy the wild beauty of elk, hunting may be available as early as 2015 and will help manage the herd, and the increased tourism will be an economical boost to the area.

When the hunting of elk begins to be available in Missouri, the benefits of the restoration will increase even more. After elk were restored in Kentucky, they generated more than $500,000 in annual revenue for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources through hunting lottery and license fees. But this isn't the only place that benefitted economically from the elk. It was also a tremendous market boosts for meat processors, taxidermists, tourism, hotels, and other small-town businesses. With a successful restoration in Missouri, this sort of economic boost could happen here also.

It's not just me that approves of restoring elk back into Missouri. As said earlier, seventy percent of the citizens in the elk restoration area approved of it. Of these citizens, there are many who are actively engaged in helping with the elk effort and volunteering their time and land to help with the restoration. Also, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation have committed to contributing financial resources and volunteer time to help with elk restoration in Missouri. With this volunteer and financial help, it gives an even better chance for the restoration project to be a success.

With this being said, I do fully believe that the benefits of restoring elk in Missouri far outweigh the negatives. With the economic boost it will give the state, the added tourism, the hunting tags that will be purchased in the future, the overall better biodiversity within our ecosystem, and also the fact that most Missourians approve of it, the chances of this restoration's success are very high.

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