From the Missouri Department of Conservation
-- A national elk-conservation group whose support for elk restoration in Missouri dates back more than a decade is keeping its promise to financially support the current restoration effort.
Tom Jones, senior regional director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, says the group already has raised enough money to begin paying for construction of an elk holding pen in Kentucky. The pen will hold elk during a precautionary quarantine period before they are relocated to Missouri.
"We are very grateful to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for its long-standing support of elk restoration in Missouri," according to Bob Ziehmer, Conservation Department director. "Now that we are ready to move forward, the RMEF has wasted no time putting resources behind the effort."
The Foundation, which is headquartered in Missoula, Mont., invested $61,123.50 to provide financial support for elk restoration in 2000, when the Missouri Conservation Commission first considered the idea.
The Commission shelved the original plan in 2001 over concerns about adequate elk habitat and chronic wasting disease. In October of this year, the Commission approved a revised elk-restoration plan that addresses these concerns. The Foundation immediately began fundraising efforts to help implement the plan, and those efforts continue.
Missouri's restoration plan calls for releasing up to 150 elk in a 346-square mile area spanning parts of Shannon, Carter and Reynolds counties. The limited restoration zone was selected because of extensive public lands, suitable habitat, low road density, minimal agricultural activity and landowner support.
Construction of a holding pen in Kentucky begins in December. Trapping of elk is expected to begin in late December or early January.
Trapped elk will remain in the Kentucky holding pen to meet the health testing protocol. Once in Missouri, they will be kept in a holding pen at Peck Ranch Conservation Area to allow them to acclimate to the area. Construction of the pen at Peck Ranch will take place in January. The plan calls for the first elk could be released at Peck Ranch CA in late April or early May.
The elk-restoration plan is available at http://bit.ly/i6Pxhy.