From the Missouri Department of Conservation
-- A portion of the refuge area at Peck Ranch Conservation Area has been opened to public access through a driving loop for viewing elk and other wildlife.
The Department of Conservation closed the refuge area in March in preparation for the arrival of Missouris first group of wild elk, part of the Departments ongoing elk restoration project.
MDC has designated a driving loop along roads 1, 11 and 10 of the refuge area that offers elk and other wildlife viewing opportunities along fields, streams and forested areas. The driving loop begins at the Peck Ranch office and is marked along the way. Other roads in the refuge area remain closed to the public. Managed deer hunts on the ranch are planned for the fall.
Area Manager Ryan Houf said elk seek the shade and food of forested areas during hot summer months and tend to graze in open fields during cooler periods in the fall, winter and spring. He added that the area is not a wildlife preserve and the elk are wild animals.
While they remain mostly in the refuge area at this point, these several dozen elk have about 23,000 acres at Peck Ranch to roam, and about 221,500 acres within the larger elk restoration zone covering parts of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties, so catching a glimpse of them may be a challenge, he said.
Houf said some gravel roads on the ranch may not be accessible to vehicles without adequate ground clearance. Other roads may be impassable at times because of flooding or high water levels at stream crossings.
If visitors are fortunate to view elk, they must not disturb the animals in any way. Photographs are welcome, but the Missouri Wildlife Code prohibits the molesting, pursuing or enticing of wildlife, including elk, unless specifically permitted in the code or through related laws for activities such as hunting, fishing or trapping of specific species, which do not include elk.
MDC acquired 34 elk from Kentucky, which arrived at a holding pen on Peck Ranch in early May. After an acclimation period, the elk including five calves were released to roam in the Carter County conservation area and eventually into the 221,500-acre elk restoration zone.
Directions to PRCA and area maps are available through the MDC online Conservation Area Atlas at www.missouriconservation.org.