Rural Missouri - May 2012 - (Page 16)

O U T D O O R S L by Jason Jenkins ast May, 34 elk from Kentucky stepped off a stock trailer and into the Missouri Ozarks. The animals represented the beginning of an effort to return free-ranging wild elk to the Show-Me State after a 150-year absence. Jim Anderson of Eminence and Randy Ross of Fremont have each caught a glimpse of one of these elk during the past year. But what each man saw was quite different. For Anderson, owner of Shady Lane Cabins & Motel and Eminence’s mayor, the sight of an elk was met with optimism. He hopes that as the herd grows, tourists will flock to his town of 600 in hopes of seeing the animals, spending money as they go. For Ross, a cattle producer, the sight of an elk was met with concern. He fears that as the herd grows, the animals will damage his fences and graze in his pastures, costing him money as they go. Anderson and Ross represent a spectrum of opinions that has existed since October 2010 when the Missouri Conservation Commission approved a plan to return wild elk to the state. Now, one full year into the project’s implementation, questions and concerns still exist, even as more elk are expected to arrive from Kentucky this month. During the past 12 months, Missouri’s elk herd has grown and currently numbers 36 animals. Five calves were born last spring at Peck Ranch Conservation Area where the herd was released. Three of the animals originally brought from Kentucky died of various causes. According to Preston Mabry, a wildlife biologist Three bull elk, each fitted with a GPS tracking collar, keep watch at Peck Ranch Conservation Area in southeast Misfor the Missouri Department of Conservation and souri last December. These were among the first 34 wild elk to arrive in Missouri as part of an elk restoration project. area manager at Peck Ranch, an abundance of food has been available for the elk on the 23,000-acre The herd also has maintained its fear of people, Damage to private property has been a top conconservation area. shying away when approached and staying out of cern for opponents of the restoration plan. However, In preparation for the project, MDC made extensight most of the time. in the project’s first year, the elk have been reluctant sive habitat improvements at Peck Ranch, reclaim“They’re pretty skittish. They’re definitely not the to venture away from Peck Ranch and seemingly ing and expanding many of the old fields and food ones that you may see in a park setting,” said Mabry, haven’t caused trouble for neighbors. In fact, Randy plots that existed from earlier restoration efforts for who added that the best time to see the elk has been Ross is the only private landowner to date to call white-tailed deer and wild turkey. When combined in the early morning at sunrise. “When you go in MDC and report an elk on his property. with a large acorn crop last fall and a the valley, you might get a glimpse of them and The livestock producer owns land about two mild winter, the lush fields of clover then they’re going to run off.” miles south of Peck Ranch, and he spotted a cow elk and grasses have kept the elk content. The elk’s elusiveness is something to which in one of his pastures last year. An avid hunter who “We see them mostly in our fields, Eminence’s Mayor Anderson can attest. has hunted elk in the West, the Ozark Border Elecbut every now and then, they will wan“We’ve been down there 11 times and tric Cooperative member finds himself in a position der,” said Mabry, who explained that each have seen just one cow elk,” said the of loving the animal but having reservations about Eminence elk is fitted with a GPS collar, allowing Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative what impact they could have on his livelihood. • researchers to track movements and learn member. “We’re excited about the re“If I had a house and five acres, I’d be tickled to how elk are using the landscape. “They turn of elk to Missouri. We expect big death,” he said. “I love elk. I don’t care for them go off for one or two days, and they come things out of it in the future.” being on my property as long as they’re not with my right back. They’ve spent most of their time in the Anderson said he and other business people in cattle eating my grass and tearing my fences down.” main valley inside our refuge area.” Eminence are starting to promote the elk herd as a Ross said he’s concerned about what will happen The food plots, along with woodland managelocal attraction. The community has even set aside when the population increases and when food or ment practices that were underway before the elk the first weekend in October for an “Elk Days” event. water aren’t as abundant. He questioned how effecproject was approved, have benefited other game MDC created an elk-viewing route through Peck tive the conservation department will be at coercing and non-game species, says MDC’s Ryan Houf, who Ranch’s 11,000-acre refuge area to offer people a nuisance elk away from private property. has overseen the habitat work at Peck Ranch. chance at seeing the animals. Mabry said there’s “They say they’ll take care of it, but I don’t guess I “Last year, we had our first recorded quail hatch been a noticeable increase in traffic at the conservaunderstand how they’re going to take care of it,” he in at least 10 years,” he said. “We’re also seeing tion area since the elk arrived. Currently, the route is said. “An elk isn’t going to just stand there and let more songbird species, and the deer and turkey are closed in anticipation of the arrival of more elk from you catch it.” benefitting, too.” Kentucky and to avoid disturbance during calving In March, MDC hosted an elk habitat workshop. In the coming year, plans call for enlarging and time, but Mabry said they plan to reopen it again Cost-share programs for elk-habitat improvements improving more existing habitat at Peck Ranch and sometime mid-summer. are available to landowners within and immediately at nearby Current River Conservation Area to meet Houf and Mabry said they expect around 35 elk surrounding the 221,000-acre elk restoration zone in the elk’s grazing needs. to be delivered to Peck Ranch from Kentucky someShannon, Carter and Reynolds counties. By improvDespite being placed in a new environment, the time in May. A majority of the lot will be pregnant ing habitat on land where elk are welcome, it’s hoped elk have behaved as elk should during their first year cows, and with normal calf survival, Missouri’s herd the animals won’t roam where they’re not wanted. at Peck Ranch. In the fall, the mature bulls began could top 80 elk by the end of summer. For Ross, it’s a matter of economics. “My cattle bugling and gathering harems of cows. Mabry said It’s anticipated that the newcomers will comminare a big part of my income,” he said. “I can’t have he received reports of bugling as late as January and gle with the elk already living at Peck Ranch. The elk eating my hay. I’m not going to feed them.” February. It’s expected that most of the 13 mature biggest question on everyone’s mind, Mabry said, is cows in the herd are pregnant and will deliver calves whether the addition of more elk will cause the herd For more information on the elk restoration project, early this summer. to disperse past the boundaries of Peck Ranch. visit and search “elk restoration.” Making themselves at home Opinions differ as elk restoration project enters second year 16 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP photo courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2012

Rural Missouri - May 2012
Table of Contents
Moonshine mystique
Missouri snapshots contest
Curbing copper theft
Out of the Way Eats
The mandolin man
Knight for hire
Hearth and Home
The kid with the electric car
News Briefs
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - May 2012