JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's elk population is growing, but the state's conservation agency isn't quite ready to start issuing hunting permits for the herds.
The Jefferson City News-Tribune reported that the state has about 125 elk after reintroducing the animal to Missouri's native wildlife population several years ago by trapping about 50 annually in Kentucky and taking them to the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in southeast Missouri.
Some died during the relocation and a 2012 drought, and the herd will now grow only through reproduction.
The Missouri Department of Conservation Department has said it would start issuing a handful of permits if the herd grows to about 200 elk, a target that remains several years away based on current reproduction rates. That could increase to about 30 permits annually if the herd grows as large as 400 to 500 elk.
Alan Leary, a state wildlife management coordinator, said the Conservation Department is encouraging population growth with habitat improvements that also aid other species.
“It is more of an ecosystem approach,” he said. “We are trying to help all different sorts of wildlife, but it is also beneficial to the elk.”
Elk were common in Missouri before European settlement but had been eradicated from the state by the end of the Civil War. They can be seen on driving tours at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Shannon County near Winona and the Current River Conservation Area.
Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com