Elk Habitat and Herd Management
Elk use a variety of habitats, but a mix of forest and openings, dominated by grass and herbaceous plants, is ideal. Elk also use forest openings, glades and woodland habitats. Since the mid-1990’s habitat management on public lands and other properties in and around the restoration zone have created habitat that is conducive to numerous wildlife species, including elk.
The plan calls for releasing up to 150 cow and bull elk beginning in early 2011. Following our established animal-health-testing protocol, elk were held in a pen in the state of origin for disease testing prior to moving to Missouri. After disease testing was complete, the elk were transported to a temporary holding facility on MDC land in the restoration zone to further evaluate animal health, minimize movement, let the elk acclimate to the new environment and fit the elk with radio collars and microchips to track movement. Survival and reproductive rates and population growth will be closely monitored. Hunting will be the primary tool in Missouri to maintain a desired population size and to help keep elk in the restoration zone. The Department has procedures to deal with any elk that wander onto private land where they are not welcome and will respond to landowner complaints.
Working in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Agriculture and wildlife health experts from other states, we have stringent animal-health testing guidelines to ensure that Missouri’s wildlife and livestock remain healthy. The health-testing protocol for elk restoration effort is more stringent than animal-movement protocols currently required to move livestock or captive elk into Missouri. Other states with successful elk restoration projects have followed similar health protocols that have resulted in no cases of disease transmission to livestock or wildlife.
Our extensive animal-health protocols include testing all elk for chronic wasting disease. The Missouri Department of Agriculture states that current research shows there is no evidence that CWD can spread from infected elk to livestock, such as sheep or cattle.