Landowners attend Elk Habitat Workshop

ELLINGTON, Mo. – Landowners in the Missouri Ozarks have a variety of habitat types on their properties. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) employs a variety of methods to help landowners promote wildlife habitat, including workshops where landowners and biologists meet and discuss options such as cost shares and what wildlife habitat really is and needs.

This was the goal March 10 as landowners from Reynolds, Shannon and Carter counties attended MDC’s Elk Habitat Workshop at Ellington City Hall. MDC biologists discussed priority elk-habitat practices, habitat cost-share opportunities and gave an update on Missouri’s 2012 elk herd. The workshop was specifically designed for landowners within and immediately surrounding the elk zone, which spans parts of Reynolds, Carter and Shannon counties.

Landowners Ron and Sandy Morton have about 500 acres within Missouri’s elk zone and are preparing to add wildlife food plots to their already diverse landscape. The Morton’s attended the workshop and said they found all the information to be helpful, but they were surprised what they learned about their land.

“Everything they talked about, from glades to woodlands, we’ve got that on our property,” said Sandy Morton.

The Morton’s said they’re looking forward to seeing more deer and turkey, and hopefully eventually some elk on their property, which is why they attended the workshop.

“This was very informative on what elk habitat is and we’re happy to hear the status on this year’s elk herd that’s coming in,” said Ron Morton, adding that he hopes someday his children and grandchildren will enjoy viewing elk on his property.

According to MDC Private Lands Services Regional Supervisor Tony Jaco, workshops like the Elk Habitat Workshop are one way MDC works with landowners to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife.

“The vast majority of land in Missouri is under direct ownership and influence of private landowners,” Jaco said. “When we consider that private landowners own more than 93 percent of all land and 85 percent of forest land in our state, we see the importance of working with them to develop priority practices that will sustain healthy forests and promote wildlife.”

According to Jaco, priority elk-habitat practices include woodland restoration, prescribed burning and food plots designed for elk and other wildlife.

This is right in line with what’s been done on the property of Phil and Charlotte Moss, whose family has owned land in Shannon County since the 1940s. They’ve already implemented an elk-habitat cost-share cooperative with MDC.

“We’ve disked up an area and are working to turn it into a wildlife food plot area and we’re really looking forward to see more wildlife, hopefully elk, on our land,” said Phil Moss.

But the Moss and Morton families see Missouri’s new elk herd as beneficial to the entire elk zone and Missouri.

“We see how the elk are increasing revenue through tourism,” Morton said, adding that they regularly interact with visitors to the community who come just to get a glimpse of the elk at Peck Ranch Conservation Area.

“We’re glad to see elk coming to Missouri,” said Moss.

MDC restored 34 elk to the 23,048-acre conservation area in the spring of 2011. The elk continue to thrive in the habitat and will be joined by a second group of elk from Kentucky this spring. More information about elk restoration in Missouri, habitat development and landowner workshops can be found online at mdc.mo.gov.