In Ripley County Roaming elk killed

Thursday, May 24, 2012

By MICHELLE FRIEDRICH

Associate Editor

Missouri Department of Conservation officials lethally removed a wild elk from a rugged area in southern Ripley County Wednesday afternoon after the animal recently roamed away from its restoration zone home.

The elk, one of the 36 animals released during last year's restoration effort at the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in northwestern Carter County, had wandered to within a mile of the Arkansas border in Ripley County, according to Joe Jerek, MDC spokesman.

A caller earlier this week to the Daily American Republic reported the elk had been spotted roaming in the Poynor area of Ripley County.

Jerek said MDC officials had been aware of the elk's "general movement south" and did not expect it to return to the restoration zone, a 346-square-mile area encompassing parts of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties.

On Wednesday, Jerek said, MDC officials were trying to locate the elk.

The goal, he said, had been to remove the elk from the area by darting it for sedation and transporting it out.

"I just found out this morning that yesterday afternoon the wandering elk was not able to be darted, so it was removed from the herd by lethal intervention," Jerek said. "It was shot.

"The carcass will be necropsied (autopsied) for study of the animal's health."

Jerek described putting the animal down as the "worse-case scenario."

MDC and University of Missouri-Columbia officials, Jerek said, had been tracking the elk's movements via its radio collar.

"All of our (adult) elk are fitted with radio collars to help monitor their movements," Jerek said.

The animals, Jerek said, pretty well stay on Peck Ranch in the restoration zone, which he described as being good habitat for them and the reason why it was chosen.

The animals are staying close, but on "occasion one will travel outside the restoration zone and then tends to come back," Jerek said. "We've had, literally, the single elk or two elk go outside and come back in.

" … This can happen. They're free, roaming wild animals. Elk out west tend to cover a lot of ground."

None wandering out of the restoration zone, Jerek said, have traveled as far as the one in Ripley County.

While there have been no complaints of damage due to the wandering elk, "earlier this week, we did get a request from a landowner in the area, who had the elk briefly on her property, to remove it," Jerek said.

MDC has protocol in place to remove wandering elk from where they are not wanted, and "MDC staff quickly responded," Jerek said.

Shortly after receiving the request, Jerek said, the elk wandered off the landowner's property.

Describing that area of Ripley County as "very rugged and wooded country," Jerek said, MDC officials worked with the land owner to locate the animal.

The collars, according to Jerek, are part of a research study by the University of Missouri to gain information on elk movement and habitat use, but they do not provide "real-time, exact locations of the elk."

The elk population doubled Saturday when a second tractor-trailer load of 35 wild elk arrived at Peck Ranch from Kentucky.

The animals were put in holding pens, where they will remain for about one month as they acclimate to their new home.

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