MO Elk Return Home

When most people think about Elk in Missouri, they probably think of Lone Elk Park. Lone Elk County Park is a park home to Elk in Valley Park, Missouri. This park harbors a small herd of Elk that are a popular tourist attraction for sight-seeing. 


But, what most people don’t know is that Missouri actually has a free-range, wild Elk herd in Central Missouri. The Conservation Commission, along with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, introduced Elk to the state around 2010 to Peck Ranch Conservation Area in Carter County, Missouri. The 23,000 acre Conservation Area holds the 200 acre herd of Elk. 


This area was chosen because of the “1) suitable habitat conditions, 2) high public land ownership, 3) low public road density and 4) low density of row crops and livestock” (Mdc.Mo.Gov). 


But these Elk are no stranger to the Ozarks. Humans were actually the ones to drive them out of Missouri in the first place. Lewis and Clark have records of Elk as far as the eye can see when they were along the Missouri river near modern day Kansas City. Since humans expanded west and settled, they pushed Elk west into the Rocky Mountains. 


Now that the Department of Conservation has reintroduced Elk to their native habitat, they are thriving. Unlike the Elk in Lone Elk confined by a high fence, the Elk in Peck Ranch have hundreds of acres of pasture and rocky hillsides to roam. The Elk thrive in the Ozark hills where they once roamed. 


They have been thriving so much that there is now a managed Elk hunting season. The state does a lottery-style system every year where they give out 5 Bull Elk tags for both archery and rifle methods. This managed hunt provides an opportunity for hunters to experience something they normally have to drive 10+ hours for. It also provides significant funding for the Elk herd management. The Conservation Department is currently trying to keep the herd at around 200, so the hunting season helps to keep the herd in check.  This is a monumental accomplishment for Missouri because it provides another opportunity to pursue wild game in-state. 


The Department of Conservation has worked over the past 10 years to restore Elk to their native land. The herd adds to the biodiversity of Missouri and helps improve the state as a whole. The herd improves the land while simultaneously bringing in money through tourists and the hunting season. If you want a chance to see these majestic creatures, head down 1-55 to Peck Ranch or the surrounding public lands to have the best chance at seeing these beasts.