The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has closed the refuge portion of Peck Ranch Conservation Area in south-central Missouri to turkey hunting for this year to permit a species restoration project. Hunters who normally hunt on the area’s wildlife refuge portion should make alternate plans for the 2011 spring turkey season.
According to the area’s manager, Ryan Houf, Peck Ranch’s refuge was vital to restoring the thundering gobble of the wild turkey back the Ozark hills. Now the area has been called on again to play an important part of restoring another of Missouri’s native species back to the landscape, the elk.
The MDC announced the temporary closure to accommodate the elk restoration activity at Peck Ranch this spring. Hunting will still be allowed on approximately 12,000 acres outside the marked refuge fence, according to Houf.
“Turkey season is a time we spend all year looking forward to, and I want to thank hunters for understanding and for doing their part to help create an area free of disturbance so the newly reintroduced elk can become acclimated to their new home,” Houf said. “With these efforts Peck Ranch Refuge will become the same success story for elk restoration as it was for the wild turkey.”
Houf worked on the elk trapping team in Pineville, Ky., and is heavily involved in preparation for the elk’s arrival in late April. Houf said elk are highly susceptible to human disturbance, and the MDC wants to minimize human presence near the holding facility.
“Our primary concern is the health and welfare of the elk herd that will be acclimating to the area,” Houf said. “By temporarily closing the refuge, we are making sure we are taking every available precaution to successfully protect and restore the native species to Missouri.”
Houf said even the individuals caring for the elk will be taking great care to stay out of sight from the holding pen as much as possible. The elk can become very nervous if they hear, see or smell people nearby.
“Maintaining a calm environment while the elk are in the holding pen is essential to their safety and health,” he said.
Any type of human interaction can cause undue stress and potential injury to the elk. He added that news media or other visitors will not be allowed at the holding site while the elk are present for the same reasons.
Houf said hunters are welcome to hunt outside the refuge. Maps of the area are available at www.MissouriConservation.org or at the Peck Ranch CA headquarters. The fenced refuge area is clearly marked, he said.
MDC established Peck Ranch Conservation Area in 1945 for wild turkey management. For the past 30 years, MDC has used diverse management techniques, including prescribed fire and timber harvests, to maintain and restore natural communities there. This has created habitat for a wide range of native wildlife, including elk.
For more information, call the Peck Ranch at 573-323-4249.