The Missouri Department of Conservation has reopened a portion of the refuge area at Peck Ranch Conservation Area to public access through a driving loop for viewing elk and other wildlife.
MDC closed the refuge area in March in preparation for the arrival of Missouri’s first group of wild elk, which are part of the Department’s ongoing elk restoration project.
MDC has designated a driving loop along roads 1, 11 and 10 of the refuge area that offers elk and other wildlife viewing opportunities along fields, streams and forested areas. The driving loop begins at the conservation access office and is marked along the way. Other roads in the refuge area remain closed to the public. Managed deer hunts on conservation access will continue as planned for the fall.
Area Manager Ryan Houf explained that elk seek the shade and food of forested areas during hot summer months and tend to graze in open fields during cooler periods in the fall, winter and spring. He added that the area is not a wildlife preserve, and the elk are wild animals.
“While they remain mostly in the refuge area at this point, these several dozen elk have about 23,000 acres at Peck Ranch to roam, and about 221,500 acres within the larger elk restoration zone covering parts of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties, so catching a glimpse of them may be a challenge,” he said.
Houf cautioned that some gravel roads may not be accessible to vehicles without adequate ground clearance and some roads may be impassable at times due to due to high water levels at stream crossings or from flooding.
If people are fortunate to view elk, they must not disturb the animals in any way. Photographs are welcome, but the Missouri Wildlife Code prohibits the molesting, pursuing or enticing of wildlife, including elk, unless specifically permitted in the code or through related laws for activities such as hunting, fishing or trapping of specific species, which do not include elk.
MDC acquired 34 elk from Kentucky, which arrived at a holding pen on PRCA in early May. After an acclimation period, the elk – along with five new calves – were released to roam the rugged hills and valleys in the Carter County conservation area and eventually spread to the 221,500-acre elk restoration zone.
Directions to conservation area and maps are available through the MDC online “Conservation Area Atlas” at www.missouriconservation.org. Area maps and additional elk information are also available at the office when open.