Conservation Connection – Elk tours in southern Ozarks

If you’re looking for a great fall road trip idea and you love wildlife, the Missouri Department of Conservation has the outing for you. You owe it to yourself to check out the elk driving tour in the southern Missouri Ozarks. Dan Zarlenga visits KPLR 11 to fill us in on the tour.

Q. Can you give us a quick recap of the elk re-introduction program?
• Restoration efforts conducted in 2011-2013
• Elk trapping occurred in Kentucky
• After undergoing strict 90-day quarantine and health protocols, they were transported to Missouri and released in the nearly 350-square mile Elk Restoration Zone between Ellington and Winona in Shannon and Carter Counties
• This area chosen for excellent habitat and low road and people density
• Elk herd is stable, doing well, and growing gradually

Q. Where are the elk tours?
• Peck Ranch Conservation Area
• It begins at the main office and runs along a number of roads through the area
• The tour is periodically closed due to managed hunts and calving seasons—including this weekend—be sure to check with Twin Pines Conservation Education Center
• Current River Conservation Area
• Starts on Highway 106 west of Ellington
• Route traverses several roads and passes the shooting range, a log cabin and the fire tower

Q. Is the driving tour still available at Peck Ranch?
• Both are self-guided driving tours and take visitors through field, woods and glade habitats
• Some roads on the areas are primitive and gravel best driven by vehicles with adequate ground clearance and may be impassible during high water, so plan appropriately

Q.  What are the best conditions to view the elk?
• Elk tend to graze in open fields during cooler weather in fall
• Dawn and dusk are usually good times to see most wildlife
• Bring binoculars and cameras w/ telephoto or zoom lenses
• Might hear them bugling during the fall mating season

Q. What are some things visitors should keep in mind?
• Elk are wild animals
• That makes them so alluring but is also cause for respect
• Keep your distance
• Don’t get too close or provoke them in any way