(KPLR) - If you’re looking for a great fall road trip idea and you love wildlife, the conservation department might just have the perfect destination for you. Peck Ranch Conservation Area is where Missouri’s free-ranging elk—the first in 150 years—offer an outstanding viewing opportunity on some our state’s most beautiful landscapes. Dan Zarlenga gave John Fuller an update on the elk status and more information about viewing them.
Q. So how are Missouri’s elk doing this season?
- The elk are doing well
- This year’s milder temperatures were much less stressful on the heard than last year’s heat and drought
- We currently have more than 100 elk at Peck Ranch
- Now through November is an excellent time to view them because the animals a very active with the males are wooing the females by their mournful bugling calls
Q. Can you give us a quick recap of the elk re-introduction program?
- First elk trapping occurred in Kentucky in January of 2011
- The first group arrived at Peck Ranch in May of 2011
- Same procedure for 2012 and 2013, with the program wrapping up this year
- After undergoing strict 90-day quarantine and health protocols, they were transported to Missouri and released at Peck Ranch Conservation Area in the 364-square mile Elk Restoration Zone in rural Reynolds, Shannon and Dent Counties
- Elk are fitted with radio tracking collars to monitor their movements
Q. So how can viewers see these elk for themselves?
- We’ve set up a self-guided driving tour at Peck Ranch Conservation Area through fields woods and glades
- The route begins at the Peck Ranch office and is marked along the way.
- Peck Ranch is located near Winona in Shannon County with entrances off both Route 19 and Route 60.
- Peck Ranch is open sunrise to sunset seven days a week—except during managed deer hunts, fall firearms deer season and in the event roads are closed due to weather.
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
Q. What are some things visitors should keep in mind?
- Roads on the area are primitive and gravel best driven by vehicles with adequate ground clearance and may be impassible during high water—so plan appropriately
- It is a beautiful area and there are plenty of wildlife and natural attractions nearby so there’s plenty to see even if you don’t catch a glimpse of elk
- A great stop close by would be Twin Pines Nature Center, a mile east of Winona on Route 60, or a drive up Stegall Mountain on Peck Ranch itself