When asked by State Representative Don Wells for a show of hands by those opposing introduction of elk in Missouri, all but five of the 100 plus in attendance at the Ozarks Property Rights Congress(OPRC) August 26 meeting raised their hands.
Wells, who said anyone releasing elk should be responsible for any damage caused, spoke at the meeting in Mountain Grove. The meeting also featured a presentation by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Forrest Supervisor Clint Dalbom explaining the MDC proposal to establish free roaming elk in southern Missouri. Dalbom was assisted by Aaron Jeffries,assistant to the director MDC.
The standing room only crowd also heard from Ray Cunio of Sullivan, who told of the same attempt made by MDC ten years ago that was dropped because of public and legislative concerns over liability for damage caused by free roaming elk, disease and habitat. He said nothing has changed from the landowners standpoint from 10 years ago. Cunio pointed out that the stated reason MDC gives for the stocking of elk is to reestablish a species that was here up until the 1800`s.”This is no longer the 1800`s” he said. “Times, conditions, and Missouri have changed. We`re not interested in going backwards”. He said the only place elk herds should be established in the Ozarks is behind elk tight fences as domestic elk breeders have to do as there is no other way to insure the animals will not end up on private property where they will be destructive.
Dalbom said the plan is to release elk in an area straddling parts of Reynolds, Carter, and Shannon counties on mostly public owned land. Dalbom said MDC will devise a method of dealing with elk which stray from the designated area and keeping elk mainly on public land and away from where they are not wanted. He said hunting and establishing food plots will be used as tools to keep the herd in check.
Bob Parker, who identified himself as an avid elk hunter, “who loves elk” but doesn`t want them on the roads or on private property, told of his personal knowledge of the wide ranging elk’s ability to travel long distances in a short time. He said ” If they are released, they will soon be in our back yard as the herd expands, and we don`t want them here.” Parker also related examples of bad experiences including automobile fatalities citizens are having with elk in other states.
OPRC chairman Russell Wood said,” The simplified version of the groups opposition would be (ONE) We don`t believe that all elk can be contained in a prescribed free roaming area beyond perhaps the first few years. In time they will spread and we will all be feeding and sharing the roadways with elk regardless of the good intentions of our Governor and the MDC who want to get this done. (TWO) Elk will do damage to fences, pastures, crops, gardens, feed storage areas and worst of all people will be killed each and every year in car-elk collisions Any perceived benefit from establishing a free roaming elk herd in southern Missouri cannot offset these inevitable consequences.”
A former Arkansas resident who now lives in Missouri spoke of her personal knowledge of the problems caused by free roaming elk that have been reintroduced in Arkansas. She said she is adamantly opposed to elk being established here.
The crowd broke into spontaneous applause after a local dairy farmer gave a detailed and emotional plea against having free roaming elk released to add yet another burden to his daily struggles.
Since the MDC representatives minimized the likelihood of accidents and damage caused by elk, Cunio suggested they recommend MDC go ahead and accept responsibility for damages as they consider it to be an insignificant matter.
The five supporters of elk introduction in attendance spoke of the pleasures of having elk in the area, but didn`t appear to convince the landowners
Everyone was encouraged to contact MDC and let their opinion on introducing elk in Missouri be known.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is accepting public comment on their Elk Restoration proposal until October 1, 2010. You can mail your comments to them at Missouri Department of Conservation, Director’s Office, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. Or you can make your comments online at www.mdc.mogov/contact-us/elk-restoration-comments