Missouri's elk restoration project is now five years old and as of Tuesday, December 29, 2016, has experienced its first apparent instance of poaching.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is actively investigating what appears to be an act of poaching, indicating in a news release on their website that the dead bull elk exhibited a gun shot wound and had its antlers removed.
The animal was found in the elk restoration zone in Shannon County, Missouri near the Current River.
The elk restoration project has been a high profile initiative as the agency seeks to bring this once native animal back to its original range. The MDC has worked closely with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and wildlife officials in Kentucky to coordinate this restocking.
Though this elk seems to be the first illegally killed animal, it is not the first to have perished over the last five years.
In addition to the stress of acclimatizing to their new environment, a small number of elk have contracted brainworms, which leave the animals in a lethargic and listless state. Eventually they fall prey to opportunistic predators like coyotes and mountain lions. Despite these factors, the herd, numbering around 120, continues to thrive and grow.
If indeed this bull was poached, the person dumb enough to do it will be dumb enough to brag about it...which is where you come in. If you have any tips regarding the fate of this elk, the MDC is asking to be contacted via their Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-392-1111. If your information is useful in the apprehension of the perpetrator, not only will you have helped solve Missouri's first modern instance of elk poaching, but you could be rewarded up to $1,000.
To learn more about the elk restoration project in Missouri, check out a video of an interview I did recently with the initiative's director, David Hasenback.