More than 73,600 acres covered in green pine and oak trees, Peck Ranch Conservation Area is a sight for sore city eyes. The plot also includes glades, wetlands and some cropland. Traveling up the narrow, winding gravel road to the top of scenic Stegall Mountain, one takes note of the charred branches of trees where a controlled fire was set to allow new vegetation to grow. Although the trunks and limbs are black and caked with soot, bright green forage and wildflowers thrive to be over three feet high.
Thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation, one of the most fascinating facts about Peck Ranch is it just became home to just over 100 adult elk. That number is growing, as the cows that were reintroduced to this area have started to calve. One way of keeping these elk from overpopulating and roaming too far from their desired home at Peck Ranch is introducing a public elk hunting season. Barbara Keller, an MU biologist studying elk since their reintroduction in 2011, is confident in the success of a hunting season in five to ten years.
Keller also mentioned how much the surrounding community has benefitted from the reintroduction of the elk. “Peck Ranch is already a popular turkey and deer hunting ground,” Keller said. “Right now we’re in bow season, but we get way more traffic with rifle season.”
“There is a huge boost in the economy. We get people from all over coming to take the elk tour,” Keller said. “I love it. I’m excited for the sight, their behavior, the bugling, and it’s something different.”
Edited by Alicia Stice