By Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio
ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved a plan to restore wild elk to Missouri.
The plan calls for releasing up to 150 elk in a 346-square-mile area in the southeastern part of the state, including parts of Shannon, Carter, and Reynolds counties.
The Missouri Farm Bureau's director of state and local governmental affairs, Leslie Holloway, said the elk will damage crops and property, and put motorists at risk.
Holloway said elk can also infect domestic cattle with a variety of diseases, including brucellosis, chronic wasting disease, and bovine tuberculosis. She says the Missouri Department of Conservation should be held accountable for any problems.
"And there's already a move to have legislation introduced to try to ensure that the department has liability for any damage, whether it be personal injury or property damage that might be caused by elk."
Joe Jerek of the Missouri Department of Conservation said the reintroduction area has few roads or farms and that all of the elk will be microchipped and tracked with radio collars. "And any elk that wander onto land, private land where they're not welcome, we have staff who will respond within 24 hours to remove the elk."
According to the MDC, about 80 percent of the area is made up of public lands, or private holdings that are open to the public.
Jerek said the elk will undergo rigorous health testing before being brought into Missouri, and will provide economic benefits to the state through increased tourism and hunting.