The Conservation Department is investigating whether the drought is responsible for the deaths of some of the elk the state has imported over the last two years.
Biologist Lonnie Hansen says several have died recently, and there is no doubt the drought is impacting them but it’s unclear if it’s a factor in those deaths.
“You know we’ve put them into a pretty rough environment with the drought and last year, when they were released, we had good conditions. We had great food plots and this year the food plots are all dried up and while the elk are tough and they can make a living out of what’s in the woods and things, we are seeing a bit of mortality as a result of, we think at least somehow related to the drought that we’re seeing down in southeast Missouri.”
Hansen says it is likely that drought will be no more than a contributing factor in those deaths. “Generally elk are very adaptable and very tough critters and we expect, while there might be some setbacks here and there, they’ll still do well.”
Samples from the dead animals have been sent to the University of Missouri and the University of Georgia. Hansen says of what he expects the results will reveal, “These animals, to get them here went through a lot of stress and so it’s probably more related to a combination of factors and we’re trying to figure those out right now to see if there’s anything we can do to resolve some of the issues.”