Drought may be contributing to recent elk deaths - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Drought may be contributing to recent elk deaths

(Source: Missouri Department of Conservation) (Source: Missouri Department of Conservation)

Recent record heat and drought could be contributing to death among the relocated elk populations, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Several elk died in mid-to-late July and were part of a group relocated earlier this year from Kentucky to Missouri's elk restoration zone in Carter, Shannon, and Reynolds counties.

Test results from veterinary laboratories have not pinpointed one specific cause of death for all elk. A combination of stress from the move, and  extreme heat and drought conditions appear to be factors.

Three newborn calves from elk moved to Missouri this year died in June shortly after birth. One elk and her calf form the 2011 restoration group died while birthing in early June.

MDC Resource Scientist Lonnie Hansen say that all the restored elk went through a series of health tests after capture in Kentucky and received clean bills of health before being relocated.

Hansen says that about 80 remaining elk are staying close to or on Peck Ranch and the Nature Conservancy release site, indicating adequate food and water in these areas of the restoration zone.

Several other Midwestern states are also reporting heat and drought related livestock and wildlife deaths.

Hansen says the MDC expects some setbacks during the wildlife restoration project, especially dealing with grueling heat and drought. Elk are generally very adaptable and tough, and Missouri's restored herds will continue to adapt and grow.

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