Missouri Offers $20,000 Reward in Elk Poaching Investigation
The Missouri Department of Conservation is offering a large reward for information that leads to a conviction of elk poaching cases in the state.
Conservation officials announced they are offering a $20,000 reward after an elk was found illegally shot and killed on Nov. 18 in southern Missouri.
Joe Jerek, media coordinator, said the poacher shot the female adult elk on National Park Service property near the end of M Highway in Carter County.
He said agents with the department found the dead elk completely intact. However, by the time the dead cow elk was found by conservation agents, the meat was no longer salvageable for donation.
This is not the first time officials have found poached elk in this region. Six elk have been killed over the past several years. None of those cases have led to a successful conviction.
Jerek said the investigation of each incident is ongoing and the cases are a priority for the department, which has allotted resources to find the person or group responsible.
The reward is being offered through the Operation Game Thief hotline, which is a toll-free number that allows members of the public to report potential cases of poaching.
The hotline is a joint effort between the conservation department and the Conservation Federation of Missouri.
In addition, individuals can donate funds that can be used for reward money to those that report violations of wildlife law.
The continued increase in the state’s elk herd is one of the conservation department’s success stories.
Elk were once found throughout most of the state, but by the mid-1880s market hunting had erased any trace of free-ranging elk from the Missouri landscape.
From 2011 through 2013, MDC reintroduced 108 elk captured in Kentucky onto Peck Ranch Conservation Area in the Missouri Ozarks. These elk formed the base of Missouri’s current free-ranging elk herd of nearly 200 animals in parts of Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties.
Jerek said the conservation department is considering opening a limited elk hunting season in the fall of 2020. The department will receive its final herd size numbers this month, which will play a decisive role on when the hunting season will open.
Last year, Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that increased the penalties for poaching wildlife species such as elk. The new fine amounts include $10,000 to $15,000 for each elk killed illegally.
Anyone with any information related to this investigation or other open elk-poaching investigations can report it to Operation Game Thief at 1-800-392-1111. The hotline is managed 24 hours a day, and callers may remain anonymous. Callers should request to be considered for the reward if the information leads to conviction.