Missouri residents may see a limited elk hunt in 2020 if the state's elk herd continues to grow, according to Department of Conservation officials.
Department wildlife biologist Aaron Hildreth told the Springfield News-Leader there are about 170 adult elks living in the Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
A limited hunting season could be used to stop the herd from getting too large if three criteria are met, he said. There needs to be at least 200 elks, the elk herd has a growth rate of at least 10 percent for three consecutive years and there's a ratio of 25 bull elk for every 100 females to ensure herd growth.
"Right now we have two of the three," Hildreth said. "We're seeing herd growth of 12 to 16 percent" and the male-to-female ratio is above 25 percent.
The herd may reach the 200-elk goal sometime in the next two years, Hildreth said.
The agency plans to take public comment on how residents want officials to approach the elk hunt, he said. The Missouri Conservation Commission would need to approve the hunt rules.
Hildreth said the department has a target herd population of 400 to 500 elks. The first elk hunt would likely be limited to five or 10 permits for only bull elk.
"We know the permit draw odds are not good —there will be far more interest from people seeking a permit than available permits," he said. "This will also be a very dynamic process."