Hunting For Elk

Thursday, February 8th 2007, 10:51 am
By: News On 6

It's not elk hunting season in Oklahoma, but two bull elk were recently shot near Tahlequah. The animals had wandered away from a nature preserve in Adair County and were shot with the approval of state authorities. It happened just outside the Nature Conservancy’s Nickel Preserve.

News On 6 reporter Emory Bryan reports the elk are majestic animals which were long ago hunted out of existence in this part of the country. The elk were placed in Adair County by the Nature Conservancy, which hopes to build a self sustaining wild herd. But some of that hope was lost with the killing of two elk this past week.

"We're distressed by it, we wish we could have been able to work on a better solution, but that's the path they chose to take," said preserve director Chris Wilson. The two elk were shot by a nearby landowner who complained they were eating his crops. It was done with the authority of a state permit, issued by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Their problem is they have animals that aren't supposed to be there doing what they're not supposed to be doing," says Nels Rodefeld with the Department Wildlife Conservation.

The state issued four landowners enough permits to kill 20 animals and the next day, two were shot. The elk herd numbers about 60 animals, but with 18 of the permits to kill them outstanding, it could change what the Nature Conservancy is trying to do. They believe there is still some solution with the landowners, like Larry Langston, and point out that many landowners have such appreciation of the beauty of the elk and they don't want to see any more elk killed. "I haven't noticed any difference in the hay, it's the same depending on the rain, the elk don't bother us."

The state of Oklahoma won't tell the Nature Conservancy, or anyone else, who has the permits, but says Nels Rodefeld says the solution is communication. "If the conservancy can satisfy those landowners, they wouldn't have to use those permits.”

Even though the preserve is 15,000 acres, the elk risk being shot any time they wander off the property. With hundreds of nearby landowners, the Nature Conservancy hopes the odds are in their favor. Two years ago, the state wildlife department approved the re-introduction of the elk herd to the area, despite concerns raised about the elk wandering away.

The Nature Conservancy say some of the elk have wandered as far as 25 miles, but always returned.