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Officials investigating dead elk found in Cooper County

The Missouri Department of Conversation is investigating what happened to a bull elk that was found dead in southern Cooper County Wednesday night.

At this time, officials are not releasing a cause of death. A necropsy, or an animal autopsy, took place Thursday to determine an official cause of death.

“At this point in time, we have this ongoing investigation and we want to make sure that we do our due diligence in trying to find out what happened to this animal,” said Brian Ham, District Supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Currently in Missouri, it is illegal to hunt elk because there is no elk hunting season. Knowingly killing an elk is a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in up to one year of imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or both.

Officials are also working to determine where the elk may have come from.

In 2011, the Department of Conservation began an elk reintroduction program in three southeastern counties: Carter, Reynolds and Shannon. Between 2011 and 2013 approximately 108 elk were released in the restoration area near and around the Peck Ranch Conservation Area.

Officials said elk usually do not wander very far, so they don’t believe the elk found in Cooper County came from their reintroduced population.

“There is no indication at this time that elk is from our reintroduction efforts,” Ham said. “There’s also no evidence apparent at this time that it came from a captive herd. So where the origins are, that’s what we’re working to find out right now.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-392-1111.

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