(NODAWAY COUNTY, Mo.) A driver in Nodaway County got a big surprise Monday morning when they hit and killed an animal, and it wasn't a deer.
The Nodaway County Sheriff's Office said they received a call of a tractor-trailer hitting an elk on Highway 71 near Route M, south of Maryville around 5:30 a.m.
The Missouri Department of Conservation said elk are historically native to the state, but the population had disappeared due to habitat loss and overhunting before the department formed and instated regulations.
"We have started a restoration program but that's in south Missouri," Eric Abbott, a district supervisor with the MO Department of Conservation, said.
The program began roughly six to eight years ago, and involved elk being brought in from other states to the Ozarks area of Missouri. Abbott said once the population gets big enough in the next year or two, the department can initiate an elk season.
"We're waiting for our population to get up to a certain number," Abbott said. "We are currently entertaining the dates of our first elk season here in the next few years."
The department said elk are spotted in the Northwest region of the state every year, but that it's very uncommon for them to be found along the roadway.
"Each year we still get reports and photos from game cameras where elk have migrated into Northwest Missouri," Abbott said. "Having one that was struck on the road today was still very odd. It's the second one we've had in six to seven years. The other one was on I-29 several years ago."
The one hit on Monday was a two to three year old bull. Abbott said the majority of the elk spotted in this region usually fit the same description (young males), but they're unsure where exactly the animals are coming from and don't believe they're coming from the south.
"They're moving out of their normal territory and I guess they're searching for their own new breeding territory or something," Abbott said.
The Department said to contact them if any elk are sighted in the area.