Due to uncontrolled hunting and habitat loss, elk disappeared from the Oklahoma Ozarks more than 150 years ago. In 2005, The Nature Conservancy reintroduced a herd of elk to the hills and hollows along the Illinois River. The release of elk at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature & Wildlife Preserve near Tahlequah was the first project of its kind in the United States for The Nature Conservancy.
To ensure the sustainability of this free-ranging elk population, we need your help!
Without suitable habitat, elk would soon disappear from the Ozarks in northeastern Oklahoma. The loss of this key grazer has undoubtedly affected this ecosystem that evolved and developed over millennia. Ongoing native grass restoration and an expanded fire management program will continue to enhance the habitat they need to thrive. Additionally, the management of a long-term food plot is critical to continue attracting them to the core of the preserve so they can remain safe and fed during times of reduced forage.
Elk aren’t the only ones attracted to the habitat. More and more Oklahomans are visiting the Illinois River area to see and photograph these magnificent animals. This herd provides unique wildlife watching opportunities, and those who come to see them provide additional tourist revenue for local economies.
By restoring the land they call home, we are reestablishing elk as a principal mammal which will continue to shape these woodland and savanna landscapes. Additionally, we are restoring a truly majestic piece of our natural heritage to Oklahoma’s Ozarks. Donate to help this elk herd thrive in the Oklahoma Ozarks!
For more information, visit our website at www.nature.org/oklahoma. Thank you for helping protect Oklahoma's precious lands and waters!