Bison Herd At Lone Elk Park
- Title: Bison Herd At Lone Elk Park
- State/Province/Region: Missouri
- Country: United States
- Nearest Area: St. Louis County
- Nearest Town: St. Louis
- Brief Directions: Intersection of U.S. Highway 44 and Missouri Highway 141; north outer road on the west side of Highway 141; follow the signs.
- Best Season: Winter
- Description: In 1941, the United States government acquired nearly 2,600 acres of land in west St. Louis County, Missouri to test, store, and ship ammunitions. The facility was known as the Tyson Valley Army Powder Storage Farm. After World War II, the Farm was declared surplus lands and was acquired by St. Louis County Parks in 1947. On July 5, 1948, the Tyson Valley County Park was opened.
In February 1951, the Park Service acquired ten elk (two bulls and eight cows) from Yellowstone National Park and released them into the new County Park. Later that year, and due to the Korean War, the Department of the Army reclaimed most of the old Powder Storage Farm to once again test ammunition. At the end of the Korean War, the U.S. government still maintained ownership of the facility.
By 1958, the elk herd had grown to 103 animals and was overgrazing the land. For safety reasons, and due to insufficient funds to adequately feed the elk during the winter months, the army decided to remove the entire herd. This occurred between October 1958 and March 1959, and all of the elk were thought to have been removed.
In 1963, the federal government again declared the Powder Valley Farm as surplus land. At that time, the St. Louis Parks Department acquired 405 acres of the Farm. Shortly thereafter, the Parks Department noticed large tracks around the Park, and the locals rumored that a cow or other large animal was loose in the area. One morning, a park worker sighted a full-grown bull elk standing seven feet tall. Somehow, one elk calf had survived the elk hunt of 1958-59; the elk was either hiding or mistaken for a deer at the time of the round up. The elk was subsequently named the "Lone Elk".
The County Parks Department constructed a fence along the Park boundary but left a gap. It was the job of the then Park supervisor to determine that the elk had crossed through the gap and into the Park. Park staff dumped sand at the gap and waited. When a set of elk tracks was seen entering the Park, the gap in the fence was closed.
Students from the Rockwood School District's elementary schools collected funds to purchase additional elk from Yellowstone. In 1966, after eight years of being the solitary elk, the "Lone Elk" was joined with members of its kind. Bison were introduced to the Park in 1973 from the St. Louis Zoo, and both herds have occupied the Park since then.
Today, Lone Elk Park is a gem in the St. Louis County Park system, with a herd of bison (currently one male, ten females and four newborn calves) as well as a herd of elk (currently five males, 12 females and 9 newbord calves). Other wildlife includes white tail deer, numerous bird species, several skunk families, turtles and more.
The best season for bords is winter. However, the other wildlife is present year round.
I am posting photos of some of the wildlife that I have encounered over the past two years.
- Gear: Canon EOS 5D
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