COLUMBIA, Mo. • Missouri conservation agents are preparing to allow elk hunting in the state beginning in 2016.

The Columbia Missourian reports that state officials expect to issue between 30 and 40 elk hunting permits but not until a herd that now numbers about 100 doubles in size.

The state Department of Conservation reintroduced elk to Missouri in 2010 by trapping about 50 annually in Kentucky and bringing the animals to the Peck Ranch Conservation Area in southeast Missouri for observation. The herd will now grow only through reproduction.

The conservation agency previously expected to allow elk hunting in 2015.

Elk were common in Missouri before European settlement but had been eradicated from the state by the end of the Civil War.