A southeast Missouri woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to illegally killing a protected elk and leaving its carcass in a field.

JEFFERSON CITY — A southeast Missouri woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to illegally killing a protected elk and leaving its carcass in a field. 

Deborah Flanigan, 50, of Scott County, was charged with a misdemeanor Sept. 10 after an investigation by the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

The case against Flanigan is one of six investigations into the killing of elk in Missouri in recent years, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The other five investigations are continuing.

The elk carcass was found in Carter County in November 2019, with no meat or other parts taken. 

Elk were reintroduced to Missouri in 2011 and the herd has grown to about 200, with a range in parts of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties.

The state is planning its first elk hunt  in October, which drew thousands of applications for the five permits that will be issued.

"A healthy, growing elk population brings significant economic, recreational, and cultural benefits to these communities," said Randy Doman, protection chief for the conservation department. "The senseless waste of people's resources should not be tolerated."