Elk hunting could return to Missouri next year but on a very limited scale.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Missouri Department of Conservation suggests in a draft set of rules published this week that it may initially only award five elk hunting permits through a lottery system.

Elk once were common in the state but were eradicated by the end of the Civil War. There were reintroduced in 2011, and the herd now totals around 175 animals. Officials say the small number of permits eventually could grow to as many as 30 if current reproduction rates push the number of elk in the state to more than 400.

The plan has received initial approval from the Missouri Conservation Commission and is now in the public comment stage.