I got a news release today from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation saying that wildlife officials in Virginia elk restoration is moving forward. Plans call for up to 75 elk from Kentucky to be released in Virginia this spring. The move will provide instant opportunities for elk viewing, and the hope is that elk numbers will expand enough to allow limited hunting within four or five years. You can read the full release below.
I have to admit I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to elk restoration. Two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to draw a cow elk tag in Kentucky and enjoyed a tremendous week of hunting down there that included plenty of elk sightings and the taking of a mature cow. The Kentucky elk range is stunning, and the success of their restoration effort there is nothing short of amazing. From roughly 1,000 Rocky Mountain Elk that were trapped out West and transferred to the Bluegrass State, Kentucky now boasts a wild, free-roaming elk herd in excess of 10,000 animals. Roughly 1,000 hunting permits are issued each year.
Although the plans in Virginia don't call for a restoration area or elk herd as large as Kentucky's, it's still an exciting development and a victory for wildlife and the dedicated sportsmen whose conservation-minded efforts are paying real dividends. I may never be lucky enough to draw a Virginia elk tag in my lifetime, but that won't stop me from relishing the fact that the animals are there and that the echoing bugles of rutting bulls can once again be heard in yet another portion of their historic Appalachian range.
Here's the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation release:
Virginia Officials Confirm Elk Restoration to Begin Soon
MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been officially notified that elk restoration efforts in Virginia will begin this spring.
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officials confirmed the news to RMEF, the project's leading financial contributor with a pledge of $300,000. RMEF leaders say they will now step up local fundraising efforts to ensure the project, once started, continues to move forward and remains on schedule.
RMEF has received numerous donations for the project, including several large gifts from Virginia donors. Still, about half of the pledged amount needs to be raised.
Plans call for relocating up to 75 elk from Kentucky to Buchanan County, Va., with an elk management area to include Dickenson and Wise counties. Biologists are hoping for a sustainable elk population that will offer recreational opportunities such as elk viewing in the short term and a limited hunting season within four or five years.
David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, said, "Elk have been trapped and are now being held in Kentucky for a required quarantine period. The animals will be monitored and tested repeatedly to assure good health. Later, they will be moved to southwest Virginia and held for a second period to allow them to adapt to their new surroundings, and then released in May."
"We are excited about bringing elk home to Virginia," said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Director Bob Duncan. "And we're excited about the opportunity to partner with RMEF — a leader in wildlife habitat conservation. RMEF's support of our agency and our elk restoration project, not only monetarily but through technical assistance and support from RMEF members and chapters throughout Virginia, has been overwhelming. This partnership is beneficial not only to the restoration of elk in southwest Virginia but also to other wildlife species and programs in the area."
RMEF invested more than $28,000 in 1996 for an initial elk restoration feasibility study in Virginia. Wildlife agency commissioners in 2010 voted unanimously to move forward with the project.
Kentucky's elk herd, the largest herd east of the Rockies, was restored with financial and technical support from RMEF in the 1990s. That herd now numbers more than 10,000 animals, is a major tourism draw, offers ever-increasing hunting opportunities and is now serving as a source herd for restoration efforts in other states.
To be a part of this historic conservation effort in Virginia, join and support RMEF. Visit www.rmef.org and click "Attend an Event" to find fundraisers planned across the state. For additional information, call 800-CALL ELK or contact Chris Croy, RMEF regional director for Virginia, at 704-551-6223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.