Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officials have confirmed that elk restoration efforts in the state will begin this spring.
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.
“Elk have been trapped and are now being held in Kentucky for a required quarantine period,” said David Allen, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), which pledged $300,000 to assist Virginia with its elk reintroduction efforts. “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.”
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.
“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.”
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, including Missouri.