Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Virginia Gets More Elk, Holdover Bull Takes Immediate Notice

Buchanan County, Virginia
It didn't take long for the word to hit the “street.” Less than a week after the release of 10 elk in southwest Virginia, a lone bull released one year earlier made his way to the holding area. You can bet the two pregnant cows and eight yearlings just on the other side of the acclimation pen were well aware of his presence.

On May 24, 2013, workers introduced a second group of elk onto what was once native range hundreds of years earlier. This latest shipment of elk will spend a short time in the cordoned off area before their release into a herd of 24 already living in the War Fork area. “They used to be native here," David Whitehurst, director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Bureau of Wildlife Resources (VDGIF), told the Bristol Herald Courier. "The last one was killed in 1855. It's really exciting to be trying to restore one of Virginia's great animals back. It's real exciting to be restoring a majestic animal like the elk."

A look into Virginia’s past brings about a better appreciation of today’s current events. The last elk killed in the state was 158 years earlier. In 1917, the state released 125 elk hauled from Yellowstone Park into 11 counties, but the last died off by 1970. No elk roamed in Virginia until the late 1990s, when animals began spilling in from Kentucky’s successful restoration. Enter the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Working with the VDGIF and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, RMEF helped facilitate the reintroduction of 18 elk in Buchanan County. RMEF also raised approximately $300,000 to fund the project.

Courtesy David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier
"Over time, we as a human race have made mistakes, changed some things that shouldn't have been changed," Kim Delozier, RMEF Eastern Division land program manager, told the Bristol Herald Courier. "We lost some species. It’s part of our responsibility to bring back the one we can."

Whitehurst said the reclaimed mine land, since reseeded with a mixture of grasses to provide ample forage, is an ideal home for the elk. He also hopes to cap the reintroduction effort with an additional 50 elk in 2014 and then allow the herd to grow to 400, a population large enough to promote wildlife viewing and also offer limited hunting opportunities.

Courtesy David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier
 Among those witnessing the second round of reintroduction were Nancy (pictured above and left) and Howard Holland, who serve as chairs of the RMEF Habitat Council. They traveled all the way from Missouri to get a first-hand look.

"I've been a hunter and started going to Colorado in the late 1970s," Howard Holland told the Bristol Herald Courier. "Once you go out there, it kind of gets in your blood. Then we got involved with the elk foundation."

"I think people as a whole love to see large wild animals," said Delozier. "Elk ...they're a symbol of wildness."


  1. i was hunting rockbridge co. on new years day and found elk droppings is that possible

  2. Sure it's possible. The elk herd in Kentucky is well over 10,000 in size and some of the animals are already spilling into West Virginia. Although they prefer to remain in herds or bachelor herds, it would not be out of the question for a few of them to "go for a walk," so to speak. There are also elk in Tennessee and North Carolina.

  3. Here lately I have read several articles where Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has proposed closing hunting( or more accurately from allowing us to use deer tags on ELK outside of the main reintroduction counties). I would love to see them close hunting for them West of the blue ridge as I have seen proposed to allow this animal to expand in Virginia. Do you know if this has been approved yet? Some articles have stated this is in motion but not seen anything concrete.

    Also is it possible to volunteer in those counties to help with efforts there? Really look forward to hearing an ELK hopefully one day bugling off in the distance hear in Craig County, VA. Appreciate your help.