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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Maryland Passes on Elk Reintroduction

Elk in Pennsylvania
A collaborative effort to return elk to their native range of Maryland is on hold due to a lack of local support. Stakeholders such as Garrett County Commissioners and the Maryland Farm Bureau opposed elk reintroduction citing the potential for vehicle collisions, crop damage and disease.

“We did our best to honestly paint all the facts in the clearest way possible during the last two years. However, it is evident that now is not the time to move forward,” said stated Bill Miles, vice-chair of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation (MLSL). “Perhaps tomorrow will be different but not today.” 

Elk in Tennessee
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, MLSL and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources teamed up in 2011 to launch a feasibility study looking into biological, social and economic factors surrounding a possible reintroduction. A statewide public opinion survey released in May 2012 found nearly three out of four Maryland residents (72%), including two-thirds of folks in western Maryland (68%) where habitat exists to support elk, favored the reintroduction of elk into the western part of the state. An accompanying economic assessment determined western Maryland could realize $4 million in projected visitor spending. RMEF picked up the bill for the studies during the entire public process.

“We thank the good people of Western Maryland for listening. If local opinions about elk are changed we at RMEF stand ready to be of assistance,” said Dave Ragantesi, RMEF senior regional director.

Elk in Kentucky
While the decision is an immediate defeat for sportsmen and wildlife lovers, they may try again in the near future. After all, they are surrounded by success stories. Pennsylvania is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its elk herd. Virginia is in the process of adding to its newly reintroduced herd and West Virginia is considering reintroduction. There are also thousands of thriving elk in Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Though extirpated from Maryland since the late 1700’s, the fate of returning elk to its native Maryland now rests in the hands of its citizens.

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