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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Elk Return to their Native Virginia Range

The elk relocated to Virginia were released from their holding pen six days after arrival from Kentucky. They since dispersed on the landscape and started to intermingle with elk already on the ground. Below is a news release originally posted on rmef.org on April 15, 2014. The photos are courtesy the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Overlooking the acclamation corral on reclaimed surface mine lands in the
Warfork area of Buchanan County

Mission Accomplished! Virginia Elk Restoration Project Complete

MISSOULA, Mont.—A multi-year project to restore wild elk to their native hills of Virginia is complete thanks to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, its volunteers, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and several other partners.

“This is a prime example of what can happen when good people work together,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “There is now a growing and sustainable elk herd on the ground in Virginia for the first time in more than four decades.”

Unloading at the pens at 1 a.m. after a
six hour drive from Kentucky
The third and final group of 45 wild elk –14 bulls and 31 cows, 16 of which are pregnant– arrived in Virginia’s Buchanan County from Kentucky. They join an existing herd of approximately 40 elk previously relocated in 2012 and 2013.

Financially funded by RMEF and several major donors, RMEF volunteers also played a major role in the restoration program.

“Volunteers first got involved when approached by Buchanan County officials back in 2010,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “They helped search for and find suitable locations in the southwest part of the state and then rolled up their sleeves and went to work in many reclaimed mining sites. Crews cleared brush, applied fertilizer and planted native grasses to improve habitat, talked to and worked with local landowners, and stepped up each time to assist wildlife officials with the actual on-the-ground elk reintroductions.”

Blue tags identify the new arrivals from the estimated 40 elk already
on the ground from the 2012 and 2013 releases
Virginia has a goal of growing the herd to about 400 animals and eventually instituting a regulated hunting season. Proceeds from hunting permits will target elk habitat and conservation efforts. Elk viewing opportunities will also give a boost to Buchanan County’s outdoor recreation and tourism business as well as throughout the southwestern part of Virginia.

RMEF’s project partners include the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Resident elk herd watches the release from
nearby ridge
RMEF completed successful elk restorations in Wisconsin in 1995, Kentucky in 1997, Tennessee in 2000, Ontario in 2001, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002, Missouri in 2011, and Virginia in 2014. RMEF also previously funded feasibility studies in Illinois, Maryland, New York and West Virginia.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 200,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.4 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

Virginia Elk Restoration Team (left to right on back row): Leon Boyd-RMEF Southwestern Virginia Coalfields Chapter chairman & VDGIF Board member, CPO Jamie Davis, CPO James Brooks, Tom Hampton-lands and facilities manager, Johnny Wills-biologist, Mark Robinett-biologist assistant, Jason Blevins-biologist assistant,
Marvin Gautier-biologist assistant, CPO Jeff Pease, Jake Perry-elk caretaker, Bill Bassinger-biologist,
Allen Boynton-wildlife manager, Megan Kirchgessner-wildlife veterinarian, Ron Southwick-
assistant bureau director and (kneeling) Joe Watson-biologist assistant, Jake Rieken-elk caretaker 

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