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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Elk Return to Their Native West Virginia Range

Source: John McCoy/WV Gazette
Country roads, take me home 
To the place I belong. 
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home. 

John Denver wasn’t singing about elk when he penned the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” back in the early 1970's, but the lyrics certainly seem to fit. 

Source: John McCoy/WV Gazette
More than 200 people gathered on a frigid day to celebrate the reintroduction of 24 elk to their native West Virginia range. It’s the first time in more than 140 years that elk are back in the Mountain State. Volunteers, members and staffers of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation were also on hand. In fact, RMEF has so far committed more than $523,000 toward the restoration of elk back into the West Virginia mountains. RMEF previously assisted with successful elk restoration projects in Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada.

The elk were transported from nearby Kentucky where they were captured earlier this month. 

Elk capture at Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky

Below is brief synopsis of some of the words spoken at the celebration ceremony as well as the ceremony video itself and a local news report. 

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin/West Virginia: 
“It’s a historic day to be here today. The elk restoration program has received overwhelming support from West Virginians all across our state. I’m excited to be here today surrounded by so many key players to help us reach this moment. Recently our DNR staff traveled over to western Kentucky along with the U.S. Forest Service and volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to bring 24 healthy elk to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area to begin building a population here on the Logan-Mingo county line. Just after a few days of acclimation, the gates will be open and these elk will be allowed to run free all across these hills and valleys of southern West Virginia. And this is just the first of several carefully planned releases designed to establish self-sustaining and viable populations in the Mountain State.” 

Bill Carman/RMEF regional director: 
“In the words of our president, David Allen, ‘Nothing is more sacred than returning a species back to its native area.’ This is a historic moment and you all are making history. We’re confident that this small elk herd will grow and not only enrich the landscape here in West Virginia but will also lead to elk tourism, economic impact and hunter enjoyment in the future. I was down there (for the elk capture in Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes) and I witnessed grown men cradling the heads of big bull elk like one would cradle a small child, grown men with tears in their eyes so this is an emotional moment. So West Virginians, what a Christmas present! This is a special occasion and it’s for you all.” 

Bob Falla/West Virginia Division of Natural Resources director: 
“This is your day! Every time you buy a hunting or a fishing license or a stamp or a box of shells, you pay for all this. This is your day and you’ve made it all possible along with these great folks in these organizations.”

Go here to see a local news report.

West Virginia elk celebration ceremony

Local news report

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - John Denver

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