Elk Returning to Southwest Virginia Coalfields?

Bobcat. Photo by Harold Jerrell
Bobcat. Photo by Harold Jerrell

As elk from Eastern Kentucky migrated into far Southwest Virginia over the past decade, support for having them in the Virginia coalfields has grown. State officials estimate that from 50-100 elk are now in the Virginia coalfield region, with a couple of small groups staying for years in and around specific areas. A few Virginia elk have been killed illegally as well as legally. Until now, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries allowed and actually promoted the taking of elk as deer during deer season.

However, as more public support for elk in Virginia grew and concerns about diseases lessened as Kentucky?s healthy herds thrived, the game commission discussed but eventually tabled a motion to close elk hunting season in Virginia. A committee appointed to evaluate different elk program options recently recommended the following option:

The Elk Committee recommends that VDGIF should pursue the Active Restoration Option to establish a population of 1,200 elk in the Potential Elk Restoration Area (Buchanan, Dickenson, and Wise counties). The Elk Committee further recommends that the project should set a goal of releasing 200 elk over a 3-year period in one suitable Elk Release Site within the Potential Elk Restoration Area. The Committee does not recommend establishing multiple herds over a wide area with the 200 elk.

Blue Heron. Photo by Harold Jerrell
Blue Heron. Photo by Harold Jerrell

If you support this option, please contact the game commission at the following address: Robert ?Bob? W. Duncan, Director?s Office, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4010 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23230, or e-mail him at?Bob.Duncan@dgif.virginia.gov. You can read more and submit comments until 8/1/2010 at?www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/elk/management-plan.

Buchanan County in particular has supported elk reintroduction for years as another way to encourage wildlife appreciation and education, outdoor tourism, eventual hunting opportunities, and alternative sources of income for its residents. The Elk Committee?s recommendations have not been adopted yet, so your e-mails, comments, and letters of support will make a difference.

The photographs on this page and three in the next article were provided to Mountain Peeks by Harold Jerrell. Harold has hundreds of outdoor prints for sale. We urge you to contact him at?hjerrell@myclariti.net?or Route 2, Box 406, Rose Hill, VA 24281.

Also, we are fortunate to be able to provide you with the following?article?that showcases Kentucky?s very successful elk restoration program: Zero to 11,000 in 12 Years Flat: Bonanza in the Bluegrass State