Submitted by Josh Frye, Public Affairs Specialist
I was honored to sit in with our wildlife and range staff as they hosted a delegation from West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources this week. The feeling of history in the making was tangible as we discussed details of their State’s first elk re-introduction.
As in the past, Land Between the Lakes’ elk herd may provide the seed stock needed to establish a free ranging – wild – population. Some of our 62 elk, and their offspring, just might play this vital role for the citizens of West Virginia. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin directed his staff to begin preparations for an ambitious elk restoration project.
The group led by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Bob Fala, and bolstered by representatives of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, enthusiastically described their plans for a 45,000-acre site. Spanning seven counties, the hope is that the herd would remain healthy and viable.
The ancestors of our Elk & Bison Prairie herd made the long trek to Land Between the Lakes in 1996. Since then, they remain one of the healthiest, most tested, and documented herds in the Eastern United States.
Any wild animal transfer involves planning, coordination, and veterinary compliance. Wildlife experts must maintain the herd size and composition at Land Between the Lakes, while ensuring a robust and healthy population for any release.
The project may commence as early as this fall, contingent upon finalization of all details. Officials would capture, test, and tag the elk prior to moving them to West Virginia. This is an exciting time for Land Between the Lakes, and the citizens of the “Wild and Wonderful” state.