Since the 1990's, public interest to restore elk in Virginia has increased. In response to this public interest and neighboring states which have undertaken elk restoration programs, the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries directed the VDGIF Executive Director to create an operational plan for elk restoration and management in Virginia with consideration of biological, sociological, economic, and environmental issues. At its August 17, 2010 meeting, the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries approved a motion where VDGIF would establish a pilot program for the reintroduction of elk by stocking not more than 75 elk in Buchanan County only. The goal would be to have an elk herd not to exceed 400 animals. The elk management area would include Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise counties where elk hunting would be prohibited. Hunting of elk would begin in Buchanan County within 4 years of the last elk stocking. A reserve of 20% of elk hunting tags would be held back for hunters or applicants from Buchanan County. VDGIF would organize and coordinate activities of a damage response team made up of representatives from the management area, local chapter of RMEF and VDGIF, with a goal to respond to damage calls within 24 hours.
Mark Taylor, Outdoor Editor for the Roanoke Times did an excellent story on the first release May 18th of 11 of the majestic animals into a holding pen high atop an open knoll on a reclaimed strip mine site in Buchanan County.
Read the full story at Mark's column.
From the VADGIF Outdoor Report ( via email )
Elk Restoration Update for June 2012
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) biologists brought 11 elk to Virginia from southeastern Kentucky on May 18, 2012. They returned to Kentucky and brought another 7 elk to Virginia on May 24th. Sixteen of these elk had been in quarantine for disease testing since February 7th and two were calves born in quarantine. All received a clean bill of health before coming to the release area near Vansant in Buchanan County. Once in Virginia, the elk were placed in an acclimation corral to calm down before release. All adult elk wore new GPS telemetry collars so that biologists could monitor their movements following release.
Biologists released the first 11 elk on the night of May 23rd. They released elk in the second group on three different nights due to the birth of two additional calves in the acclimation corral. Two pregnant cows were released on May 29th, a pregnant cow and two cows with calves were released on May 31st, and the last cow and calf were released on June 7th.
The telemetry equipment performed well in the rough terrain, providing three locations per elk each day. Following release, all elk remained within a mile of the acclimation corral for several weeks. Elk found plentiful forage due to the reclamation work completed by the mine operators and the abundant rainfall this spring. Cows with calves had the smallest activity areas, ranging from 90 to 364-acres. Yearlings and cows without calves had larger activity areas, ranging from 556 to 1,313-acres. The two 2-year old bulls had the largest activity areas, ranging from 7,255 to 9,133-acres.
While we have seen only one calf that was born outside the acclimation corral, the telemetry data suggests that several other calves have been born. It will be later in the summer when these calves are moving more that we get an idea of how many were born. At this time we have seen five different calves, four of which were born in captivity.
From the VADGIF Outdoor Report:
August Update: The elk released in May in Buchanan County remain in the release area. All 16 elk released are still alive, although two telemetry collars are not regularly communicating with the satellite. The 10 adult cows released have produced 8 calves and another calf may drop soon.
The elk appear in great condition. The plentiful rainfall since late June has produced ample forage in the release area. During hot weather, elk have spent a good deal of time around a large spring and vernal pools at the mine reclamation site. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation volunteers have used trail cameras to capture some great images of the elk.
One notable change in elk behavior began in late July. Elk that had dispersed 1 to 5-miles from the release area returned. These returning elk were two 2-year old bulls and several adult cows that had dispersed to calve. These elk are now in two groups, one of 12 adult elk with 5 calves and another of 3 adult elk with 3 calves.
No wild elk have appeared, although they may when rut begins in September.
( Yea, I know the Elk are west of the Blue Ridge, but it is only a matter of time, or Scofflaws )
From the linked report:
Taking Elk in Closed Season... On November 6, 2012, Senior Virginia Conservation Police Officer James Brooks received a complaint of a subject killing an elk in Russell County and failing to check it. Officer Brooks was given a name and possible location of the suspect. Officer Brooks met with the suspect, and conducted an interview. Officer Brooks was able to obtain a confession. The elk was killed in Wise County where the season is closed for elk hunting. The suspect was charged with taking an elk during closed season and failure to check elk as required by law.