Elk are on the way!
Last month a team from the WVDNR traveled to the western edge of the Bluegrass State to capture and prepare the first of West Virginia’s reestablished resident elk for their new home. There is a lot to reintroduction of a species that has been absent from the landscape for more than a century.
In recent months great strides have been taking place to prepare the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area and the state for the long anticipated return of its very own elk herd. None of those steps have come anywhere close to the ones that were taken in recent weeks.
With months of planning and preparation behind them the team of biologists, wildlife managers, law enforcement and volunteers took a historic step to bring elk back to the Mountain State. The goal was to capture 20 elk, 10 bulls and 10 cows, to start the herd. The team was able to exceed this goal for the first release.
Elk of various ages and sizes were, also, desired to help give the transplanted group plenty of diversity. The trick was that once a target animal was spotted, the animal had to be subdued and put into a holding facility so that when the time came, they would be ready for their trip to their new home in the Mountain State.
So, if you ever thought about, or have ever been elk hunting, imagine how difficult that would be armed with only a tranquilizer gun powered by compressed air. Not only do you have to get close to the animals, you, also, have to be able to track them down once the darts take effect.
Once the animals were sedated, they were given a complete once over, kind of like a check-up at your local doctor’s office. This check-up includes everything from age and sex of the animal right down to having blood drawn. Everything is done to make sure all the animals are completely healthy and the perfect specimen for starting a new herd.
Once all the procedures were finished the animals were taken to a holding pen to await the test results and their trip to a new home. The WVDNR has taken every measure imaginable to make sure they are starting the reintroduced herd out right.
Now that all the results are in and the elk have received a clean bill of health, they are ready to become West Virginia’s first official resident elk. Mark it as official, the elk are on the way and just in time for Christmas.
Once they arrive, the new residents will be placed in a “soft” release pen that is set up and awaiting them at the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area. Once safely in their new enclosure the animals will be kept for a couple of weeks to let them calm down from the stress of being transferred and to, also, get acclimated to their new surroundings.
When the animals have settled in and are secure in their new home, the gates of the enclosure will be opened and the animals will be allowed to come and go as they please and the state will once again have a wild and free-ranging elk herd.
This is an exciting time to be a hunter in West Virginia with the chance in the very near future to catch a glimpse or maybe even hear the bugle of a bull elk roaming the hills once again. The elk are radio collared and ear tagged and will be watched closely in the coming months, weeks, and years to help gauge the success of the program.
The culmination of all the month, weeks, and even years of preparation will all come together on Monday December 19th, 2016 at 12:30pm when the official elk reintroduction ceremony kicks off. The ceremony will be held at the Tomblin WMA located on Gaston Caperton Drive near Logan, W.Va.
The elk will be getting settled into their new surroundings and the public is invited to witness history in the making as the first elk are reintroduced in the state in more than 100 years. Keep your eyes and ears out for the sights and sounds of long missing members of the big game family that will someday soon be roaming free in our own back yard.
Who knows, in a few short years some very lucky hunters may get the opportunity to make history by harvesting the first wild elk in our state in a very long time.