WV Wildlife: Elk getting comfortable in WV & more heading this way soon!

A pair of young bull elk survey the terrain in Logan County. (WCHS/WVAH)

West Virginia mornings are hard to beat.

This is especially true in September, when a sea of fog usually blankets our valleys below—and an explosion of bright color can be seen in the eastern sky.

On a former mountaintop removal site in Logan county, there’s another new reason to get up early this time of the year.

Hearing Elk—yes, Elk—bugle.

After more than 150 years, these large members of the deer family are back ‘home’ in West Virginia.

Randy Kelley, Elk Project Leader with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, says Elk are pretty active this time of the year.

“This is the time of the year where the bulls have regrown their antlers, and they’ve rubbed off the velvet now—a little earlier than what most whitetail deer do. We’re into their breeding season—September and October—and this is when the bulls are bugling. Number one, it’s to attract the cows. It lets that cow know—hey, I’m over here. It allows other bulls to know—hey, I’m over here; this is part of my territory”, said Kelley.

Kelley says the elk brought in from Western Kentucky last year are in good shape—and even some calves have been born right here on West Virginia soil.

“They’re doing well. We’re at a population of about 22 right now. They’re healthy”.

Most of these elk have radio collars on them. That way, Kelley can see how they’re moving through our West Virginia hills.

And more elk are coming, too. Our DNR plans to go out west this winter to bring more back.

“We’ve came to an agreement basically with the state of Arizona to trap and transport elk from Arizona to West Virginia. They’ve agreed to give us this year up to 60 elk”, said Kelley.

The hope, which Kelley fully expects, is for this population to grow in the coming years. Perhaps large enough for a limited hunt several years down the road. Before that, though, it’s about getting more elk here—which could have a big economic impact for the southern coalfields. Most people are in awe when they see and—especially--hear them.

“We want them (people) to get here and see them, so we’re going to establish some access points, some observation points, maybe some viewing decks as well as the observation tower. That’s the big draw really—is the bugling”.

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