WV Wildlife: A new Herd of Elk in West Virginia!

The members of the Arizona Elk herd will join the Western Kentucky herd already here. This diversity should keep new herds in the future healthy. (WCHS/WVAH)

They are back in our West Virginia Hills!

After being gone since 1875, elk have now been reintroduced to the Mountain State thanks to hard work put in by our West Virginia DNR and others.

The first batch of Elk--24 of them--were brought in from Western Kentucky during the fall of 2016, but now there are 50 more elk that just recently ran out on to West Virginia soil in Logan County.

Both the former director of the West Virginia DNR--who got this Elk Stocking Program started--and the current director, were there on a chilly March evening to witness this 2nd release.

"It's exciting. This is March the 4th, and getting our second batch of elk in West Virginia--coming all the way from Flagstaff, Arizona", said Stephen McDaniel, current director with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

The former director with the DNR, Bob Fala, said there are some high hopes with these Elk coming back.

"Kind of another historic night, and hopefully we are a few years away from a lot greater tourism era and maybe a little hunting before we know it, too", said Fala.

And that's the hope--to get a self-sustaining population of Elk right here in the Mountain State.

Randy Kelley, Elk project leader with the WVDNR, thinks they should thrive here.

"We really expect their weights to go up, antler development to go up. They'll have plenty of food and water here", said Kelley.

And these Arizona Elk are truly wild--having to be captured with net guns via a helicopter last month! Their skittish nature was apparent when they stepped out of the truck and on to their new turf.

"These animals are truly wild animals, and disturbance can cause them to run into the corner of the pens and each other, or hurt themselves--so we're going to keep the area pretty much closed off until which time we get the o.k. from the USDA to turn them loose”, said Kelley.

Once they get the green light, a gate will be opened in the soft enclosure pen.

"Venture out on their own time--out into the wild wonderful hills of West Virginia. I would expect at least 20 calves--very minimally--this summer", said Kelley.

WVDNR Director, Stephen McDaniel, says the thought of seeing Elk in the Mountain State is still surreal.

“When we were kids, you'd never dream that you'd see Elk roaming the mountains of West Virginia again, and with this batch, by this fall--we'll probably have close to 100 Elk".

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