WV Wildlife: Elk Herd Transmitters

The elk herd is doing quite well in southern West Virginia. (WCHS/WVAH)

Wind-swept mountain-tops across the southern coalfields are now their new home.

Elk, which used to be native to the Mountain State, were re-introduced by our West Virginia DNR in two batches over the last few years--one coming from Western Kentucky, and another from Arizona.

Now, these elk are wild and free--even giving birth to little ones right here in our West Virginia hills.

"We've probably produced somewhere between 10 and 15 calves this past breeding season--this past drop in June", said Randy Kelley—Elk Project Leader with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Many of these elk initially brought in had radio collars on them--that way DNR biologists could understand their movements and how they use these mountain-top removal sites.

After two years, it's simply time to change those collars out-- and that means Kelley and his crew have been tip-toeing around recently.

"We’ve actually got a total of four active bait sites--we've got five blinds out, but we've got four active bait sites we are baiting right now. In addition to sitting in the blind, we are going to try to do a little free darting--where we can spot these animals from a long distance, and we'll take the spotting scope over to see if there's a particular animal we are looking for and then see what happens", said Kelley.

Finding the ones born recently would especially be important for their analysis--trail cams scattered about help their cause.

"We also have some elk that obviously were born here--that maybe we could get a chance to put our hands on and put radios on those to see the comparison between elk that were brought in and transported in, and those born here. One of the reasons we'd like to put some radios out on some of the calves that were born here is to continue to monitor them and check survival of those calves that were dropped here".

Kelley says--as of now--there's no plan for additional stockings this year, but the hope is to bring more elk back to West Virginia in the future.

"We're putting feelers out right now. We have a great relationship with the state of Arizona--they were really good to us. Land Between the Lakes--in 2020, or 2021, we may go back down there again, and we'll probably put together a request for the state of Kentucky with their eastern elk herd. The goal is to probably build an eastern regional herd--eventually between us, Kentucky and Virginia at least".

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