WV Wildlife: New Elk brought in from Arizona recently
LOGAN COUNTY, WV (WCHS/WVAH) —
A new herd of Elk now call West Virginia home!
Instead of coming from Western Kentucky, like the first herd did in December of 2016, these bulls and cows came nearly 2,000 miles--from the high deserts of Northern Arizona.
The quickest way to capture wild Arizona Elk?--by helicopter!
Randy Kelley—Elk Project Leader with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources—was there, and says the helicopter crew had a system that worked very well.
"There would be a guy hanging out the door with a net gun--and the helicopter would drop low enough to where he could shoot the net gun onto the animal, and then a guy called a mugger would jump out of the back of the helicopter and run and make sure the animal would stay secure on the ground", said Kelley.
After the chase, biologists made sure to keep the stress on these majestic animals down as much as they could.
"We set up a protocol to where they could only chase them for 3 to 5 minutes. Once the animal was on the ground, they would just administer with a syringe (a drug) to just relax the animal. They would then bag the animal, and the helicopter actually slung the animal from the capture site--either to the pen, where we were waiting--or, if it was too far to travel, we set up trailers", said Kelley.
A wild ride for sure, but an effective one for getting these elk back to West Virginia.
Kelley and other DNR personnel made the trip out west in Late-January.
It only took about 2 days to capture the 60 elk that the state of Arizona agreed to give West Virginia, but biologists had to carefully test and quarantine the elk for a month in Arizona after they were captured.
Kelley says that some of those Elk are pregnant, too—which will only add to the growing population in Southern West Virginia.
"At least more than half of those animals will go ahead and drop calves this summer".
And that's the whole point of this DNR Elk Project--to bring back a once native animal, and to watch it thrive--right here in our West Virginia hills.
"They got animals from another state at one time--elk had been extirpated from Arizona--so they kind of understood what we were going through, and they were willing to work with us. We're going to make a request to continue to work with Arizona”, said Kelley.