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West Virginia May Reintroduce Elk Hunting

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July 16, 2012

West Virginia May Reintroduce Elk Hunting

By Chad Love

In the future, West Virginia hunters looking to bag an elk may not have to travel west, if a plan to reintroduce huntable populations to the state comes to fruition.

From this story in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
Once native to West Virginia but becoming extinct in the Mountain State in the late 1800s, elk have been drifting across the border from Kentucky the past few years, where an initial contingent of seven were put on the ground in 1997. Within a few years, some 1,500 transplanted elk were brought into Kentucky from seven western states and the herd has grown considerably. Just how many elk roam the hills of West Virginia isn’t known, but the Division of Natural Resources is currently trying to get a handle on that number with motion-sensitive cameras.

The so-called “elk zone” consists of Wayne, Lincoln, Boone, Mingo, Logan, Wyoming and McDowell counties. Already, one legislator is preparing a bill for introduction next winter to legalize elk hunting in the state, and Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, sees this as a bonanza for the tourism industry. “I plan on moving forward with it,” she said.

Just like mountain lions, it seems that elk are slowly returning to their historical range, albeit in limited numbers and areas. There are already a number of states east of the Rockies that offer limited-draw elk hunts. Is yours one of them? Anyone ever draw out on an eastern elk hunt?

Comments (18)

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Well, the elk that are "returning to their historic range" are an exotic species. It never ceases to amaze me why only Rocky Mountain elk are transplanted back east. The Manitoba elk may in fact be remnants of the orignal Eastern Elk (last I heard they still hadn't made a clear DNA distinction between the two). I would think that it would make more sense to reintroduce Manitoba Elk to eastern areas. But it never seems to be considered. Wonder why? Oh yeah, the Rocky Mountain elk have bigger antlers. There ya go! It's all about horns, not retintroducing something that's at least a resonable facimile of what was "originally" on the land.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2lb.test wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Ontario Honker,
You're viewpoint is one I've never been able to fully understand. If the animal fills the same ecological role, why does it matter if a tiny fraction of it is not genetically identical to what was once here? Aren't we just splitting hairs? I'll give you a real life example. At my old job we landed a government contract to improve quail habitat on private land through the NRCS. Our primary responsibilities were conducting prescribed burns on the planted pine stands and establishing Native Warm Season Grass plots on the old logging decks. We were going to order the seeds from a company in Georgia as we found them to be the cheapest supplier, but the NRCS agent didn't approve of the supplier because their seed bank was built on the mid-western genome instead of the eastern genome which was "native" to SC. So the government ended up paying 75% more for "native" seed when the other seed would have produced the same result. We've planted it for private clients with excellent results.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from krwheeler wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Actually, Ontario Honker has a point. The wolves that were "reintroduced" into Yellowstone Park and have been spreading out ever since are not "plain" gray wolves. They are transplants from Canada that have cross-bred with Timberwolves - a larger and more aggressive species.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

2lbtest, the two examples are apples and oranges. First off, I have to agree with you, it would be totally silly to think that replanting any area is going to result in anything that's genetically pure. In the plant world we are so inundated with exotics of every variety that it would be just about impossible to reproduce habitat with virgin integrity, especially, I would think, back East.

As to the elk thing, if the wildlife management folks want to tout their efforts as "reintroduction" then they should try to be somewhat closer to the mark. Otherwise, just call it what it is: INTRODUCTION of EXOTIC Rocky Mountain elk. But no, the wildlife management folks persist with their false advertising. It sounds more attractive to give some kind of historic authenticity to a project that entirely lacks it. As a historian AND a biologist I find that really reprehensible. The fact is Rocky Mountain elk are being INTRODUCED (as opposed to REINTRODUCTION of Manitoba elk) to satisfy the hunting folks who want big antlers, while labeling the project as "reintroduction" to achieve some support from the eco-conscious crowd. Unlike your grass seed example, I can't see that trapping and releasing wild Manitoba elk would be any more costly than Rocky Mountain elk. In any event, I don't see any merit in misinformation no matter how laudable the objective. Smoke and mirrors has no place in wildlife management.

By the way, the antlers on Manitoba elk can be quite large ... but they usually are more atypical in comparison to those of Rocky Mountain elk. So it's harder to get Manitoba elk in the books because their antlers will have more deductions (and not enough overall mass to score well as atypical). As we all know, in this antlermania world everything's about getting stuff into the books. Pffft!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from ITHACASXS wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I like what the late Horace Hinkley (shot a very heavy Whitetail buck in Maine) said about antlers: '' after all, you can't eat 'em.''

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Ontario Honker I'm inclined to agree with you and can't think of a thing to add to your comments.
It irks me that sometimes the emphasis and/or impetus for wildlife management is slanted toward "trophies" or horns rather than the animal itself.
I tried cooking horn several different ways but no matter what I tried they were still tough and tasted bad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mpeterson wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I live in West Virginia and this sounds great! Can't wait to take my banjo and rifle and go out Wayne next season.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wvboy1022 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I'm terrified of Boone County though. Ever since I've seen the Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Talkin about backwoods...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Perhaps it would have been no more "authentic" to reintroduce Manitoba elk to the eastern states than it was to bring back Rocky Mountain elk. However, efforts to reintroduce elk to Northern Ontario, Minnesota, and Michigan should have looked at their choices more closely. The elk exterminated from those areas in the 19th century very likely were not the same subspecies as the monsters killed off in the eastern states by 1880. They more than likely were Manitoba elk. I have followed reintroduction efforts in Ontario very closely and as far as I can tell no consideration was given to using Manitoba elk. Perhaps they might have had better luck. After twenty years the introduced Rocky Mountain elk from Elk Island, Alberta seem to be just barely holding their own up here, although I understand they had the first very limited hunt down in the Sudbury area this past fall. It was a bit of a joke because the animals were quite habituated. One report indicated a hunter taking a fine bull standing at nine yards away. Must have been a real thrill!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from smccardell wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

2lb test... so ok rainbow and brown trout fill the same ecological niche as brook trout so we should just stop trying to save the native brook trout in the east because we have another trout species who can fit the bill. Good logic there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

krwheeler: What you say about the Canadian wolves that were turned loose in Yellowstone is mistaken. They are plain old Timber Wolves and are the same wolves that once lived there before they were wiped out. Actually these wolves had been in the process of re-occupying the west and had been coming down from Canada into Montana for quite awhile when the reintroductions were made, so all this would have taken place anyway, just more slowly. This is well known. The term "Grey Wolves" has no meaning and there was no "cross-breeding" involved. I don't know where folks have gotten the idea that there two kinds of wolves involved. As far as I know there are not. Anyone say different?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josh Giannino wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Ontario Honker- I read articles in the NYS conservationist magazine and have researched that the eastern elk, was in fact THE LARGEST of the elk subspecies, ik this relates to body size, and which i do not know wether manitoba's are bigger bodied then rocky mountains, but in terms of horn size, the rocky mountain would be a closer match.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josh Giannino wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Tho i have wondered why scientists are trying to clone and use DNA to bring back mamoths... why not try to obtain usable eastern elk DNA and use rocky mountains or manitoba elk cows (which evers closer) and create atleast a elk with eastern elk in it if even hybrid to re introduce out east, recreating a species we destroyd from our own mistakes, instead of bringing back a creature that went extinct from natural selection?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCHunter wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

The Elk that were reintroduced in NC in the Great Smokey Mountains NP are Manitoban Elk. I'm pretty sure the Elk in the Land Between the Lakes in KY are as well. The first half of NC's elk came from the LBTL and the second half Canada. Not sure why they went with rocky mountain elk in the rest of KY either

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCHunter wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I will also agree agree with Ontario that the Manitobans are more nontypical. The bulls here have kickers and drop tines all over the place. They may not make the book but they are cool to look at.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I'm not sure how I feel about reintroducing elk to West Virginia. Before the days of CWD, I would have been all for it, but seeing as WV is a CWD positive state, I'm hesitant on introducing a large CWD susceptible ungulate that can make very big movements over the landscape and do so on a regular basis. Further, WV has some of the highest deer densities in the country...this seems like a recipe for disaster.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Sounds like great news for the state of West Virginia. I sure te hunters there will enjoy elk hunting in their own state.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DRage wrote 1 year 13 weeks ago

Any word on the status of the bill in West Virginia? Any hunters needing to brush up on their elk hunting skills can visit my site www.elk-hunting.org and let's hope politics don't get in the way of sportsmen!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

2lbtest, the two examples are apples and oranges. First off, I have to agree with you, it would be totally silly to think that replanting any area is going to result in anything that's genetically pure. In the plant world we are so inundated with exotics of every variety that it would be just about impossible to reproduce habitat with virgin integrity, especially, I would think, back East.

As to the elk thing, if the wildlife management folks want to tout their efforts as "reintroduction" then they should try to be somewhat closer to the mark. Otherwise, just call it what it is: INTRODUCTION of EXOTIC Rocky Mountain elk. But no, the wildlife management folks persist with their false advertising. It sounds more attractive to give some kind of historic authenticity to a project that entirely lacks it. As a historian AND a biologist I find that really reprehensible. The fact is Rocky Mountain elk are being INTRODUCED (as opposed to REINTRODUCTION of Manitoba elk) to satisfy the hunting folks who want big antlers, while labeling the project as "reintroduction" to achieve some support from the eco-conscious crowd. Unlike your grass seed example, I can't see that trapping and releasing wild Manitoba elk would be any more costly than Rocky Mountain elk. In any event, I don't see any merit in misinformation no matter how laudable the objective. Smoke and mirrors has no place in wildlife management.

By the way, the antlers on Manitoba elk can be quite large ... but they usually are more atypical in comparison to those of Rocky Mountain elk. So it's harder to get Manitoba elk in the books because their antlers will have more deductions (and not enough overall mass to score well as atypical). As we all know, in this antlermania world everything's about getting stuff into the books. Pffft!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2lb.test wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Ontario Honker,
You're viewpoint is one I've never been able to fully understand. If the animal fills the same ecological role, why does it matter if a tiny fraction of it is not genetically identical to what was once here? Aren't we just splitting hairs? I'll give you a real life example. At my old job we landed a government contract to improve quail habitat on private land through the NRCS. Our primary responsibilities were conducting prescribed burns on the planted pine stands and establishing Native Warm Season Grass plots on the old logging decks. We were going to order the seeds from a company in Georgia as we found them to be the cheapest supplier, but the NRCS agent didn't approve of the supplier because their seed bank was built on the mid-western genome instead of the eastern genome which was "native" to SC. So the government ended up paying 75% more for "native" seed when the other seed would have produced the same result. We've planted it for private clients with excellent results.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I'm not sure how I feel about reintroducing elk to West Virginia. Before the days of CWD, I would have been all for it, but seeing as WV is a CWD positive state, I'm hesitant on introducing a large CWD susceptible ungulate that can make very big movements over the landscape and do so on a regular basis. Further, WV has some of the highest deer densities in the country...this seems like a recipe for disaster.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from krwheeler wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Actually, Ontario Honker has a point. The wolves that were "reintroduced" into Yellowstone Park and have been spreading out ever since are not "plain" gray wolves. They are transplants from Canada that have cross-bred with Timberwolves - a larger and more aggressive species.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ITHACASXS wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I like what the late Horace Hinkley (shot a very heavy Whitetail buck in Maine) said about antlers: '' after all, you can't eat 'em.''

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Ontario Honker I'm inclined to agree with you and can't think of a thing to add to your comments.
It irks me that sometimes the emphasis and/or impetus for wildlife management is slanted toward "trophies" or horns rather than the animal itself.
I tried cooking horn several different ways but no matter what I tried they were still tough and tasted bad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wvboy1022 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I'm terrified of Boone County though. Ever since I've seen the Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Talkin about backwoods...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Perhaps it would have been no more "authentic" to reintroduce Manitoba elk to the eastern states than it was to bring back Rocky Mountain elk. However, efforts to reintroduce elk to Northern Ontario, Minnesota, and Michigan should have looked at their choices more closely. The elk exterminated from those areas in the 19th century very likely were not the same subspecies as the monsters killed off in the eastern states by 1880. They more than likely were Manitoba elk. I have followed reintroduction efforts in Ontario very closely and as far as I can tell no consideration was given to using Manitoba elk. Perhaps they might have had better luck. After twenty years the introduced Rocky Mountain elk from Elk Island, Alberta seem to be just barely holding their own up here, although I understand they had the first very limited hunt down in the Sudbury area this past fall. It was a bit of a joke because the animals were quite habituated. One report indicated a hunter taking a fine bull standing at nine yards away. Must have been a real thrill!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from smccardell wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

2lb test... so ok rainbow and brown trout fill the same ecological niche as brook trout so we should just stop trying to save the native brook trout in the east because we have another trout species who can fit the bill. Good logic there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

krwheeler: What you say about the Canadian wolves that were turned loose in Yellowstone is mistaken. They are plain old Timber Wolves and are the same wolves that once lived there before they were wiped out. Actually these wolves had been in the process of re-occupying the west and had been coming down from Canada into Montana for quite awhile when the reintroductions were made, so all this would have taken place anyway, just more slowly. This is well known. The term "Grey Wolves" has no meaning and there was no "cross-breeding" involved. I don't know where folks have gotten the idea that there two kinds of wolves involved. As far as I know there are not. Anyone say different?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josh Giannino wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Ontario Honker- I read articles in the NYS conservationist magazine and have researched that the eastern elk, was in fact THE LARGEST of the elk subspecies, ik this relates to body size, and which i do not know wether manitoba's are bigger bodied then rocky mountains, but in terms of horn size, the rocky mountain would be a closer match.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josh Giannino wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Tho i have wondered why scientists are trying to clone and use DNA to bring back mamoths... why not try to obtain usable eastern elk DNA and use rocky mountains or manitoba elk cows (which evers closer) and create atleast a elk with eastern elk in it if even hybrid to re introduce out east, recreating a species we destroyd from our own mistakes, instead of bringing back a creature that went extinct from natural selection?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCHunter wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

The Elk that were reintroduced in NC in the Great Smokey Mountains NP are Manitoban Elk. I'm pretty sure the Elk in the Land Between the Lakes in KY are as well. The first half of NC's elk came from the LBTL and the second half Canada. Not sure why they went with rocky mountain elk in the rest of KY either

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NCHunter wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I will also agree agree with Ontario that the Manitobans are more nontypical. The bulls here have kickers and drop tines all over the place. They may not make the book but they are cool to look at.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Sounds like great news for the state of West Virginia. I sure te hunters there will enjoy elk hunting in their own state.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DRage wrote 1 year 13 weeks ago

Any word on the status of the bill in West Virginia? Any hunters needing to brush up on their elk hunting skills can visit my site www.elk-hunting.org and let's hope politics don't get in the way of sportsmen!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Well, the elk that are "returning to their historic range" are an exotic species. It never ceases to amaze me why only Rocky Mountain elk are transplanted back east. The Manitoba elk may in fact be remnants of the orignal Eastern Elk (last I heard they still hadn't made a clear DNA distinction between the two). I would think that it would make more sense to reintroduce Manitoba Elk to eastern areas. But it never seems to be considered. Wonder why? Oh yeah, the Rocky Mountain elk have bigger antlers. There ya go! It's all about horns, not retintroducing something that's at least a resonable facimile of what was "originally" on the land.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mpeterson wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I live in West Virginia and this sounds great! Can't wait to take my banjo and rifle and go out Wayne next season.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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