Restoring a population of animals that were once native to an area is no easy feat, but the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources is trying. Active planning to reintroduce elk began in 2015, and in December 2016, 24 disease-free elks were moved from Kentucky to a West Virginia wildlife management area. For the first time in 145 years, elk are roaming the forests of the Mountain State.
Three months since the release, only two individuals have died from the stressful move. The remaining animals have begun exploring the thousands of acres of open terrain, which is being monitored closely by the project leader, Randy Kelley. The elk were fitted with $2,000 collars that provide GPS updates automatically every three hours. The project leader can observe all 22 elk from his computer at once, a crucial detail to ensure proper monitoring and protection.
Although the plan went into action fairly quickly, the Natural Resources Department has been conducting studies and research for an elk reintroduction for almost 50 years.
A poll conducted in 2005 revealed that 75 percent of respondents viewed an elk restoration project positively in hopes that elk viewing and hunting could be possible activities for locals in the future.
Source: The Conservation Fund