May 14, 2015
RMEF Backs Virginia Elk Proposal, Clarifies Misconceptions
MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports a proposal to protect Virginia’s elk in 31 counties west of the Blue Ridge. Right now, hunters can shoot an elk with a valid deer tag anywhere in the state except within the Elk Management Area consisting of Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise Counties. In essence, the measure would add 28 additional counties to the Elk Management Area.
“We view this as a positive step to ensure the future of an elk population recently restored to its native Virginia range,” said Chris Croy, RMEF regional director of Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
A few groups continue to express concern about wild elk herds claiming the risk of transmitting diseases to livestock and the whitetail deer population. Individual elk transported from Kentucky and placed on the Virginia landscape underwent a series of tests and intensive monitoring during a quarantine period to ensure a disease-free status.
“Three elk harvested in Virginia in 2014 by deer hunters all tested negative for Chronic Wasting Disease, Brucellosis and Tuberculosis,” said Tom Toman, RMEF director of science and planning. “The few elk mortalities that have taken place are the result of brainworm which is transmitted to elk through a whitetail deer host with a slug/snail host. In other words, elk pick it up from the slugs and snails on the vegetation they eat.”
“RMEF has always respected landowner rights and supported farmers and ranchers. We have seen that with knowledge and education, landowners in states home to wild, free-ranging elk herds can successfully coexist with elk,” added Croy.
There are also safety claims of potential elk-vehicle collisions. In reality, there have only been a few road-killed elk in Virginia and they took place in the late 1990s among animals that moved into Virginia from Kentucky. There have been no recent road kills in the three county elk restoration area and none involving any of the restoration elk.
With significant financial and volunteer assistance provided by the RMEF and other partners, the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries completed a multi-year restoration of elk on to their native Virginia range in 2014. RMEF previously completed successful elk restorations in Wisconsin in 1995, Kentucky in 1997, Tennessee in 2000, Ontario in 2001, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002 and Missouri in 2011. RMEF also funded feasibility studies in Illinois, Maryland, New York and West Virginia.
The public has until May 22 to submit comments about the proposal. Go here to do so. A final decision is expected to be announced on June 2.