Core to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage is returning wild, free-ranging elk to their historic range. That includes range in the eastern part of the United States.
“It’s been part of RMEF’s mission since 1990 when the first project east of the Mississippi was completed in Wisconsin,” says Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer, told Outdoor Friend. “Since then, the organization has spent millions of dollars both directly and indirectly to support the efforts of seven states (Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin) and also Ontario, Canada.”
To make that happen, RMEF works with a wide range of partners including state wildlife agencies, federal agencies, landowners, volunteers and many others. Henning says there are three key ingredients.
“Number one, you have to have a supportive state wildlife agency and public, including hunters. Both the agency and the hunters need to be willing to advocate for the reintroduction.
“Secondly, and now with CWD on the landscape, you need a CWD-free source herd. And you have to be willing and able to move a good number of elk — maybe 75 to 100 — in order to put enough animals on the ground to allow the herd to build.
“Additionally, you need a large intact landscape with good habitat. Kentucky has this, and so does West Virginia,” Henning told Outdoor Friend.
(Photo source: Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources)