Elk NetworkWest Virginia Mulls Expanding Its Elk Population

General | December 14, 2023

West Virginia’s elk population continues to slowly grow and now wildlife officials are considering speeding up that growth with a reintroduction from another state, possibly next-door neighbor Kentucky.

“There are several challenges in elk acquisition, but we are in a phase where we’re looking at some possible increase in numbers,” Brett McMillion, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources director, told recently told a West Virginia Legislature subcommittee, as reported by West Virginia News. “When we get to that point where we’re actually able to make an announcement, the governor will certainly be the one doing that. I know he’s very excited about it.”

The biggest challenge may be the recent confirmation of Kentucky’s first documented case of chronic wasting disease. CWD is always fatal disease that spread across half of all U.S. states including Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee – six of seven states that share a border with Kentucky. It can affect deer, elk and other ungulates.

West Virginia currently has a population numbering about 110 elk and hopes to double that number before allowing a limited hunt, which can generate significant funding to financially bolster elk management.

Elk hunts currently take place in the nearby states of Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supplied funding and volunteer support the original restoration of elk to their historic West Virginia range in 2016 as well as a 2018 joint relocation effort by the West Virginia Division of Wildlife Resources, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and RMEF.

(Photo credit: West Virginia Department of Natural Resources)