I recently visited Buchanan County, Va., to check out the new elk herd. Guided by two RMEF volunteers, I took to the hills to find some of these amazing creatures that I'd never seen in person in hopes of hearing their spine-tingling bugles. Lucky for me, I heard two beautiful bugles, made two new friends and learned a ton about the new Virginia elk herd.
Here are 4 things you need to know about the reintroduction:
1.) Virginia Elk Herd Thrives
I talked to RMEF volunteers James Coleman and Leon Boyd. Coleman took me up to the drop-off location, where the three original groups of elk were temporarily penned and then released. This spring 20 calves were born, and the herd is up to about 100 elk. According to Boyd, another 50 calves could be born next year.
2.) Limited-Tag Draw Expected
The Virginia DGIF is set to hold a limited-tag draw when the herd gets to about 400 elk. According to Coleman, the DGIF has it set up so that tag recipients will have to coordinate with one of the RMEF volunteers to ensure that an older bull is taken.
3.) Yearlings Are Getting Pregnant
Coleman informed me that some of the yearlings have been getting pregnant, which is uncommon. Boyd said this was the case in Kentucky as well, (Kentucky's program is what the state of Virginia's elk reintroduction is modeled after), and it is probably due to the mild winters and abundance of food from the mine and gas drilling reclamation.
4.) The Elk Are Free Ranging
Many of the folks in Grundy, and the surrounding towns of Buchanan County, Va., were under the impression that the elk were penned, but this is not the case. The elk are wild and free ranging. With West Virginia and Kentucky so close to the county, I was concerned the elk might migrate to those states. Boyd said, "Buchanan County was the only county that spoke in favor of the stocking. It is very possible that elk can go to West Virginia, Kentucky or anywhere they wish because they are wild and free ranging. We have seen the majority of the animals stay within a few miles of the release area. Just this morning I saw 54 elk where you were with James."