By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
VANSANT, Va. —
Supporters of elk reintroduction said a proposal limiting hunting of the elk in Southwest Virginia would allow exceptions for animals causing a nuisance for farmers and property owners.
Leon Boyd, chairman of the Southwest Virginia Coalfields Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, said his organization and not the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has proposed the ordinance that would limit elk hunting in counties surrounding the elk restoration area.
Boyd said the department of game is only holding public hearings on behalf of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to see if there is enough public support for the proposal. The Tazewell County Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution opposing the proposal due to concerns from local farmers.
“The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is just facilitating the public hearings,” he said. “We don’t want them to catch any flack for this. The suggestion went before the board just to see if we could get some feedback on limiting elk hunting and removing elk from being taken with normal deer tags. We just asked the department to help us facilitate the public comment process.”
Boyd said the current proposal has an exemption for farmers and landowners who feel elk are causing a nuisance to their property.
“We are looking into a way that would leave it up to the property owner to decide how to handle any nuisance elk,” he said. “They could choose to have the animal removed or they could take care of the animal themselves. This would limit hunting elk as sport, but there would be exceptions for farmers and landowners who feel the elk are causing a nuisance. There are a lot of farmer’s who I’ve talked to that are in support of this proposal and some of them are from Tazewell County. That was our goal in this.”
Boyd said small numbers of young male elk might migrate out of the elk restoration counties like Buchanan County during a brief period in the fall.
“During September or October — which is their breeding season — the younger elk may step out of the area to get away from the larger, older males,” he said. “That might cause them to step out of the restoration area into neighboring counties for a brief time period.”
However, Boyd said tracking devices on the elk placed in the elk restoration area indicate they have not left a small portion of Buchanan County near where they were first reintroduced.
“They are using an area of about 2,000 acres of land that includes two reclaimed mining sites and a small valley in between,” he said. “They’ve really kept to themselves and have been avoiding crossing the highways or populated areas. A lot of them have just been staying in that same site in Vansant where we first reintroduced them.”
Boyd said the herd is already showing signs of growth and more elk will be added to the current herd by the end of May.
“We have 24 elk now including the 16 we originally released and eight babies that have been born since last year,” he said. “Later this month they are adding an undetermined amount to the herd. I think it will be somewhere between 15 and 20 new elk. They will expand as the heard grows, but it will be a few years before they really start moving from the area where they are now.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org