Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

July 19, 2012

W.Va. to use cameras to gauge elk population in McDowell, Wyoming counties

WELCH — State wildlife officials are using motion-sensitive cameras and salt licks to track elk in seven southwestern counties in an effort to determine the size of West Virginia’s elk population.

Wildlife officials also want to know whether the elk are reproducing or wandering across the border from Kentucky.

The cameras are being installed in Wayne, Lincoln, Boone, Mingo, Logan, Wyoming and McDowell counties, which comprise an elk management zone established by the Division of Natural Resources.

“We’ve had confirmed reports of elk for the past several years in southern West Virginia,” DNR assistant wildlife chief Paul Johansen told The Register-Herald (http://bit.ly/Q7MVT0).

“Those were a direct result of natural movement of elk from across the state line, not necessarily released, but as a result of the restoration effort. We have a habitat I’m sure that’s suitable for those elk that have wandered over from Kentucky. We need to put in place a management plan to help us, and we have, to help us most efficiently to manage that resource.”

The DNR has not received any reports or confirmation that elk are reproducing but it is a possibility, Johansen said.

The DNR wants to be prepared to manage the elk population if hunting the animals is legalized in the state. But a legalized hunt could be several years away, he said.

Another goal is to avoid conflicts between elk and humans, such as crop damage or collisions with vehicles.

“We try to identify an area that has both suitable habitat and minimum potential negative consequences or impacts from elk. That’s the area we’ve identified as our elk management zone,” Johansen said.

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