HOLDEN, W.Va. — Amid the sweltering heat and haze in the coalfields of southern West Virginia a picture was captured on a trail camera this week. That picture, on the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County confirms the first elk to be bred and born in West Virginia is now on the ground.
“We run a normal camera system in the summer to monitor movement and on that camera we located an elk from our original 24 stocked back in 2016,” said Division of Natural Resources Elk Project leader Randy Kelly. “After a day or so we ended up with a picture of her and a calf so we know that calf had to be bred here in West Virginia He’s full blooded Mountaineer.”
The milestone is another step forward in the ongoing elk reintroduction project in southern West Virginia. While the first calf to be born and bred in the state is significant, Kelly said the second calf with those same roots is probably the more compelling story.
One cow elk injured a hoof in 2016 while the West Virginia DNR’s elk team was working up the animals at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The injured hoof made the cow quite gimpy. Kelly worried she might not survive. Turns out she not only survived, but multiplied.
“She’s gradually gotten better and she moved across 119 into an area where there weren’t any other elk. She’s taken up residence,” explained Kelly. “A couple of bulls found her in August and a couple of bulls turned into one bull as they apparently fought it out. The one who bred her stayed with her and is still with her.”
This week, Kelly caught a trail cam image of the once nearly lame cow and her young calf with spots. The bull was not far away.
Several other calves have dropped on the area from elk transported into the Mountain State from Arizona earlier this year. Some of them however were born in the area’s holding facility while in quarantine awaiting approval from the United States Department of Agriculture for release. Several died along with a few adult elk awaiting USDA clearance from disease testing.
“We lost four total once we started testing. We had a couple succumb
after that as well,” said Kelly. “We actually ended up losing a total of eight animals which I attribute to the testing procedure that was forced upon us by the USDA.”