SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Chances are you’ll start to notice a new wildlife license plate adorning the bumpers of vehicles across West Virginia soon. The most recent edition to the wildlife series license plates pays tribute to the recent work by the Division of Natural Resources to restore elk in the Mountain State.

The Division of Motor Vehicles recently made the elk plates available, but you’ll notice a bit of a difference in the artistic style. The wildlife plates started with the original plate featuring the rose breasted grosbeak. The whitetail deer was added in 2001. The more recent editions in the series were the black bear, brook trout, and blue bird. Those plates all had something in common, they were created by the same artist, Tom Allen.

“When you see the brook trout and the blue bird, and the whitetail deer, you’ll notice there are similarities. I can tell it’s a Tom Allen print,” said Scott Warner, Assistant Chief for Wildlife Diversity for the Division of Natural Resources. “When the Director approached me about wanting to do this, I didn’t have an elk license plate. Tom never did one and unfortunately he passed away several years ago.”

With no artwork in the pipeline it created a unique problem for Warner and his staff at DNR. They would have to commission somebody to create the image. Although it had never been done for one of the license plates, the agency is very familiar with many of the state’s most talented artists who regularly submit hundreds of high quality renderings for publication in the state’s Wildlife Calendar every year. Warner tapped the same vein to find the design for the elk license plateĀ  in much the same way as the calendar.

“We went out and invited artists from around the state to participate in a juried process,” he said. “We had a jury from not only the Division of Natural Resources, but also the general public, and members of the Rocky Mountain Elk foundation to help us with that review.”

After pairing down several hundred submissions, Warner said they were able to settle on a submission from an artist with whom they were quite familiar.

“We settled on a piece of artwork from Rhea Knight from Mason County whose very familiar with our agency because she’s been on the cover for several years with the wildlife calendar,” said Warner. “She’s a great artist, but features a lot of big game species, so this is right up her alley.”

Motorists who want to celebrate the elk can order up the license plate with their renewal. Each year there is an additional fee paid on the wildlife plates and the fee funds the Wildlife Diversity programs within the DNR.

The whitetail deer plate according to Warner remained by far, the most popular plate in the wildlife series.