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Tomblin Wants Elk Reintroduction

Two Kentucky Elk are part of a highly successful reintroduction program in the Bluegrass State.  Governor Tomblin believes similar success could happen here.


Elk have been officially absent in West Virginia for more than 130-years, but Governor Earl Ray Tomblin seems intent on changing that status.

During an address to a group over the weekend in Braxton County, Tomblin said the time has come to reintroduce elk in West Virginia.

"He said they’re coming into the state form Kentucky already and we will reintroduce elk into the state," said Dave Arnold who was on hand for the event.

The remark was a surprise to the more than 100 in attendance at the fundraiser for the Political Action Committee "Sportsmen for Tomblin" formed earlier this year. 

"I’m not sure of the all the details of even much more of what he said about it because I was so excited to hear it.  I was ready to start jumping up on the table I was so excited." said Arnold. "It’s been done in other states and tourism in those states has boomed for people who want to come see them.  Plus you would eventually be able to hunt them."

Kentucky draws thousands of permit applications for each year’s elk hunt.

DNR records indicate the last free roaming, native elk in West Virginia was spotted near Webster Springs around 1875.   A reintroduction effort in Pocahontas County in 1913 failed.   The idea has been talked about and studied several times since.    The most recent and most serious discussions came after neighboring Kentucky successfully reintroduced the large cervids in their eastern counties more than a decade ago.    The Kentucky herd has grown to a huntable population and they have started to trickle across the Tug Fork into the Mountain State.  Kentucky gets thousands of applications for a handful of permits every year.

"He talked about getting them (elk to reintroduce) from Kentucky since there’s concern about bringing them in from elsewhere and the chance of disease and so forth," Arnold said. 

"Other states’ elk are migrating right now into West Virginia, and this is something we need to take a serious look into," Tomblin Spokesman Amy Shuler Goodwin told the Charleston Daily Mail.

Arnold indicated the suggestion by the governor drew huge applause from the audience.  

The DNR in 2010 issued a draft plan, spurred by the migratory influx of the animals from Kentucky.    The DNR’s present elk management plan has been a passive approach and to manage those which move into the state from elsewhere.   Tomblin’s suggestion seems to indicate he wants the agency under his watch to become more aggressive in the effort. 

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