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House passes elk restoration bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday that would set up a framework for restoration of elk in West Virginia.

The measure (HB2515) paves the way for the state Division of Natural Resources to reintroduce elk into the wildlife and set up an elk zone to include all of Mingo, Logan, Wyoming and McDowell counties and and parts of Wayne, Lincoln and Boone counties.

The DNR sees elk restoration as a long term project. It may take a dozen years or more before hunting could begin. A reintroduction project in Kentucky has been successful.

Southern West Virginia lawmakers spoke in favor of the bill Tuesday calling it an economic development tool.

“People got out in Kentucky to just hear these elks bugle,” Delegate Josh Nelson (R-Boone) said.

But Delegate Roy Cooper (R-Summers) spoke against the legislation claiming elk would cause more damage than deer.

“This bill does not promote safety for anyone. This bill is a dangerous bill to anybody traveling our roads,” Cooper said.

It could take up to a dozen years for the restoration project to reach a point where hunting licenses would be available. It’s anticipated most of the elk will be located on former mining property.

There are a number of elk already in West Virginia that have crossed over from southeastern Kentucky and Buchanan County, Virginia.

The bill now heads to the state Senate.

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