Elk on the Roam Virginia's Elk Viewing Opportunities in the Heart
Historically, Elk roamed freely throughout eastern North America, including Virginia. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss led to their demise by the late 1800s. Early to mid-1900s attempts to restore our elk populations failed, mostly due to lack of suitable habitat and human knowledge of elk ecology. Today, elk are making a comeback in the Heart of Appalachia, due to the diligent efforts of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and other conservation groups in Virginia. DGIF released 16 elk on reclaimed mining land in Buchanan County in 2012, 10 the following year and an additional 45 in 2014. And they are thriving. DGIF Biologists now estimate the total number of elk in Virginia to be between 150 to 200 animals.
Our Virginia bulls are growing impressive antlers and are now “bugling” to assert their dominance, and to impress their harems. The sound of the elk bugle is one of the most unique sounds in nature. These magnificent animals provide a great viewing opportunity–Elk Cows can weigh up to 600lbs and Bulls can grow to a whopping 700lbs!
The project’s official restoration area covers three counties — Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise — and 800,000 acres. Elk viewing opportunities are available via bus tours offered by Breaks Interstate Park until November 19 this year. Another public viewing opportunity exists at Poplar Gap Park in Buchanan County—Elk are often seen around dusk. In fact, if you are an OHV/ATV enthusiast, you may enjoy frequent elk sightings while riding Spearhead Trails’ Coal Canyon Trail System near Grundy!
If you go, take your binoculars and a camera to capture photos. If elk are bugling, you may want to try to record a video of their unique call.
For more information about Virginia’s Elk Restoration project, visit https://blog.wildlife.virginia.gov/2016/09/a-growing-elk-herd-in-virginia/. Also see https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/elk/management-plan/ and DGIF on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VDGIF.
The photos in this post were provided courtesy of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.