Elk NetworkWest Virginia Elk Herd Gains Ground

General | August 13, 2020

It looks like West Virginia’s elk herd bounced back after a bout with a deadly brain parasite. Biologists say cows delivered about 15 calves during the spring of 2020, increasing the overall herd size by about 17 percent.

“We got hit pretty hard by brainworm last year, but this year conditions are much better. The weather has been drier, and the elk are in much better shape physically than they were last year,”  Randy Kelley, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources elk project leader, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The herd suffered die-off in 2018 after animals brought in from Arizona remained in a 90-day quarantine ordered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several animals died before being released while all others were weaker than they would have been in the wild.

“We’re way ahead of where we were last year. Having higher bodyweights seems to help the elk resist brainworm. This time last year, they’d been hit pretty hard. They’re better off now, and we think they’ll fare considerably better,” added Kelley.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation assisted with the successful restoration of wild, free-ranging elk to their historic West Virginia in 2016.

(Photo source:  Bill Hucky)