Elk NetworkWest Virginia Welcomes 17 Elk, More to Come

General | February 8, 2024

Below is a news release from West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. While the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was not a part of this effort, it supplied volunteer and financial support for the original elk restoration in 2016 and the transfer of 42 elk from Arizona in 2018. 

Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) announced the successful transport of 17 elk to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County. The elk will be evaluated and held for a short period of time before being released into the wild, bringing the state’s growing elk population up to 127. 

“As governor, I’m thrilled to announce that West Virginia’s elk population has reached an incredible 127 animals,” Gov. Justice said. “Since our reintroduction efforts began several years ago, these majestic creatures have returned to grace our state, enriching our ecosystem and offering unparalleled outdoor experiences. This achievement is a testament to the tireless efforts of our dedicated DNR staff, whose commitment to conservation is truly commendable. We remain committed to further expanding our elk population, fostering tourism, and ensuring a vibrant future for these iconic animals in West Virginia.” 

“As we restore West Virginia’s elk population after a century of extirpation, we are reminded that our state’s natural resources are a great treasure and that the abundance of wildlife calling these hills home need our protection,” WVDNR Director Brett McMillion said. 

This elk transport comes just two weeks after Gov. Justice announced WVDNR would add 40 new elk to the state’s herd in 2024 and create a visitors’ center and observation tower in Logan County to help tourists and wildlife enthusiasts view elk in a natural setting. A second transport of 23 elk is scheduled to take place in February. 

All 40 elk scheduled to be released this year will be transported from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky. Partner agencies involved in the capture and release include the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 

The WVDNR launched its Elk Restoration Project in 2016 with the release of 24 elk acquired from the Land Between the Lakes. Since 2018, the WVDNR has introduced 57 elk (15 from Kentucky and 42 from Arizona) to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County.  

To raise awareness about its elk restoration project, the WVDNR has offered guided elk tours in Logan County where participants can learn more about the history of elk in West Virginia and get a chance to see elk in a natural setting. Tours are offered in September and October each year and often sell out.  

(Photo credit: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources)