Comment period on elk hunting proposal ends May 22

newspaperThe public comment period for a proposal by the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries to close the state’s elk hunting season in 31 counties west of the Blue Ridge ends May 22.

In 2012, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries re-established about 75 elk in Buchanan County, and elk hunting was prohibited in Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise counties. Currently, hunters with a valid deer tag may hunt elk anywhere in the state except the three-county Elk Management Area. That hunting policy was established primarily to limit the risk of reintroduced elk—or deer—transmitting diseases to agricultural livestock and the white-tailed deer population.

Closing the elk season in the Blue Ridge would add 28 more counties to the Elk Management Area.

The proposal is causing distress for area farmers. The Washington County Board of Supervisors recently supported unanimously a resolution presented by the Washington County Farm Bureau, against the plan. In a letter to The Coalfield Progress, Wise County cattle producer Carolyn Baker voiced concerns about the potential elk have to damage cropland, pastures and vineyards. “There are 106 members of the Coalfield Beef Cattle and Land Use Association. What happens to them when elk take over their pastures?” she wrote. “I am one of those beef producers. There goes our income.”

Much of Virginia, Baker noted, “is not the vast, open area it used to be. It’s occupied by landowners who want to use their land for their benefit. Not to feed elk.”

She also cited the potential for injuries and vehicle damage in collisions with elk. “Just look at the vehicle damage that can result from a collision with a deer; now imagine a collision with an elk.”

The public can submit comments about the proposal to the game department throughMay 22 at www.dgif.virginia.gov.

The final decision about the proposal will be released June 2.

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