Game board passes elk management plan

The Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries passed the 10-year Virginia Elk Management Plan at its March 21 meeting.

The plan extends from 2019 to 2028 and will guide the state game department’s management of a growing elk population.

Between 2012 and 2014 71 elk were relocated to Buchanan County from southeast Kentucky. An additional four calves were born in quarantine. Virginia’s restored elk herd is estimated at 200 animals. Since their release, they have largely stayed close to the release site. Additionally, elk that are not part of the restoration effort have been sighted in Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, Washington and Wise counties.

“Due to the potential for crop and livestock damage, it is critical to consider agricultural interests when implementing any wildlife management plan,” said Stefanie Kitchen, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation legislative specialist. “The elk management plan provides a good framework for balancing the interests of all stakeholders as Virginia’s elk herd continues to grow.”

Goals set forth by the plan were developed by a 17-member stakeholder advisory committee representing a variety of interests, including farmers, hunters, homeowners, forest landowners, animal and ecological health interests, business and tourism industries, motorists and government agencies.

VFBF board member Emily F. Edmondson represents Farm Bureau producer members in Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise counties—areas where farms have been affected by elk. She served on the stakeholder advisory committee and has worked for many years in developing the Elk Management Plan, as well as providing public comments to the Virginia General Assembly and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

“I am looking forward to the implementation of the plan and to hearing of, hopefully, the success of DGIF’s management of the elk herd,” Edmondson said. “I was particularly pleased that the plan calls for (hunting) elk on deer tags for counties not in the elk zone.”

Edmondson said farmers in counties surrounding the relocation are concerned about how the game department would keep the elk in the designated management zone.

“It was difficult to come to an agreement on everything,” she explained. “But I have an appreciation for Buchanan County, who really want elk there. If they want them there, then have them there. But keep them there.”

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