Almost anywhere you go in West Virginia or Kentucky, you probably aren’t too far away from a reminder that great herds of elk once roamed the region. In fact, the Elk River flows past the town of Elkview before joining the Kanawha in West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston.
Those herds haven’t been seen in perhaps 200 years. They were wiped out across much of the country. However, the states of Kentucky and West Virginia are working very hard to bring those herds back, and they are using former coal mine lands as their initial reintroduction points.
“Reclaimed land is a great canvas for elk habitat,” said Steven Dobey, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s (RMEF) eastern conservation program manager. “With a little improvement, elk do just fine. We’ve seen it take place in Kentucky, and I’m sure we’ll see it in West Virginia, too.”
Known as the Wapiti Woods Project, the primary point of introduction in West Virginia for elk restoration has been the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County, one of the largest coal-producing counties in the state.