CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia wildlife officials are using trail cameras to track the state’s growing elk population as part of an effort to determine how to manage the animals.
Elk are migrating to West Virginia, primarily the southwestern counties, from Kentucky and Virginia, where efforts are under way to re-establish the elk population, state Division of Natural Resources assistant wildlife chief Paul Johansen told West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
“Of course elk don’t recognize state borders,” Johansen said. “They have been observed here in West Virginia. As a result of that, our agency has engaged in a pretty extensive planning process to determine how best to manage that resource that the commonwealth of Kentucky has so graciously blessed us with.”
The trail cameras are one technique that will be used to monitor the elk population and identify where the animals are coming from, Johansen said.
There are concerns with the elk’s return to West Virginia after more than a century, including damage to crops and elk-vehicle collisions. But many hunters support growing the elk population.
“Whenever you put a large herbivore in the landscape like elk, you’re going to have positive benefits and you’re going to have negative benefits,” Johansen said.
“There are certainly a lot of folks, particularly hunters, that would love to see elk restored in West Virginia just from the standpoint of the recreational opportunities afforded by a re-established elk population.”
However, there will be no elk hunting until the population reaches at least 950 animals in a nearly 3,000-square-mile area covering seven counties.