State to reintroduce elk in Buchanan

RICHMOND—The Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries has unanimously endorsed a management plan to reintroduce elk in Buchanan County.

A stocking of no more than 75 elk will take place in Buchanan, with the herd not exceeding 400 animals in a 12-year period. The plan has been scaled back from an initial proposal that could have included Dickenson and Wise counties.

Many Southwest Virginia farmers spoke out against reintroducing elk due to the possibility of damage and disease caused by the 900-pound animals. Virginia Farm Bureau Federation opposed any reintroduction of elk into the state.

"The (state’s game) board chose pennies and limited hunting over farmers and the issues," said Wilmer Stoneman, VFBF associate director of governmental relations.

"They ignored the farmers’ concerns over literally pennies in potential revenue. There will not be much economic development to offset the cost from 400 elk. Kentucky has 10,000 elk. That’s quite a difference."

Emily F. Edmondson, a Tazewell County beef producer, represents 6,000 farmers as a member of the VFBF board of directors. She said she spends $4 a foot on fencing for her cattle, and it adds up quickly.

"Each year I have to put up more fence. I cannot afford to have an animal that can go straight though a fence and let my cattle out. I would be liable for the damage caused by my cattle," Edmondson said. "Elk will eat our hay, go through our fences, give our animals diseases and eat our grass in times of drought. That grass is for our cattle to eat—not elk."

As part of the reintroduction plan, the state game board also proposed an out-of-cycle regulation that could go into effect Oct. 5 if adopted. There will be a public comment period before the decision is made.

If adopted, the regulation would place a moratorium on hunting Rocky Mountain elk of either sex in Virginia, the first step in protecting the existing population as part of a restoration effort.

Contact Stoneman at 804-290-1024.

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