This bull elk is one of the original elk introduced into reclaimed strip mines in Buchanan County, Virginia, from 2012 to 2014. Most of the 75 elk released during that three-year restoration period continue to remain within 12 km of the original release site. DWR staff estimate that the elk herd in Southwest Virginia now numbers approximately 250. DWR staff and volunteers use trail cameras and visual observations of elk to monitor herd health, habitat use, activity, and reproduction. To gather even more specific data, 17 cow elk have also been fitted with GPS collars to monitor herd movement, evaluate calving areas, and assess other biological factors.
Elk spend most of their time in forested areas, and feed on understory plants and leaves of browse species, however the majority of their diet comes from grass and forbs found in field openings on private lands and reclaimed strip mines. Many of the open areas elk use for foraging are high-quality habitat maintained through plantings, fertilization, and mechanical removal of woody vegetation.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funding and volunteer manpower toward the successful restoration of elk to their historic Virginia range.
Go here to look for elk via Virginia’s live Elk Cam.
(Photo source: Bess Thompson/Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)