W.Va. Elk Herd A Wise Investment

Christmases in the near future may be different for some West Virginia children. They may be able to point to the woods and announce, “Look, mommy! Santa’s reindeer!”

They will be looking at what was a nice Christmas present to all Mountain State residents this year.

Elk, which may look like reindeer to some youngsters but are in fact a different species, are back in West Virginia. It has been nearly a century and a half since the animals could be found in the wild in our state.

Twenty-four elk, ob-tained from a herd of about 10,000 that roam in eastern Kentucky, have been relocated to West Virginia. They were released near Holden, in Logan County.

For nature lovers, the return of elk is a wonderful thing solely because it restores a majestic creature that once was common in our state.

For tourism promoters, elk in West Virginia are an opportunity. They enhance our attractiveness to those who seek outdoor recreation in our wild, wonderful mountains. Eventually, once the herd grows, they may bring hunters, too.

Vast areas of southern West Virginia are prime habitat for elk. Sparsely populated and with rugged terrain, the area is a natural for the big animals.

No other area of our state needs more help with its economy. Tens of thousands of people in what once was referred to as the southern coalfields are struggling because of that industry’s decline. In time, the elk may bring some new jobs.

State officials spent years considering whether it was feasible to re-establish elk in West Virginia. They have taken various steps to ensure what is now an experiment becomes a long-term success. Making that happen will require some resources, at a time when the state’s budget is strained to the breaking point.

Spending a few dollars to grow the elk herd will be money well spent, however, for our children and grandchildren.

COMMENTS