Bluegrass elk become Volunteers
By Deborah Brae Tanner, Bugle Intern
“Very few Tennesseans ever get to be involved in something like this,” says longtime volunteer Harvey Hammock, who helped capture and relocate 35 elk from Kentucky to Tennessee. “I feel like a very special person to have been involved.”
On March 8, 2008, Hammock, along with two other Elk Foundation volunteers, Jerry Stout and Terry Lewis, joined a convoy of volunteers, biologists, Forest Service employees and 35 elk in four livestock trailers. At 5 a.m. the crew began the five-hour trip from Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes to Tennessee’s North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.
In wind-driven snow, a crowd of nearly 500 people gathered at the release site to watch the first trailer door swing open. Eighteen bulls, 11 cows and 6 elk calves emerged from the trailers to their new home on 760,000 acres.
Capturing and testing the animals took place over two months, and was overseen by a veterinarian from the University of Tennessee. “We have been working on this relocation for about a year,” says Stout. Success hinged on meeting federal restrictions for moving elk across state lines, due to fear of spreading chronic wasting disease. They sawed off the bulls’ antlers to protect them during the relocation, and all the elk were tested and vaccinated.
Hammock says the hardest part of the capture was transporting the elk to the trailers once they’d been darted. “Some of the bulls can weigh 750 to 800 pounds,” he said. Volunteers wrestled the darted elk onto tarps and carried them to trailers.
Volunteers from the Elk Foundation, Campbell Outdoor Recreation Association, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and Tennessee Wildlife Federation all participated in the relocation. It definitely was a team effort, Hammock says.