Elk NetworkThe Kentucky Elk Expansion

News Releases , RMEF Films | March 22, 2022

In December of 1997, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources released the first elk to the Southern Appalachian coalfields of eastern Kentucky. Over the next 25 years, a total of 1,540 relocated elk thrived to become the largest U.S. elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains.

In January of 2022, RMEF volunteers showed up to assist KDFWR, in conjunction with Daniel Boone National Forest, to relocate approximately 50 elk from areas of high population density to the Stearns Ranger District to the Daniel Boone National Forest. The goal: expand elk distribution in Kentucky and substantially increase public access opportunities for elk hunting.

Special thanks to our RMEF Films partners, specifically Yeti, Nosler, Leupold and Bass Pro Shops/Cabelas. Thanks to their commitment to conservation, RMEF is able to tell this story.

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Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Helps Expand Kentucky Elk Range

MISSOULA, Mont. —The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation continued its long-time support of restoring elk to their historic eastern range by helping the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) expand the state’s active elk range.

RMEF provided volunteer assistance as well as $130,000 for the helicopter service and GPS collars to move 50 elk to Daniel Boone National Forest lands in McCreary County from elsewhere within the state’s elk zone where numbers are much higher.* To date, RMEF contributed more than $2.5 million for wildlife management, research and habitat enhancement in the Kentucky elk zone.

“This has been on Kentucky’s radar as a priority to benefit its overall elk population for quite some time,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “The effort creates a new population of elk on publicly-owned land that also provides both future economic boost and hunting opportunity to this part of the state. We greatly appreciate and salute our partners at KDFWR and the Daniel Boone National Forest for making it happen.”

KDFWR crews used a helicopter to capture elk and outfit each of them with a GPS collar. Biologists will now be able to monitor their movement and habitat use as well as simultaneously track and gather information about elk reproduction and survival.

Kentucky’s Elk Management Zone includes 16 southeastern counties that span more than four million acres of interspersed woodland, scrub-shrub and field habitats.  Elk will now occupy the western-most reaches of McCreary County, which includes about 310,000 acres of the Daniel Boone National Forest but was mostly devoid of elk before this translocation effort. KDFWR will continue monitoring the new herd in Elk Hunting Unit (EHU) 1 and assess the feasibility for future hunting opportunities.

KDFWR and RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment provided funding for the effort. RMEF also acquired a grant from Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for additional support.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Founded more than 37 years ago and fueled by hunters, RMEF maintains more than 225,000 members and has conserved nearly 8.4 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

What They’re Saying about the Kentucky Elk Relocation Project:

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