Elk NetworkWest Virginia Expands Elk Herd by 23 Animals

General | April 9, 2024

Below is a news release from West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supplied funding and volunteer support with the initial elk restoration effort in 2016 as well as a subsequent project with Arizona several years later.

Gov. Jim Justice announced the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) welcomed an additional 23 elk to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County, where the elk will be evaluated and held for a short period of time before being released into the wild.

“As a lifelong outdoorsman, witnessing the resurgence of West Virginia’s elk herd brings me immense joy and pride,” said Gov. Justice. “This achievement underscores our unwavering commitment to preserving our state’s outdoor heritage and ensuring our abundant wildlife and natural resources are protected for generations to come.”

The elk transport, which brings West Virginia’s elk population to 140–150, is the final of two transports the WVDNR has planned this year. The first was announced by Gov. Justice in January. All elk released this year have been transported from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky. Partner agencies involved in the capture and release include the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Gov. Justice also announced the WVDNR has recorded 60 native elk calf births since launching its Elk Restoration Project in 2016.

“Our progress in cultivating a robust and sustainable elk herd under the leadership of Gov. Justice is a success story that every West Virginian can be proud of,” said WVDNR Director Brett McMillion. “Each elk release and native birth represents a triumph in our game management strategies, reaffirming our dedication to preserving West Virginia’s natural treasures for all to enjoy.”

Tomblin WMA Visitor Center and Elk Viewing Tower construction to start soon

In the coming weeks, construction of the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area Visitor Center and Elk Viewing Platform in Logan County, announced by Gov. Justice in February, will begin and bring millions of economic development activity to the surrounding region.

“This state-of-the-art facility is going to be a significant boost to the local economy by bringing thousands of visitors to southern West Virginia while supporting the WVDNR’s ongoing elk management efforts to sustain a healthy herd for future generations,” said James Bailey, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce, which oversees the WVDNR.

The elk viewing tower will provide an elevated platform for enhanced viewing areas and a level viewing area that will be accessible to those with limited mobility. The adjacent visitor center will complement the elk viewing tower with more than 2,000 square feet of displays, conference facilities, offices and other amenities for visitors, volunteers, researchers and staff. There will also be more than 500 square feet dedicated to the history of the elk program and the reclaimed mine areas where they have been introduced.

Aside from the visitor center, the new facility will feature 3,300 square feet of space designed to meet the unique needs of managing and supporting West Virginia’s growing elk herd, including a lab with an enlarged exterior door and overhead crane system for handling elk, five large equipment bay doors, research facilities, labs and storage for supplies and equipment.

The new facility is anticipated to open in 2025.

About the Elk Restoration Project

The WVDNR launched its Elk Restoration Project in 2016 with the release of 24 elk acquired from the Land Between the Lakes. Since 2018, the WVDNR has introduced 57 elk (15 from Kentucky and 42 from Arizona) to the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan County.

To raise awareness about its elk restoration project, the WVDNR has offered guided elk tours in Logan County, where participants can learn more about the history of elk in West Virginia and get a chance to see elk in a natural setting. Tours are offered in September and October each year and often sell out.

(Photo credit: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources)