Whitesburg KY

Admit it, elk program has been a success

When the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources began reintroducing elk in Kentucky for the first time in more than 125 years in 1997, one of the stated purposes of that effort was the elk eventually would boost tourism by promoting more hunting in the state.

Has it? Well, a year ago more than 46,000 people representing all 50 states applied for a chance on a permit to hunt elk in Kentucky. They included 28 hunters from Alaska and one from Hawaii. …

At the time of Daniel Boone, elk were common in Kentucky, but by the 1850s the state’s elk population had dwindled to nearly zero as a result of hunting and a destruction of habitat and elk soon disappeared completely from the hills of eastern Kentucky,

However, in December of 1997 the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources released seven elk from Kansas into Kentucky’s mountain region. Between 1997 and 2002, more than 1,500 elk from seven diff erent states were released in Kentucky. While no elk from other states have been released in Kentucky for almost eight years, state officials say elk have flourished in Kentucky and the state estimates there now are more than 10,000 elk roaming the hills of eastern and southeastern Kentucky.

“A recent genetic study shows that Kentucky elk tend to be a bit bigger as far as body weight than their western counterparts,” said Tina Brunjes, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s big game coordinator. …

A year ago, the success rate for those with permits getting an elk was 84 percent. That’s the kind of success rate that makes applying for a permit worth the gamble and has the potential of making Kentucky the happy hunting ground for elk, an animal that did not even exist in the state 13 years ago. Even those who hate hunting and opposed the elk restoration project have to admit the big animals have the potential of attracting many visitors to the state, including some hunters whose only weapon is a camera.

— The Independent, Ashland, Ky.

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