Whitesburg KY

Motorists here urged to watch for elk

Motorists in southeastern Kentucky are being warned to watch out for elk in the road during the next few months, as the breeding season peaks and elk move to lower elevations in search of food.

Elk are especially active on nights when the moon is full. “We don’t have a lot of vehicle collisions with elk, but the ones we do have are often during a full moon,” said Capt. Ken Amburgey of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ law enforcement division. “Bulls, young ones especially, are looking for females this time of year.”

A full moon will occur this week.

Roads with the highest number of car or truck collisions with elk during the past few years include KY 7 in Knott County, KY 582 in Knott and Floyd counties, KY 476 in Perry County, U.S. 421 in Leslie County and KY 66 in Clay County. Two collisions occurred last week on KY 80 in Knott County, but no person was injured. Motorists should be especially cautious in areas with elk crossing signs.

“In past years, most vehicle collisions with elk have been reported from Thanksgiving through April,” said Tina Brunjes, big game program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “However, with the onset of breeding activity and the widespread drought, elk are moving quite a bit right now.”

A driver’s best defense against any collision is to stay alert and obey posted speed limits. “We’ve had a few reports of people feeding elk in open areas near roads where they can see them. While we want folks to enjoy elk viewing, it can create a dangerous situation when wild animals are encouraged to linger near roads,” Brunjes said.

Since Kentucky began restoring free-ranging elk in 1997, the herd has grown to approximately 6,500 animals. However, even with the steady increase in the elk herd’s size, a car or truck is far more likely to hit a deer than an elk. Kentucky averages 10 vehicle collisions with elk a year.

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