Elk once roamed the forests throughout the Appalachians. Today they hold steady numbers in Pennsylvania, where they have thrived sufficiently enough to allow minimal hunting and fuel a significant financial impact from tourism. Many Easterners pay $10,000 or more for a quality hunt and it may seem a no-brainer to introduce this magnificent species where it once roamed freely. However, elk are notorious for raiding crops and hay stacks in winter and hitting one with a vehicle can be a fatal experience. Here’s the latest on this exciting proposal for Maryland hunters and wildlife lovers.
Historically, herds of elk roamed across most of the United States and Canada, but the Eastern elk – the only subspecies found east of the Mississippi River – was extirpated in the 19th century. The first efforts to restore a sustainable population in the east occurred in 1913 when Rocky Mountain elk from Yellowstone National Park were released into 10 counties in Pennsylvania. More recently, successful reintroduction efforts of Rocky Mountain elk to eastern habitats have occurred in Kentucky (1996), Tennessee (2000), North Carolina (2001), and Virginia (2012), and additional reintroduction efforts in the U.S. have occurred in Wisconsin (1995) and Missouri (2012). Similar reintroduction efforts are now being considered in Maryland.
In 2011, the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation (MLSF) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) partnered with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to explore the potential for elk reintroduction in three western counties of Maryland (Garrett, Allegheny, and Washington counties). RMEF provided the funding and the MLSF contracted with Responsive Management to assess the economic and social impacts of the proposed elk reintroduction.