First-Ever Managed Elk Hunt Generates $600K for Virginia Conservation Efforts

by Alex Falls
noekerryan / Getty

Virginia’s first ever managed elk hunt is scheduled to begin this weekend and hunters have raised more than their guns for this event. Hunters supporting the event have raised more than $606,000 that will go towards bolstering wildlife and management projects in the state’s elk management zone.

“This funding is an indicator of the significant contributions of hunters who support Virginia’s elk and elk country,” said Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) president and CEO. “We also salute our partners at the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) for their diligence in successfully managing the state’s growing elk herd. Those efforts open the door for this first, historic hunt.”

DWR awarded its first elk conservation license to RMEF. The organization held a raffle that generated more than $93,000 for elk management and conservation. That came on the heels of DWR’s initial lottery of five antlered elk tags that raised more than $513,000.

“That’s approximately half a million dollars that will go right back into wildlife conservation because of the contributions of these hunters,” said Ryan Brown, DWR executive director. “Though a small hunt, it’s significant in marking the early success of the restoration of this magnificent animal to Virginia, and also a tremendous opportunity to show the greater public the conservation benefits of hunting.”

Virginia’s New Rules for Elk Hunting

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR) opened up the state for elk hunting for the first time just earlier this year thanks to a successful elk recovery effort that began in 2012. Led by the RMEF, today, more than 250 elk roam their historic, native range and VDWR is accepting applications for elk hunting for the first time.

“Instituting the first-ever managed elk hunt a mere decade after restoration is an indicator that the state’s elk herd is growing, sustainable and healthy. In short, it marks a conservation milestone for Virginia,” said Mark Baker, RMEF board of directors chair. “We salute and congratulate VDWR on successfully executing its elk management plan, and for establishing a hunt that will generate significant funding to ensure the future of elk in Virginia.”

This isn’t the only successful restoration effort RMEF has helped with. In fact, six other states now have resident elk populations thanks to the organization. Including Kentucky (with over 10,000 elk and the largest population east of the Mississippi), Missouri (with over 200 elk), North Carolina (200+ elk), Tennessee (over 400 elk), West Virginia (with about 80 elk) and Wisconsin (with nearly 400 elk and counting).

“As in the past, we remain committed as an organization going forward to working alongside our state agency partners in supporting and growing elk populations throughout the East and across the country including here in my home state of Virginia,” said Todd Walker, RMEF board member from McLean.