Rumor had it that a herd of elk had returned to West Virginia.
To find out if it was true, one year ago this month, a few hundred people gathered on a muddy hilltop in Logan County, back in December 2016, to catch a glimpse of the large mammals that hadn’t graced these hills for nearly 150 years. But the elk were nowhere to be seen–they wouldn’t budge from cover. After some time, a gentle spook from an official from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) encouraged the animals to trot out from behind their bushes and into a grassy opening.
And then there they were. Folks smiled and took pictures. Then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and several others spoke about the importance of this moment and this project — the official reintroduction of elk into West Virginia. But most attendees didn’t stand near the speaker’s platform. Rather they were off to the right, looking down on the grassy opening, eyes fixed on an unusual sight in the Mountain State: A real, live, herd of elk.
We weren’t very close — the elk looked smaller from this distance — but with tan-brown coats and their size, you wouldn’t mistake them for deer. We also noticed that all of the bulls had their antlers removed…