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It’s Elk Viewing Season!

By Jackie Rosenberger/DWR

I’m Jackie Rosenberger and I’m the DWR Elk Project Leader. Every day on the job is different. Right now, with the elk rut kicking off in September and continuing into October, a lot of my job involves elk viewing. I helped to launch the Elk Cam, organize the public viewing tours, and also serve as a guide for weekly public tours throughout September and October.

Last year was our first year for the tours and I enjoyed sharing that experience with all the tour participants. There were a lot of excited and happy folks. I heard people say that they never thought they’d see an elk in the wild, or at least never thought they’d see an elk in Virginia. There were people who were overcome with emotion; some people got teary-eyed seeing the elk out there. For a lot of people, it’s more than just a cool way to spend a Thursday evening. It means a lot to them to have that opportunity to see elk. Taking folks out to see the elk is definitely a rewarding part of the job.

There is a herd of about 100 elk on a roughly 2,000-acre area, including and surrounding the site where elk were released from 2012 to 2014. This is an excellent area to do tours. I might not know exactly where the elk are going to be on any given day, but I know that if I drive around the area enough at an appropriate time of day, we’re going to run into them somewhere. It’s nice to have that confidence when you’re taking people out for elk viewing. I know the herd’s movement pretty well. Cows are off on their own in the summer in areas of thicker cover, raising calves. Toward the end of the summer, cows and calves have rejoined the herd and bulls are looking for cows, so they’re going to be more visible moving into the fall season.

There’s another herd of about 100 elk in the area of Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures where there are three viewing platforms. Those are really good opportunities to see elk in September and October, if you go in the morning or evening.

Of course, Elk Cam is also a fun part of it. I watch the cam while I’m doing other work-related things and even in my spare time. With the sound added to the live stream this year, the experience is greatly enhanced and makes me feel as if I am standing in the middle of the field. Even if there isn’t an elk on the cam, it’s neat to hear the crickets and birds and see other wildlife, such as deer and turkeys.

I also am focused on the first elk hunt this October. There’s a lot involved in getting ready for that, between coordinating with the hunters and helping to facilitate them scouting the properties and making sure they have all the information they need to be successful. Getting to help implement the very first elk hunt in the Elk Management Zone in Virginia is very exciting.

When winter comes around, we capture elk to put ear tags and GPS-collars on them. Having visible marks and location data on some of the elk helps with management on many different levels. And then in spring and summer, I try and catch up on all the other tasks.

There are many people who put a ton of work into the Virginia elk program. My favorite part of the job is working with my DWR counterparts and our partners. Everything that is accomplished for elk is a team effort. Southwest Virginia Sportsmen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Breaks Interstate Park, Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures, and the local landowners all make elk management in Virginia successful.

  • September 15, 2022