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The History of Elk in Virginia

Elk in Virginia: Pre-1600s

Elk occur throughout Virginia (mainly west of the Blue Ridge Mountains)

Elk in Virginia: 1700s–1800s

Virginia and U.S. human populations grow, resulting in over-harvesting of elk.

Elk in Virginia: 1855

Colonel G. Tuley harvests the last known elk in Virginia.

Late 1800s
Elk in Virginia: Late 1800s

Elk are almost completely extirpated in the eastern United States.

Elk in Virginia: 1917

140–150 elk are released in Virginia (nine counties west of the Blue Ridge and two east of the Blue Ridge) by the Virginia Game Commission.

Elk in Virginia: 1922

An additional 43 elk are released in Giles and Botetourt Counties. A bull elk season is implemented.

Elk in Virginia: 1926

Poor habitat, poor release locations, and over-harvest result in only two elk herds remaining (one in Giles/Bland County and one in Botetourt County).

Elk in Virginia: 1958

Elk hunting activity/participation peaks in Virginia (1500 hunters)

Elk in Virginia: 1960

The last regulated elk season occurs (Giles, Bland, Botetourt, and Bedford Counties).

Elk in Virginia: 1997

Over a five-year period, Kentucky restores over 1500 elk in to the eastern counties of the state.

Elk in Virginia: 2000

To suppress elk establishment in Virginia, DGIF authorizes the harvest of elk using a deer license. Elk harvested in Buchanan County.

Elk in Virginia: 2000

DGIF works with Virginia Tech to conduct a feasibility study for elk restoration in Virginia.

Elk in Virginia: 2010

DGIF Board directs staff to pursue a plan to restore 75 elk in Buchanan County and elk harvest was prohibited within the Elk Restoration Zone (Wise, Dickenson & Buchanan Counties).

Elk in Virginia: 2012–2014

71 total elk are captured in Kentucky and released in Buchanan County. (16 in 2012, 10 in 2013, 45 in 2014) with an additional 4 calves born while in captivity.

Elk in Virginia: 2015

DGIF Board directs staff to create a 10-year Elk Management Plan.

Elk in Virginia: 2019

The Virginia Elk Management Plan is adopted by the DGIF Board.

Elk in Virginia: 2019

Legislation was passed that authorized DGIF to create an elk tag and create an elk harvest strategy within the Elk Management Zone (Wise, Dickenson, & Buchanan Counties).

Elk in Virginia: 2020

The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR, formerly DGIF) estimates the elk herd at 250+ in Virginia.