Arizona to Send Elk for West Virginia Restoration Project

Arizona's elk are descendants of animals transplanted from Yellowstone National Park. This one was spotted near Flagstaff. | Joanne Caruth

A project to restore an elk population in West Virginia is getting a boost from the Grand Canyon State, Arizona wildlife officials announced last week.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has approved a plan to send 60 of Arizona's elk to West Virginia's Tomblin Wildlife Management Area, the Associated Press reported. The elk will be captured via helicopters and safe trapping techniques sometime between January and March, officials said.

In West Virginia, the five dozen Arizona elk will join 24 elk transplanted from Kentucky in 2016. Elk are native to West Virginia, officials there told the AP, but disappeared from the state more than a century ago.

In a way, the West Virginia project mirrors Arizona's own efforts to re-establish its lost elk population. Arizona's native elk once roamed in areas of the White Mountains and the Mogollon Rim, but those elk were extirpated from the state in the late 1800s. The elk now found in the state descend from a series of transplants of animals from Yellowstone National Park.

The transplants have been a great success, and Arizona's elk population now stands at 35,000 animals, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Here's hoping the West Virginia project is just as successful.

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