FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources invites the public to review a new document that when finalized will guide management of the state’s elk herd for years to come.
A draft of the 2015-2030 Kentucky Elk Management Plan is available online at fw.ky.gov. People wishing to contribute feedback should email their comments to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Deer and Elk Program Coordinator Gabe Jenkins at [email protected] by Feb. 5, 2016.
“We have a great thing going with our elk herd here in Kentucky and we want to make sure that great thing continues by managing the resource properly,” Jenkins said. “We want to know what our constituents want and what they support and don’t support.”
Kentucky’s elk project is regarded as one of the most successful wildlife restoration efforts ever undertaken in the eastern United States.
The state’s restoration project began with an initial release of elk into the mountains of southeastern Kentucky in 1997. As the herd became established, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s focus shifted from restoring a free-ranging elk population to managing what is now the largest population of elk found anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains.
“As biologists and program managers we sometimes look at things a little differently than what our hunters do,” Jenkins said. “That’s why we want to strike a balance. Ideally, you want to have a big, healthy herd that is biologically and socially acceptable but still provides lots of hunter opportunity.”
Jenkins and fellow department biologists Will Bowling, Dan Crank and John Hast started developing the long-range plan this past spring using data from past Kentucky elk research projects and stakeholder input. It offers a snapshot of the state’s elk herd while laying out a vision for future management goals and objectives.
Any changes stemming from the public comment period will be included in a revised draft to be presented to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission for its consideration later this year.
“Kentucky really has one of the premier elk herds anywhere in the United States,” Bowling said. “This is a chance to see where we’re at today and plan for the future. A big part of that for us and our program is getting the public’s input. We know the science but we also want to bring our stakeholders’ input into it as well. That’s really what we’re going for with a management plan.”