ON THE MOVE: Arizona elk taken to West Virginia to help the state reestablish its elk population

- Dozens of elk are going to start a new life soon in a different climate.

They're being shipped to West Virginia, all in an effort to help rebuild a historical elk population.

The effort was been years in the making, so the past couple of days have been really exciting. Just east of Flagstaff was where Arizona Game and Fish, along with several other agencies, gathered dozens of elk to send off east.

They did it quickly, and with as little stress for the animals as possible.

Sixty elk: 50 female and 10 male under the age of 3, are first spotted, and then scooped up one by one, chosen to head to the Mountain State, which hasn't seen any elk for about 160 years.

"Once they've got in on an animal, if they're able to shoot off the net, and it tangles up their legs, the animal falls down, and they got a mugger that gets out of the helicopter and restrains them," said Amber Munig, Arizona's big game program supervisor. "They're put on hobbles and a blindfold, which calms them down pretty quickly. We're also giving them a small sedative, just to keep them calm during this processing."

After capturing the elk, they are placed in a holding facility for 30 days, while tests are done to make sure they're healthy and ready to head east.

"Everyone wants to see the elk reestablished in the Eastern United States," said Stephen McDaniel, the director of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. They asked for Arizona's elk, because there's been no documentation of disease here.

"It was natural thing to try and bring the elk back," said McDaniel. "Before white man settled into Western Virginia, elk were everywhere, but like every other animal, they were either over trapped or hunted. Mid-1860's, the last documented elk was killed in West Virginia." 

Arizona has hundreds if not thousands of elk, and agreed to help West Virginia in re-establishing their elk population, to help their economy.

"There's obviously going to be an economic benefit," said McDaniel. "People will come in, as far as tourism is concerned, and when we do eventually start hunting them, there will be economic benefits there."

Munig said Arizona was in the same boat years ago, and it's beneficial to allow different parts of the country to reestablish elk.

"Arizona received elk in the early 1900s, 1913, to be specific," said Munig. "It's a great way for us to help another state establish their population again."

West Virginia plans to have up to 2,500 elk, within the next decade. They won't allow hunting for elk until the population is secure, and even then, they'll only give out a certain amount of hunting permits.

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