Initiating Elk Restoration:The Kentucky Case Study

The return of elk to eastern Kentucky in 1997 followed an absence of more than 150 years. This restoration was made possible by combining the financial, human resource, and land assets of several public and private organizations, as well as landscape changes that appear to have created suitable elk habitat. The impetus for the return of elk was based in part on the anticipation that the new herd would be accessible to the public for hunting and viewing. Pre- and post-release outreach included assessing public opinion which was mostly supportive of elk restoration and interacting with agencies from neighboring states. Release protocols were built upon previous elk restoration efforts in the eastern U.S. where success rates were highly variable. Adaptive management practices have been followed to reduce mortality among transported elk. Overall mortality in 1998 was 42% but declined to 4% in 1999.

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