Importing Rocky Mountain Elk to Maryland?

A study is underway to see if the Rocky Mountain elk will once again roam the terrain of Western Maryland, a habitat they have not lived in since the 18th century. 

Three organizations have pooled together resources to investigate whether reintroducing elk to the “Old Line” State is a feasible enterprise: The Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Paul Peditto, the director of the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service told the Cumberland Times-News, “The elk foundation has given a grant of $125,000 to the legislative sportsmen’s foundation to look into the possibility,” he added, “We will provide technical expertise.”

The study is expected to take approximately 12 months and will involve input from a variety of experts who will assess the biological, social, and economic viability before the relocation is approved. 

The biggest factor weighing into the decision is whether local residents from Allegany and Garrett counties actually want elk roving through their backyards.  After all, elk are not the smallest animals in the world; bulls can weigh about 700 lbs and stand about 5 feet at the shoulder, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 

“I suspect there will be a formal professional survey along with face-to-face meetings to make that determination,” Peditto told the Cumberland Times-News. 

John Griffin the DNR secretary added, “Consensus from our experts and all impacted stakeholders will be a prerequisite to this decision.”

Many believe that the elk would be a welcomed addition to the animal populace in Western Maryland. 

Mike Griffith, from the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association, told the Cumberland Times-News, “That’s pretty sweet, I mean they have elk in Pennsylvania and Kentucky now. I’d love to see it happen in my lifetime.”

In Pennsylvania and Kentucky it’s legal to hunt elk, but certain restrictions apply.  For example (from the PA Game Commission Webstie):

Elk may be hunted only in designated Elk Hunt Zones. Season will be November 7-12, 2011. An Elk Hunting License is required with a limit of one elk per license year.  A successful hunter must tag the elk immediately after harvest and mark the kill site before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, each hunter who harvests an elk must take it, along with his or her general hunting license and elk license, to the offical Game Commission check station at the agency’s Maintenance Building in Quehanna in Clearfield County.

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