The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 4, 2013

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation dinner Sept. 21

BECKLEY — When thinking of an elk, it’s easy to paint a picture of the large beast roaming through the cliffs and canyons of the Rocky Mountains. But did you know that the elk was once native to the Mountain State?

Until the mid-1800’s, elk were populous in the West Virginia region, but slowly went the way of the buffalo and were completely killed out.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is hoping to do something about that.

RMEF’s mission, according to its website, is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat and our hunting heritage — something they have been doing for over 29 years.

But in order to do so, the organization spends up to $300,000 per state.

That’s why the Southern West Virginia chapter of the RMEF will host their fourth annual dinner and benefit auction on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m.

The banquet will be held at the Tamarack Conference Center.

“This banquet is a fundraiser banquet,” RMEF  regional director Bill Carman said with a laugh. “It’s a nice dinner and we do raffles and games. There’s a silent auction that you can take part in and then a live auction.

“It’s been a really good banquet,” he added. “I don’t have the figures in front of me but we’ve probably raised close to $60-70,000 so far for the Elk Foundation.”

The fundraising comes just one year after Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced his desire to bring elk back to the green rolling hills of West Virginia. If West Virginia would formally decide to bring in elk, RMEF would be available to provide financial and technical support.

“He wants an elk restoration program,” Carman explained. “There was a feasibility program done in 2005 or 2006 and the study showed that it was very feasible to bring elk back to West Virginia. Biologically the habitat works and sociologically, the people are interested.”

Carman said that if West Virginia were to bring in elk, they would likely come from Kentucky. In 1997, Kentucky began a similar program, bringing 1500 elk from the west coast to the Bluegrass State. Now there are over 15,000 elk in Kentucky.

The growth of elk in Kentucky can be used as a bit of a case study for West Virginians.

“West Virginia’s habitat is very similar to Kentucky’s,” Carman said. “If they released 50 elk in West Virginia, within 10 years you could have a couple thousand, which is easily a huntable population. That could be easily done within 10 years.”

Tickets to the banquet start at $30 for the meal. For more information, visit www.rmef.org or e-mail Carman at bcarman@rmef.org.

— E-mail: jrollins@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.

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