Tennessee Elk Restoration
courtesy of: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the Rocky Mountain
Elk Foundation (RMEF), Tennessee Conservation League (TCL) and the
Campbell Outdoor Recreation Association (CORA) are confirming an elk
reintroduction, scheduled for December 19th, into the Upper Cumberland
Plateau of Tennessee.
In early 1999, the TCL began assessing public support for the
reintroduction of wild elk into the Upper Cumberland Plateau. This
assessment was spearheaded by League affiliate, CORA. The League
and CORA utilized a series of informational meetings, held in the area,
to assess local support for the concept of releasing elk into the Upper
Cumberland Plateau in December of 2000.
In October, at the request of CORA, the Tennessee Wildlife
Resources Commission approved a proposal to release between 40 and 50
elk in an area approximately 670,000 acres in Campbell, Scott, Morgan,
Claiborne and Anderson
The TWRA plans to release an additional 50 to 100 elk per year
during the next four years. "We are thrilled that diverse groups,
ranging from conservation organizations and individual wildlife
enthusiasts to the general public, local governments, and private local
interests stepped forward to offer their support for this project,"
said Earl Bentz, chairman of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources
"In addition to having suitable habitat components available,
broad local support was one of the key criteria we looked at while
evaluating this project."
The TWRA has developed a detailed reintroduction plan that will
provide for the needs of the elk, as well as protect the interests of
citizens in the area. Items addressed in the plan include the
prevention of potential agricultural conflicts, the establishment of elk
and no elk areas, and making sure the elk remain free of disease.
The source of the elk to be used in the reintroduction * Elk
Island National Park in Alberta, Canada * has one of the longest
histories of elk disease monitoring in North America, and every animal
is designated "disease free" before it leaves the park.
"We have coordinated with the state veterinarian's office to
develop a disease testing and monitoring protocol," said Larry
Marcum, chief of Wildlife for the TWRA. "These testing procedures
will be some of the most stringent in the nation to help ensure that the
elk brought to Tennessee are disease free when they are released in the
In support of the project, the Elk Foundation has kicked off an
initiative to provide funds for the reintroduction and future needs of
Tennessee's new elk herd. "Elk Foundation volunteers have been
working diligently in Tennessee for a number of years, helping support
wildlife habitat conservation activities throughout North America,"
said Ron White, RMEF Director of Southeastern Field Operations.
"Now we get to embark on a $200,000 fund raising effort for 2001
that will benefit every wildlife enthusiast right here in
The release area, which includes the Royal Blue Wildlife
Management Area, Frozen Head State Park and the Cumberland Gap National
Park will also benefit from the elk reintroduction through increased
tourism and conservation education opportunities.
"We are excited about being part of such a historic event and
having people coming to see our beautiful part of the state," said
Judge Lee Asbury, CORA President. Elk, once native to the state, have
been missing from the Tennessee landscape for more than a century.
Historical records indicate that the last wild Tennessee elk was killed
in Obion County in 1865.
Other areas east of the Mississippi River that are currently home
to elk populations include: Wisconsin (approximately 60), Michigan
(approximately 1,100-1,200), Pennsylvania (approximately 650), Kentucky
(approximately 900), Arkansas (approximately 450) and Ontario
"Bringing back elk to Tennessee, and the chance for our children
and grandchildren to hear elk bugle will be remembered as one of the
greatest conservation achievements of the new century", said Greer
Tidwell, Jr., President of the Tennessee Conservation League.
Another Related Elk Story