After DNR officials clear all the potential legal and sociological hurdles, the actual mechanics of stocking elk must be considered.
Funding shouldn't be much of a problem, at least at first. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has issued grants to help pay for stockings in several eastern states. Bill Carman, the foundation's regional director for Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, said similar funding should be available for the Mountain State's reintroduction program.
"We've been giving $300,000 to eastern states," he explained. "That should be enough to establish an initial herd of about 50 animals."
The key, he added, is timing. The idea is to capture female elk shortly after the mating season. "Then, after the elk are stocked, the cows have their calves and you end up with an even bigger starter herd."
Getting the elk
Finding a source for the elk might be problematic. Then again, it might not. Curtis Taylor, the DNR's wildlife chief, believes the best place to acquire elk would be from neighboring Kentucky, which has more elk than it needs.
"They're right next door," Taylor said. "But getting those elk quickly might be a different story.
"The Kentucky Game Commission will only authorize 50 elk a year to be exported from the state. Right now it looks like Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin are in the queue ahead of us.
"We are in the queue, though. I know [Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner] John Gassett very well. He asked if we wanted a "placeholder," and I told him yes. The ultimate decision will come from the commission, but I think they might be willing to send some elk to a neighboring state."
Taylor added that once the details are worked out, DNR wildlife personnel would fairly quickly be ready to oversee a stocking program.
"Our staff has the expertise to release and manage elk, no doubt about it," he said.
Paying for it
The initial RMEF funding would run out fairly quickly, though, and after that the DNR would need to find a way to pay for an elk-management program. Kentucky pays for its program by charging $10 non-refundable elk-license application fees, and by charging $30 for resident elk permits and $365 for non-resident elk permits.
West Virginia does not yet have the legal means to collect application fees, nor does it have the ability to charge for special elk licenses. Taylor said the Legislature would need to pass laws authorizing the DNR to do those things.
"I have copies of all of Kentucky's legislation, so we know exactly what has to happen legislatively to have a program like theirs," he added.
Elk proponents would like to begin stocking elk as soon as possible. Commissioner Wilson, who hails from Logan County, believes it could happen as quickly as next year.
Taylor and Jezioro aren't as optimistic.
"I don't know [how quickly a stocking program could be put in place]," Taylor said. "That's a good question. The answer lies with Kentucky, because that's the source. We could be all in favor of releasing elk, but if we don't have a source, we aren't stocking."
Jezioro believes a two-year timetable is realistic.
"Let's say that in the next six months we can find a place to put the elk and get an agreement," he said. "It probably would take another six to eight months to get some elk; so we're probably looking at two years.
"But we have something moving here. With the governor's backing, it's only a matter of time before we get rolling."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.