September 1, 2014

Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources, KDFWR Commission to Receive RMEF Conservationist of Year Award

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is pleased to announce the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission will share the 2014 RMEF Conservationist of the Year Award.

“Kentucky has been and remains a prominent example of a state dedicated to ensuring the future of elk and elk country,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice-president of Lands and Conservation. “Not only did KDFWR and the Commission show great passion and dedication in restoring elk to the native Kentucky landscape, but they successfully worked to implement recent restoration efforts in other states as well.”

KDFWR, the Commission and RMEF worked cooperatively to help release 1,547 elk into Kentucky from 1997-2002. Now with more than 10,000 elk within its borders, Kentucky boasts the largest herd in the East. It also established an annual elk hunt beginning in 2001.

The award, however, is focused more on their recent commitment to eastern elk restoration. The Department and Commission pledged their support to successful elk restoration efforts in Missouri (2011) and Virginia (2012). In addition, Kentucky’s wild elk also crossed the state border into West Virginia.

“No state ever looked at an elk restoration project on the scale that they did. Their successful efforts made them a strong leader among the eastern states engaged in or considering restoration of elk. Many have contacted them regularly to seek their knowledge and expertise,” added Henning.

“When we began this restoration in 1997, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other state wildlife agencies stepped up and offered to help,” said Kentucky Wildlife Division Director Dr. Karen Waldrop. “Our success is directly related to their willingness to provide early funding and those initial elk. Strong partnerships made this a successful restoration.”

Kentucky’s commitment to elk restoration meant working with various stakeholders to convince them of this opportunity and need for Kentucky to serve as a source elk herd for other states. To qualify as a source herd they needed to continue elk disease surveillance activities and establish a Chronic Wasting Disease monitoring program for hunter-harvested elk. The commitment also provided hundreds of hours of staff time to help construct capture and quarantine facilities, the actual trapping of elk, disease testing, sorting and re-testing the elk a second time as part of the disease testing protocol of the recipient states as well as significant budgetary contributions.

To date, RMEF contributed more than $1.4 million to assist with management of Kentucky’s elk restoration program.

RMEF will formally recognize the 2014 Conservationist of the Year award recipients at December’s Elk Camp national convention in Las Vegas.mbers.

Kentucky Biologist Honored for Work in Eastern Elk Restoration

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently recognized Dr. Tina Brunjes for her leadership and long-standing commitment to Kentucky’s elk restoration efforts.

“Dr. Brunjes has been and remains a strong advocate for elk on their native range in the eastern part of the United States,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “Not only was she very active and supportive of elk restoration in Kentucky, but she offered her expertise to other eastern states that also reestablished elk herds.”

Brunjes was the deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources where she was responsible for all aspects of deer and elk management statewide. She worked there for eight and a half years.

Brunjes received the award at the 19th Annual Eastern Elk Management Workshop that took place April 27-30 in Breaks, Va.

“Just two decades ago, there were no elk in Kentucky but the estimated population of today’s herd is more than 10,000. That is a credit to a cooperative effort between Dr. Brunjes, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the RMEF,” added Henning.

To date, RMEF contributed $1.4 million to assist with Kentucky’s elk restoration program. The state held its first elk hunt in 150 years in 2001 and now boasts the largest wild elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains.

Kentucky provided elk as a source herd for successful reintroduction efforts in Missouri and Virginia. Elk from Kentucky also since crossed the border into West Virginia where a wild herd numbering approximately 60 now live.

Mission Accomplished! Virginia Elk Restoration Project Complete

MISSOULA, Mont.—A multi-year project to restore wild elk to their native hills of Virginia is complete thanks to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, its volunteers, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and several other partners.

“This is a prime example of what can happen when good people work together,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “There is now a growing and sustainable elk herd on the ground in Virginia for the first time in more than four decades.”

The third and final group of 45 wild elk –14 bulls and 31 cows, 16 of which are pregnant– arrived in Virginia’s Buchanan County from Kentucky. They join an existing herd of approximately 30 elk previously relocated in 2012 and 2013.

Financially funded by in part by RMEF and several major donors, RMEF volunteers also played a major role in the restoration program.

“Volunteers first got involved when approached by Buchanan County officials back in 2010,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “They helped search for and find suitable locations in the southwest part of the state and then rolled up their sleeves and went to work in many reclaimed mining sites. Crews cleared brush, applied fertilizer and planted native grasses to improve habitat, talked to and worked with local landowners, and stepped up each time to assist wildlife officials with the actual on-the-ground elk reintroductions.”

Virginia has a goal of growing the herd to about 400 animals and eventually instituting a regulated hunting season. Proceeds from hunting permits will target elk habitat and conservation efforts.

RMEF’s project partners include the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.RMEF completed successful elk restorations in Wisconsin in 1995, Kentucky in 1997, Tennessee in 2000, Ontario in 2001, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002, Missouri in 2011, and Virginia in 2014. RMEF also previously funded feasibility studies in Illinois, Maryland, New York and West Virginia.

Kentucky’s Elk, Hunting Heritage to Benefit from RMEF Grants

MISSOULA, Mont.–Funding research to monitor the health, survival and recruitment of elk, as well as providing sponsorship of multiple hunting heritage events are the focus of grants from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for the state of Kentucky.

The RMEF grants total $87,600 and directly affect 22 counties: Anderson, Bell, Breckinridge, Breathitt, Bullitt, Carter, Daviess, Fayette, Franklin, Jefferson, Knott, Laurel, Letcher, Madison, Meade, Mercer, Oldham, Perry, Scott, Shelby, Spencer and Woodford. RMEF also provided funding for several programs of statewide and national benefit.

“Kentucky is a shining example as one of the nation’s most successful elk reintroductions. It is imperative we continue to monitor the health and behavior of this thriving elk population, and that’s exactly what this RMEF funding will do,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We are also pleased to sponsor a variety of activities that will enrich Kentucky’s hunting tradition.”

Since 1995, RMEF and its partners completed 100 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Kentucky with a combined value of more than $6.7 million.

“We have more than 1,500 RMEF members in Kentucky. We thank them and our dedicated volunteers who raised the money for these projects thanks to their banquet fundraising and membership drive efforts,” added Allen.

Allen also thanked RMEF chapters and volunteers around the nation for their dedication to conservation all across elk country.

RMEF grants will help fund the following 2013 projects, listed by county:

Breckinridge County–Provide funding to purchase archery equipment for the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) at Saint Romuald School (also affects Meade County).

Bullitt County–Provide funding for Zoneton Middle School to establish a NASP program for boys and girls in grades six through eight. Students will have the opportunity to practice, refine and develop archery skills, and compete in local meets.

Carter County–Provide funding to help purchase equipment for the East Carter High School NASP archery team.

Daviess County–Provide funding to purchase air rifles and equipment to enhance the Daviess County High School National Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

Fayette County–Provide funding to repair equipment and purchase supplies for the Tates Creek High School archery team.

Franklin County–Provide sponsorship of an archery camp at Frankfort’s Cove Spring Park for youth ages 8-18 following the NASP format (also affects Anderson, Mercer, Scott, Shelby and Woodford counties); and provide funding to help purchase more equipment for Capital Day School to expand NASP to more students.

Jefferson County–Provide funding to offset the cost of purchasing bows and targets for Valor Traditional Academy to form an archery team which will compete in NASP and Scholastic 3D sanctioned tournaments (also affects Bullitt County); and co-sponsor an event aimed at introducing women to shooting sports including archery, rifle, shotgun and handgun skills at the Fern Creek Sportsman’s Club (also affects Fayette, Franklin, Letcher, Oldham and Spencer counties).

Knott County–Provide funding for an elk collaring and tracking study to reassess cow elk survival and cause-specific mortality in the 16-county elk zone of southeastern Kentucky. The project will also assess the survival and recruitment of elk calves to provide data to best manage the herd of 10,000-plus through the next decade (also affects Bell, Breathitt and Perry counties).

Laurel County–Provide funding to purchase equipment for the expanding NASP program at Wyan Pine Grove Elementary School, which now offers afterschool service.

Letcher County–Provide funding for Letcher County Kids Day, which features games, entertainment and food for the entire family.

Madison County–Provide funding to help Foley Middle School promote proper land and wildlife conservation by purchasing equipment for under-privileged children to participate in the NASP and 3D shooting programs.

Statewide–Provide funding to cover the cost of monitoring for Chronic Wasting Disease of Kentucky’s elk herd, previously paid for by federal funding; co-sponsor the 10th Annual NASP National Tournament held in Louisville; provide partial scholarships for 30 disadvantages youth to attend a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Conservation Camp; provide funding to offset expenses and purchase supplies for two wounded warrior hunts for injured servicemen and women (also has nationwide benefits); and provide funding for the Kentucky Chapter’s annual gathering of The Wildlife Society.

Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies. RMEF staff and volunteers select education projects to receive grants. RMEF volunteers and staff select hunting heritage projects to be funded.

Partners for 2013 Kentucky projects include the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Kentucky, and other wildlife, volunteer and business organizations.

Maine IFW Needs to Learn to Count Deer Harvest Like Kentucky

Why is it, I’ve asked countless times, that Maine takes at least 4 months from the end of deer hunting season to release deer harvest numbers? We hear some bullpucky about the collection of data, blah, blah, blah and by the time harvest numbers are out, most hunters are gearing up for fishing season and have mostly forgotten about the deer hunt.

But in Kentucky, according to Outdoor Wire, counting of deer harvest numbers are only a few hours behind the hunt.

The total harvest for the month of November won’t be known until the end of the month on Friday, Nov. 30. However, as of Wednesday, Nov. 28, a new record has already been reached. The 96,986 deer reported taken tops the previous record (89,498 deer taken in 2004) by 8.3 percent.

And this same information has been made available for September and October only hours after each days hunt.

Does Maine have something to hide or are they just embarrassed to death that there are so few deer? Kentucky will count close to 125,000 harvested deer this year and the day after all the seasons have concluded, they will have a count.

Maine will count perhaps 20,000-25,000 and take 4 or 5 months to do it. Why?