Cumberland Times-News

Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors

July 6, 2013

Maryland elk plan hush-hush

W.Va. will reintroduce in next couple years

In August 2011, the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced jointly that an evaluation would begin to determine if elk would be reintroduced into Garrett and Allegany counties.

More than a year later, on Oct. 27, 2012, I wrote that the possible reintroduction of elk into Maryland had been the quietest, big story I had dealt with during my lengthy tenure as hook-and-bullet scribe at the newspaper that serves Western Maryland and the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia.

Well, if it was quiet then, close your eyes and listen now, you could hear an elk pellet drop on pine needles on the other side of the mountain.

Of the three partners in this venture, only the MLSF, via its spokesman Bill Miles, has provided information that I can pass on.

Well, let me take that back, but only a little. At the very beginning, the elk group provided a statement in a press release. Also at that time, Paul Peditto, director of the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service, gave me some quotes. Also, in Nov. 2012, there was a public meeting in Cumberland during which the three partners asked people what they thought about having elk.

I was not able to attend, but fellow reporter Matthew Bieniek had my back and filed a story.

Other than that, the elk group has basically refused to talk with me about the project and state wildlife managers at the highest level have been close-mouthed about the possibility of wapiti on Warrior Mountain or bugling at Bittinger.

We’re talking quiet: silent, clammed-up, hushed, not saying boo (hold on, I’m reaching for the thesaurus), tight-lipped, noiseless, mute or, even, as whist as a day-old fawn 10 yards from a black bear that is sniffing the air.

In May, Miles responded to my email asking when a decision would be made. “Soon,” he replied.

Well, when you say soon to somebody who reports for a daily newspaper that scribe thinks in terms of hours if not minutes.

Apparently “soon” in the world of hunt/fish foundations takes on the speed of tectonic plates.

Peristalsis is faster, for crying outloud.

Why have I gotten all fired up about this elk reintro non-story right now?

It is because on Sunday, June 30, I read the column by Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette’s Outdoor Editor John McCoy.

I knew that West Virginia Division of Natural Resources had created an elk management plan a couple years ago, but that was because the biologists anticipated that elk in Kentucky would eventually migrate into the Mountain State.

McCoy’s column, in which he quoted appropriate officials, was to the point and the first I’d heard of any such intent. West Virginia will introduce elk and it could be as soon as two years from now.

Jiminy Cricket, Maryland is two years down the line and hasn’t figured out what to do, or at least they aren’t saying (re: thesaurus words).

McCoy reports that W.Va. DNR Director Frank Jezioro says land parcels of 25,000 to 30,000 acres are needed. Two locations have been identified. One is in the coal fields of the southwestern counties. In fact, some elk have already moved in there from Kentucky.

The other straddles the Grant/Tucker county line. We’re talking Dolly Sods, Roaring Plain and Monongahela National Forest.

Wildlife Chief Curtis Taylor told McCoy that Kentucky will provide West Virginia with 50 elk, but the Mountain State is in line behind Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin.

West Virginia: wham, bam, thank you.

Maryland: Such a big story. So little information.

Even the Md. DNR website dedicated to keeping people informed about the elk issue was last updated more than a year ago.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at


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Michael A Sawyers - Outdoors
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