After further review (as the National Football League referee says following an instant replay of a disputed call), the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation has reversed its proposal to reintroduce elk to Garrett and Allegany counties.
The Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association agrees with that decision, and so do we. The opportunity to hunt elk in Western Maryland might have brought hunters and their tourist dollars to the area, but there were downsides to the idea.
Chief among these, the state sportsmen’s foundation admitted, were concerns about vehicle collisions, crop damage and the potential that healthy elk might be subject to the chronic wasting disease that has been found in this area.
Garrett County residents were opposed to the idea, and the only place big enough for elk to roam in Allegany County is in Green Ridge State Forest, where deer already are suffering from chronic wasting disease.
The average whitetail deer common to our area weighs about 150 pounds and can cause considerable damage not only to crops, but to any motor vehicles that come into sudden and violent contact with them. Elk can weigh up to 700 pounds and stand five feet tall at the shoulder, and they have corresponding appetites. Cars that hit them suffer catastrophic damage, and the occupants can be severely injured or even killed.
Our outdoors pages on Sunday frequently carry a “Bear Watch” that details the highway deaths of black bears in this area. If elk were brought to this area, it would be only a matter of time before we started running an “Elk Watch.”
Deer and bears are enough for us to contend with. People who want to hunt elk can do in to Pennsylvania, where there is plenty of room for them to roam.