When I first saw the article about the possible return of elk in Almost Maryland, I was ecstatic. I thought this would be a boost to tourism and the hunting community, and the farm lands of Mount Savage would be the perfect place.
The more I thought about it, however, I realize it’s a bad idea, for two reasons.
1) Any cattle farmer around has a story of deer clipping the electric fence with their hooves, and cattle being out of the pasture overnight. To prevent this with elk, farmers will have to install two or three wire high-tensile fencing. The average cost for two wire high-tensile fencing is approximately $2 a foot. A square mile requires 1,800 feet of fencing. Multiply that by two equals 3,600 feet.
How many acres is the average cattle farm in Allegany County? How about Garrett County? The great thing is, there are taxpayer funded subsidies to help pay for this fencing at approximately $1 a foot. Return elk to Almost Maryland and the amount of requests for subsidizing high-tensile fencing will definitely increase. Assuming most of your readers are against wasteful government spending, they will have second thoughts about supporting the return of elk.
2) The health of our forests has been greatly diminished with the absence of predators, four-legged and two-legged type. I know I’m out of the ordinary because I’m all about hunting doe, but most of my fellow farmers understand that.
The return of elk is not going to increase the number of hunters in Maryland. Maybe on the short term, but the novelty will wear off and we’ll be back to a small number of hunters in the mountains again. I’m seeing enough damage in our woods: native plants, oak regeneration, and Japanese stilt grass spreading into the forests around Mount Savage and the Highlands Trail. We don't need another large herbivore!
Thanks for maintaining a great Outdoor Page every Sunday.