Breaks Interstate Park excited for another season of elk excursions

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:21 PM EDT
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BREAKS, Va. (WYMT) - Elk tours are back on the schedule at the Breaks Interstate Park, as the growing program invites folks to spend time searching for the mountain region’s majestic reindeer.

The program works to bring in tourism, highlighting the partnerships that made the Southwest Virginia elk population possible.

“Seventy-five elk were brought from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which partnered with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources,” said Park Superintendent Austin Bradley. “So what you’re doing is you’re actually taking out an invasive species and replacing it with native grass and kind of recreating the conditions that would have been present for elk when they were native to this area to begin with.”

The project reclaimed abandoned mine land surrounded by three Virginia counties- Buchanan, Wise, and Dickenson- bringing elk from Eastern Kentucky to rebuild the population.

The conservation planted more than trees and trails. It also created new tourism opportunities.

“We at the park had a model already that we were looking at. At Jenny Wiley State Park in Kentucky, that park had successfully been doing elk viewing tours for a number of years,” said Bradley.

Around 15% of every ticket sold for the elk tours is used to fund the nonprofit work at the conservation habitat by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Southwest Virginia Sportsman’s Association.

And with an increase in tour interest, the park is also seeing small steps toward integration.

“What we’re starting to see is the Kentucky herd in Eastern Kentucky starting to blend together with the Virginia herd in Southwest Virginia. So, we recently spotted elk on park property for the first time,” Bradley said.

Elk tours can be scheduled here.