Jackie Rosenberger joins Hunter and Billy Nicar for a conversation about the Virginia DWR’s Elk project. Last year was the first year of the Elk lottery and it provided some outstanding results! Jackie discusses the lottery program, the elk habitat in Virginia, the herd itself, and much more information pertaining to the program.
Hunting, fishing, and all things outdoors. It's not just a hobby, it's a lifestyle. Welcome to the Greentop Outdoors Podcast with your host, Hunter Brooks.
All right, welcome to another edition of the Greentop Outdoors Podcast. Uh, special guest today, Jackie Rosenberger from the Virginia DWR and Billy Nicar is joining us. Uh, if anybody that shoots bows and has been coming to a GREENTOP for the last 25 to 30 years, they've seen Billy here. Welcome Billy. Thank you, sir. Thank you. And Jackie, special guest, thank you for doing this and, and welcome today.
Jackie Rosenberger (00:37):
I'm excited about it. Yeah.
So you're videoing in from, um, the far west corner of, uh, Virginia, right? That's
Jackie Rosenberger (00:43):
Correct. Dickinson County.
Dickinson County. That's, uh, about what, eight hours from from Richmond <laugh>.
Jackie Rosenberger (00:48):
Probably close to it.
<laugh>. Yeah. We could probably be to Georgia quicker than, uh, Dickinson County. Uh, I believe you're right. So, uh, your role, uh, with the D W R is you are the, uh, ELK project leader. Is that correct?
Jackie Rosenberger (01:01):
And, uh, tell us, tell us a little bit about yourself first and, um, and your role as the, as the project leader.
Jackie Rosenberger (01:08):
Sure. Yeah. So, um, I've been in this position, uh, this coming July will be two years. And so basically anything that has to do with researcher management of the ELK program I'm in charge of. But I've got, uh, a great team behind me, both through, you know, my coworkers and the agency and also our, our partners here in the region.
What, uh, what's, uh, what sort of background did, uh, college background or what's your, what's your elk background, I guess? What, what got you into it? Good
Jackie Rosenberger (01:34):
Question. Um, I've actually wanted to get into the wildlife field since I was about 14 years old. Um, and I started working on it at that age. Um, but in terms of college, you know, I went to Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. It was, uh, really close to where I grew up and, uh, got a biology college degree, also studied gis, and while I was there, I worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission for a summer and did whitetail deer research and some black bear trapping. Um, also intern with the Quality Deer Management Association. Yeah. Um, I was actually really going ho about whitetail deer at a young age. Also started hunting at the age of 14 as well, which I think lends itself really well to, you know, being in the wildlife field I think would be really hard if you don't have that hunting background.
Yeah, I would agree. Yeah.
Jackie Rosenberger (02:15):
Um, but anyway, I, after I was done at ship, almost immediately, I, I moved to, uh, to Georgia and went to the University of Georgia for my master's degree. And I did a, a whitetail deer research project there in the North Georgia Mountains. And I actually focused on hunting for my thesis. So, uh, I sent surveys to Hunters, um, that hunted in the Chattahoochee. And, um, we also captured deer, so we put GPS collars on deer and, and looked at actually hunter movements relative to deer movements as well. Uh, and was also part of a, a big fond survival study. So, um, my background was mostly in deer. After I finished the Georgia, uh, in December, 2020, I, I got, um, a few months after that, I got a technician position in, on an ELK project through, uh, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Game Commission. So I spent about seven to eight weeks in that job. Um, it was real rough, you know, I had to actually like, hike around and identify plants at these elk GPS points. I mean, it was awful. I had to hike and look at
Elk and stay outside all day. <laugh>. Yeah, no.
Jackie Rosenberger (03:19):
So, but, um, when I was in the middle working for them, I got the job offer for, for this position. Oh, cool. So I would Oh, that's cool. Work in southwest Virginia, and it's been awesome.
So the, uh, the ELK program in Pennsylvania, um, I'm, I'm sure their herd is probably larger than Virginia's, or is it similar to our program or
Jackie Rosenberger (03:36):
It, it's larger. I believe their most recent population estimate is around 1300 animals. Okay. Wow. And, you know, in Virginia we've got, uh, you know, our official population estimate is 250 plus. Basically, we're confident we have at least 250 animals. Um, but Virginia Tech is actually doing a research project for us right now to, to hopefully, um, come up with a, um, more updated population estimate in the next year or
So. I gotcha. Okay. Um, so how, how, how long has our, the, how long has the ELK program been running?
Jackie Rosenberger (04:09):
So, um, in terms of the ELK restoration, um, you know, ELK were brought to Virginia over from Kentucky from 2012 to 2014. Um, but there was work that was put into the ELK program prior to that, you know, um, a a lot of work, you know, kind of on a political, you know, advocacy standpoint, just trying to get support for the ELK program as well as, you know, getting the habitat and areas and landowners on board. Prior to that, um, Virginia's had elk, really, uh, well, if, if we go way back, you know, elk are a native species of Virginia. So when Europeans came here, there would've been elk everywhere. In fact, they, they thought, or it's thought that there would've been more elk than deer at that point. Um, but basically by the, by the late 18 hundreds, there weren't elk in Virginia anymore.
Um, there were early restoration attempts, um, you know, throughout the 19 hundreds. But, um, essentially when Kentucky started their massive elk restoration project in 1997, um, that's when elk started coming over to Virginia, you know, just naturally. Um, and so we really had elk almost immediately when Kentucky started their elk restoration project. But we did not do an official restoration until 2012. Um, so from 2012 to 2014, we brought over, I say we, you know, I wasn't here at that point, but our agency brought over 75 elk from Kentucky and, uh, put them in Buchanan County, Virginia.
Okay. And, um, I, I guess the, the idea of, uh, last year was the first lottery year for Virginia. It was Yes. Which was, uh, a lot of excitement with that. Uh, you know, I I, I knew for sure, I knew for sure I was gonna draw a tag, but I, but I didn't. Right, right. Billy, yeah. One of those 34,000 applicants. Yeah. Right. Uh, which, you know, I, I think, I think the program's great and y'all are doing a great job of, uh, marketing that. And, um, you know, the, the whole process, very simple, very easy. Uh, I love what y'all are doing with it. Uh, what, uh, I guess what brought on the, the lottery, I guess, how was that decided? Was that a, was that a board decision? Uh, how, how did, how did that come on?
Jackie Rosenberger (06:17):
Um, that decision was made prior to me starting the position, actually. Um, but basically just as an agency, you know, it was decided that, you know, there were plenty of animals and the population was robust enough that we could have a conservative bull harvest. And so, um, uh, it was kind of exciting. It came on the 10 year anniversary of restoring Elk, Virginia. Um, but I'd definitely like to let folks know that we're still encouraging population growth with, with our elk curve. Um, and so that's why we didn't have any opportunities for, for cows. Um, and it was, you know, we had six hunters out here, uh, pursuing bulls. So, you know, essentially as soon as our state reached a point in the oak population where we were comfortable allowing opportunity for hunters, we were gonna take advantage of that. Cuz that was, you know, a major goal, the restoration in the first place to provide those opportunities for hunters. And, uh, really it's just a milestone of success for the ELK program that we're able to allow hunting.
Yeah. Um, so the, the elk lottery last year, they were, how many tags did, did you guys, uh, give out? Like, was it five or six tags?
Jackie Rosenberger (07:26):
Well, through our state lottery we had five. Okay. Um, but then the sixth license came from a separate program called the Elk Conservation License Program, where we will award that to a conservation organization that can then raffle it. Um, and so essentially they have to spend that money on a conservation project in the elk management zone, which would be, became into consider wise counties. Um, and so we had five hunters through our state lottery, and then we had one hunter that, that won the raffle, and it was the Rocky Mountain Oak Foundation. And that was awarded the, the license last year.
Okay. Okay. And were all, all the hunters successful in their hunts last year?
Jackie Rosenberger (08:04):
They were nice. They had six very successful, happy hunters.
Good. Uh, good size, the bulls, they were good size. Uh, any, any, uh, anything stand out with any one of 'em in particular or?
Jackie Rosenberger (08:18):
Yeah, I mean, I'll just say that, you know, all six bulls were all, I mean, they're all trophies to the individual hunters. And, um, if I could measure success in smiles, I think we got a hundred percent sure. Yeah. <laugh>. Um, but we did have one bull that surpassed all the rest of them, uh, significantly, which was, was pretty cool. He made the Boone and Crocker record book. Um, he was an eight by nine, um, and I don't have the exact, you know, fraction of inches memorized, but he was a gross 433 inches mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then net 413 inches. And he ranked 85th overall for non-typical American elk, which Wow. I think for our first hunt isn't too bad. That's pretty
Jackie Rosenberger (09:03):
And he also, we, we were able to get live weights on all six elk and, um, he was significantly heavier than the rest of 'em. He was 852 pounds. Wow. Um, and the rest of our elk were in, you know, upper six. We had one upper 600, and then the rest of 'em were in the 700 range.
Billy Nicar (09:19):
Nice. Did y'all do a study as to the age of that particular bowl? Like is there a way you could tell the age of that, that particular bowl that the 414 inch?
Jackie Rosenberger (09:30):
Yeah. Um, actually I just got the results back for, uh, for ages. So, um, I pulled incisors from all the elk and sent them to Madison's lab. And so that particular elk came back as six and a half, which I was really impressed by because typically, um, you know, we don't see the full maximum, you know, and the potential for elk until like the eight and a half to 10 and a half range. Yeah. So he was, um, potentially could have gotten even bigger, which was crazy to think, but
<laugh>, that's what they always say. Right. He, he would've been in bigger last next year. Right.
Jackie Rosenberger (10:04):
<laugh>. Yeah. <laugh>.
Um, so I guess we were, you know, we chatted a little bit, uh, last week about, um, you know, the program itself, but, you know, what are some of the, I guess, uh, statistics or herd analytics, um, on the Virginia herd, uh, you know, like the, maybe the, the male to female ratios, things like that. Uh, do you have any numbers like that you can share with us?
Jackie Rosenberger (10:34):
You know, Virginia Tech is doing that research project for us, so they've got preliminary numbers. Um, I, I'd hate to share those before they're Sure. Even ready and have their final, um, final reports and all that. But just anecdotally, you know, we, we, we have more cows than bulls, but we have a tremendous number of bulls. Um, and so, you know, this is, this is a very rough r you know, estimate, but, you know, I would say maybe, you know, two cows for every bull.
Okay. Wow. Um, what are, uh, what are some expectations with this program and with, um, you know, the development of the herd, you know, and, and say in 10 years, do y'all, do y'all have some, um, some goals or some expectations on, on the population and, and the growth or
Jackie Rosenberger (11:21):
Really, you know, at this point, uh, like I'd said earlier, our goal is just to continue growing the elk population. And really, um, you know, a lot of people ask, well, what, what the target number is? And we really don't have a target number per se, because really it's a moving target. So we rely on cooperation from private landowners because we, like, our agency does not own any property where we have elk in the elk management zone. Um, and so all of our, you know, our access for elk viewing, for elk hunting, even for me to do my job just for, you know, habitat work and collaring elk, just anything is, you know, dependent on the private landowners allowing us access and working with us. And so we, we've developed really awesome relationships with private landowners, which keeps leading to more, you know, as we're travels that things are, you know, working out and it's a positive thing. Um, we continue to add private landowners. And so with that, like our, uh, potential for elk keeps increasing. You know, the more lands we have to not only manage habitat wise, but just to have access to, so, uh, I would say the numbers and moving target, but we're always looking to add, you know, new partnerships with landowners and grow our, our elk population. We've got plenty of room for them to expand within that three county management zone.
Okay. Yeah, that was my next question. Uh, the, the, the elk management area, you know, uh, how much, you know, how much land does that cover? How, how, how big of an area is that really? And so you're, that that covers about three counties roughly or
Jackie Rosenberger (12:50):
Yes, sir. Yep. Buchanan, Dickinson and Wise Counties is our, our Elk management zone. Those are the three counties that our state promotes elk in.
Okay. Um, what did you, did you have a
Billy Nicar (13:03):
Question? Yeah, I was, I was kind of curious about the fawn. I mean, not fawn calf recruitment. I mean, you know, the Western states, you've got a lot more predators than we have here. You know, you got wolves, you got grizzlies and so forth and so on. Around here, we don't really have much that pre upon calf elk, do we? I mean, so you can expect a higher recruitment. Is that inaccurate
Jackie Rosenberger (13:27):
There? Probably, yeah. I'm sorry. Um, there probably would be higher recruitment compared to the west, cuz yeah, you're right. I mean there's a lot more predators out west. Um, but there are still predators here in the east. Um, you know, black bears and coyotes will still take calves just like they do whitetail fs. Hmm. Um, I, I've never heard of a bobcat taking an elk calf, but if I heard that they did, it wouldn't, you know,
Wood shock. Yeah.
Jackie Rosenberger (13:50):
Okay. Um, so I would say, you know, the same predators that go after whitetail Fs will go after elk calves and essentially, you know, elk calves and whitetail fs when they're first born, they have the same strategy. It's let me lay here and not move and, um, just hide until I'm strong enough to keep up with, with mom. Um, so, you know, the, the target that a Whitetail fan, even though an out calf is bigger in size, it really doesn't matter cuz they're, they're as helpless as a Whitetail fan, you know, during those early, very early stages. Um, but yeah, I mean, in terms of our exact recruitment rate, we've never, um, collared calves or, you know, done that sort of study to know the exact numbers. Um, but you know, we again, just kind of anecdotally, we see a pretty, a pretty good number of calves every year. Um, now another thing that Virginia Tech will get, and hopefully, you know, maybe in the next year when we get research results, we can come back on a podcast and talk about 'em. But, um, they're also, you know, they're, they're doing winter surveys for us, so they have, you know, like a cow bull calf count. So at the very least we'll have the number of calves that we have, you know, in the winter. So like that final recruitment rate even after the, the hunting season when they're got things wrapped up.
Billy Nicar (15:03):
Yeah. Cause I guess it'd be safe to say we don't have much in the way of a winter kill here in Virginia, <laugh>. Yeah. You know, cause we don't get harsh enough weather, I wouldn't think.
Jackie Rosenberger (15:12):
Yeah. I mean, not, not due to, not due to weather. Um, definitely not like out west, you know, compared to out west. You know, our elk aren't, they don't have to migrate to different areas really to, to just have resources to survive. I mean, we do see seasonal movements in elk, but it's, it's nowhere near the scale that you would see out west. So I would say comparatively, yeah, life would be a lot easier here in the east and the winter, especially where we're at.
So you would, so I guess some of the tendencies to these Virginia Elk or Kentucky elk, they're, I mean, they're a little, little different than what you'd find in, uh, New Mexico. Uh, just, just, uh, I guess what their, their particular instincts or tendencies that they do out west a little bit different here in this state
Jackie Rosenberger (15:57):
Actually. Uh, it, it's more just a product to the environment that they're in. Um, because, you know, we got our out from Kentucky, but Kentucky got their out from six different Western states. Yeah. Um, and so really they're the same, uh, you know, stock of elk. And it's interesting, you know, you can take an elk from out west that, you know, they do these migrations and you can put 'em in the east and they no longer do that. And so it's, it's really more of a product with the environment than they're in. They really don't have to do it here.
Yeah. So, uh, is is the, the weather, the climate where you're at and it's like, you know, you're, cause you're, you're, you're really, you're so far away from, from Central Virginia, uh, climate a big difference in what it is here in Central Virginia. Is it kind of the same or you get, I'm sure you get some colder temperatures, but, uh, than, than, than than what we get here, but pretty, pretty similar.
Jackie Rosenberger (16:51):
I I I would bet it's probably pretty similar. Um, you know, I'm not sure how much snow you guys would get compared to us. I mean, we're, because we're in the Appalachian plateau Yeah. Perhaps we need to get a little bit more snow. But, you know, I, I'm not, I'm not really sure to be honest, I haven't lived anywhere in Virginia besides here. So, um, but I, I would expect it'd probably be pretty similar. Sure.
Um, what was I gonna ask? Uh, it was about, um, I guess the season itself. So when the, you know, the, the, the 2023 lottery's been done, uh, you've got, uh, you've drawn tags for that. You've got some winners for that now already, or?
Jackie Rosenberger (17:32):
Well, our announcement will be in the coming month. So we've, we, by the end of May, we'll announce those five winners through the state lottery. And then at the same time we'll announce the organization that won the, um, that won the sixth license. Okay. So at that point, they'll still be kind of a, a last chance through through that raffle, um, throughout the summer for someone to, to win. But, but yeah, that'll be coming up in the next month.
Yeah. It's, it's, it's exciting times. Billy, did you, did you, uh, apply? Of course. Okay. Of course. Yeah. Well, Billy, Billy just
Billy Nicar (18:06):
Got wasted more on less, I can promise you
That. Right. So you, you just got good news though, didn't you? Oh yeah.
Billy Nicar (18:11):
I got my New Mexico elk.
You got, you drew a New Mexico tag. So you and Todd are going back to New Mexico this year.
Billy Nicar (18:17):
Yeah. So I'll go harass the elk in New Mexico, uh, for a couple weeks in September, then come back here in hopefully harass one in October in Virginia <laugh>.
So what, um, so the season once, once the, once the, the tags are drawn, um, when, when is the season again Jackie?
Jackie Rosenberger (18:35):
Um, so this coming year will be October 14th through the 20th. So, so our hunt is a week in, it is the, in regulation. It's specified as the second Saturday in October through that following Friday.
Okay. And, and, and the, the winners, the, the tags, the winners of the tags, when they go on the hunt, do they, are they going with anybody in particular, a guide or a landowner, anything? Or are they just kind of out on their own?
Jackie Rosenberger (19:03):
That's a good question. Um, so our hunters this past year were definitely not out on their own. Now, if they really wanted to be, they, they could have been. Um, but we have so many volunteers and landowners in this area that are just so passionate about the ELK program and wanted to see the haunts successful and, um, that they made interactions with the hunters. And so we had a couple sets of landowners hunt with the hunters. Um, and even the ones that didn't, you know, they kind of connected with the landowners ahead of time and just tried to, and even our agency, you know, we tried to facilitate property tours, I guess, if you will, and kind of those initial interactions, um, to try to get hunters just kind of acquainted to the area. So we wanted to make sure they were squared away on, you know, where to go, where they could go and where they couldn't.
Um, but also to have those local connections. So, you know, we, because these landowners are so invested in the program, um, that's why our elk hunt was so successful. Um, that's great. You know, our, our hunt was over in, in two days, but, you know, a lot of people wondered, well, how can you take, you know, 600 s only one of them had elk hunting experience, you know, how can they be so suc so successful in that amount of time? Well, really it was because the, uh, the amount of time and investment that all those guys put in, you know, as a collective group.
That's good. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that's awesome. Um, how, uh, everybody take their elk with, with rifles? Or was it, was any bow hunters or do you have to take 'em with a rifle or any, any, any restrictions or regulations on that?
Jackie Rosenberger (20:33):
All of our hunters killed their elk with rifles. Okay. But, um, they could have brought a bow. So basically any weapon that is legal for deer hunting, with the exception of air rifles and sling bows, um, you can take, you can take an elk. Okay.
Jackie Rosenberger (20:49):
Um, perhaps this year we'll have somebody that might wanna try it with a
Bill. Yeah, that'd be cool. I would hope so. Yeah. Um, so there's, there's definitely excitement about this. I mean, any, anytime, anytime you talk about elk in Virginia, you know, people get almost giddy about it, you know, because it's a, it it's gotta be. And you having the job that you have, Jackie, you're extremely lucky by the way. I'm, I'm, I'm kind of jealous that you get to do what you do out, out in the middle of nowhere. Um, you know, I'm sure a lot of people listening to this will probably be the same, but, you know, there's, there's this, there's a huge level of excitement about this that, you know, for, you know, and for years to come to be a part of this. I think it's pretty special.
Jackie Rosenberger (21:32):
Absolutely. Yeah. And I mean, I always like to point out that, you know, I, I came into this job at a time when, you know, all of the, the blood sweat and tears, you know, from all these guys that were in it since day one, you know, that was put in and all that work to build it up to this point. And then I, you know, I, I, I came in here and I was really able to reap the benefits of all that work of, of people before me. Um, so, but it's awesome. I still have, you know, a lot of those guys are still around, whether they're in our agency or they're local partners. And so I love working hand in hand with them. And, uh, hopefully we'll do a good job carrying the out program forward.
Yeah, I think so far so good, Jackie, I mean that's, it's, it's, it's a great program. Uh, I think you guys are, you guys are killing it for, for the, for the state of Virginia right now. Uh, I think you're doing a wonderful job. Uh, Billy, anything else that you want to ask?
Billy Nicar (22:22):
Just kind of curious as to what's next? I mean, is it procuring more lands to expand or, I mean, what's really kind of the next level?
Jackie Rosenberger (22:33):
Yeah, I mean, lands are, are at the foremost of our thoughts and goals. Um, you know, any opportunity that we would have at any sort of land acquisition, obviously we would be really interested in, um, where, you know, in those areas that we have elk. But, you know, right now just, we actually have, uh, a major grant that we are, um, carrying out. Uh, our region got a grant from the NRCS through the Farm Bill a couple years ago. Um, and that program is called VPA Hip. Uh, it's a long acronym, but it stands for, uh, voluntary Public Access Habitat Senate program. So we got almost $3 million through this grant to, uh, work with private landowners in southwest Virginia. And it actually ex extends beyond the Elk management zone, but we, you know, use it pretty heavily in the Elk management zone. And basically we are able to, uh, pay landowners for allowing access for folks as well as to do habitat work and infrastructure work related to access. But I will highlight that, you know, particularly in Buchanan County, we already had a ton of landowners that were on board with this ELK program prior to that program. So, um, we've been able to add, you know, a few more, um, thanks to that program. But, but the investment in the ELK program was way before we had that grant opportunity. Gotcha.
And, um, a question about yourself. So you, you mentioned you came, you, you grew up hunting, um, you get, uh, in your busy schedule. I know you're busy, uh, you get, you get a chance to hunt and fish out where you're at. You make time for that.
Jackie Rosenberger (24:07):
Um, yeah, I do love to hunt and fish. Um, so being from Pennsylvania, um, Pennsylvania deer season is kind of a religious thing. Yeah. So <laugh>, I always make time to go back home for, uh, Pennsylvania rifle season in, uh, November, December. Um, and I actually still do quite a bit of hunting, uh, down in Georgia as well. Okay. Now, I will say, unfortunately, uh, and this is just, uh, a fall of my own. We're not making time, but I haven't established an area in Virginia yet where, where I, where I hunt. But, um, I really need to get on that. But, but yeah, I still hunt in Georgia and Pennsylvania and uh, and, and fishing too. Yeah. I love to, I love to trout fish. Uh, that's what I grew up doing in Pennsylvania. Um, but I also like, you know, fish for Bri bass.
Um, last question was, uh, I think, uh, somebody asked about the possibility of, uh, you know, cuz uh, primarily you're on the, you're, you're along the Appalachian Mountains where, you know, we're closer to the Blue Ridge. Uh, is there, is it, is it unforeseen or is it possibility that in the near future we'll see elk in the Blue Ridge mountains?
Jackie Rosenberger (25:24):
So right now, um, we're operating under, um, our elk management plan that goes started in 2019 and goes to 2028. And so basically the, the purpose of that management plan is to set forth goals and objectives for health management in the state. And, uh, the process that went into making that plan, uh, was prior to when I got here, but, uh, it's very much a public engagement process. So we had a stakeholder advisory committee that was made up of 17 members, and they represented various interests in Virginia, you know, landowners, local government, ag, you know, you name it. Um, and so ultimately they got to, you know, sit on this committee for a year or two and learn about elk and kind of bring their opinions and everything to the, to the table. And, um, they got to vote on a, a set, you know, on a list of goals and objectives for elk.
And in addition to that, we also surveyed the public. Um, so we, we worked with Virginia Tech to survey the public, and um, and then we had a, a, a public comment period on those goals and objectives. So there was a lot of work done to get public input. But, um, essentially what, what came outta that process is that, um, the elk management zone would remain beca and Dickinson and wise counties. Um, and so elk wouldn't be promoted outside of those counties. And so those counties are in the Appalachian Plateau of Virginia, and as soon as you go south or east of there, you're in Ridge Valley, which is, uh, you know, cattle producing counties. And so their economies are really, um, centered around cattle and ag mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, whereas in the elk management zone here, being in the Appalachian plateau, historically the economies are centered on coal mining.
Um, which we could talk about in a minute why that's important for elk, but be because of that and the strong agricultural interest, it was decided not to promote elk, you know, in those counties. True. Because of potential conflicts. But, but I will say, you know, kind of outside of the, the ag community, you know, there were still a, a good number of folks that were in support of, of elk outside the, those three counties. So I would imagine when the process comes up to create the new Elk management plan, uh, closer to that year, 2028, and it would be a year or two before that, that that topic would get brought up again. Um, but I always like to point out, uh, as a, as a wildlife biologist, you know, we are really managing populations for the public. So, you know, those types of decisions really don't lie with us. Sure. It's really up to the public, you know, where they want to have a population of elk or any species. Sure. Um, and so I don't wanna get on my soapbox too much, but you know, a lot of people will say, you know, well, it's a shame we can't follow the science. Well, I mean, social science is just as important as biological science. So, you know, and wildlife management is all about bridging the two. So. Well,
Well said. Yeah. Very appreciative. Very well said. Well, um, Jackie, thank you for, for doing this. You know, uh, thank you. I mean, I know you're busy. Uh, thanks for taking some time outta your day to do this with us. Um, today, uh, we've had, you know, a lot of interest in this, in, in this part of the state. Uh, being a, being an outdoor store like this, you know, we get tons of people that come through here that are excited about the program, uh, that are familiar with D W R, and we like to just, just bring up and do topics like this that, uh, that's very informative to them because they always have a lot of questions about it. And, you know, we like to, we like to answer, try to answer everything we can here at the, at Green Top. But, uh, you know, uh, we we're not, we're not all elk elk experts, especially Virginia Elk experts. So Yeah.
Jackie Rosenberger (29:01):
<laugh>. Yeah, absolutely. Um, and if you don't mind, I'll, I'll kind of add in there, um, just kind of the, the, the coal mining that I referenced earlier. Yeah, yeah,
Jackie Rosenberger (29:11):
I, I think it's important for folks to know, cuz if you're not from here, you would've no idea that all of our elk habitat is centered on reclaimed mine lands. Um, and actually without coal mining, we probably would not have elk in Virginia. And that is also the case for Kentucky. Um, because Elk, you know, as you guys know, they need both open, you know, vast open areas as well as, you know, wooded, forested areas. And so Buchanan County would be all forested and crazy steep topography, if not for, you know, coal mining, especially on these mountaintop removal sites. Um, actually, you know, flattening out the top of a mountain and creating the potential for us to have early successional habitats, grasslands. Um, and so a lot of folks, when we bring them up to view elk and honor elk conservation area, they seriously don't believe us when we say this was a former mountaintop removal site, uh, for coal mining.
But it's, it's the truth. So, um, I just thought I throw that in there. I think folks will find that interesting. And then, uh, also, I want to give credit where credits due. Um, so a lot of credit goes to, uh, a couple key organizations. So the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been with us since the very beginning. And without them, their financial support, their logistical support, even their advocacy, uh, we would not have Elk in Virginia. And they, they've just been an amazing partner for us. Um, and then the Nature Conservancy, they actually own a, uh, a ton where they own or manage a ton of property, um, here in southwest Virginia. So they, uh, they work with us on access for elk related recreation and really help us with land protection. And so they've been awesome to work with. Um, also Southwest Virginia Sportsmen, um, you know, those guys, they're kind of a local organization in Buchanan County, but they are just like our right hand when it comes to the ELK program and the way that the amount of investment they put into the program, it's like they, they're paid employees for the ELK program.
It's, it's crazy. That's awesome. Um, but I don't know what we would, we would do without 'em. And then two more, uh, local entities, uh, breaks Interstate Park if, uh, if for all listeners out there, if you have not visited Bra State Park, I highly encourage it is a beautiful park. It is on the Kentucky Virginia line. It's called the Grand Canyon of the South. Um, but they do ELK tours and they, uh, do a lot to promote the ELK program in this area and are just an awesome partner. Um, and then Southern Gap Outdoor Ventures, they also work with, you know, elk Tours, they host Elk Fest. We had our Elk Check station there. So that's just an awesome, another awesome place to, to check out. And then, um, and then lastly, just credit to our landowners again. Um, I think folks need to hear that. I mean, without the investment of the local community in Bekan County, I mean, we just wouldn't, we wouldn't have an ELK program. And my favorite part of my job is getting to work with all these folks. Like it's just a huge team effort. And if I was out there on my own, this ELK program would definitely not be successful. So, um,
Well, that's, so yeah, well done. I mean, that's, you know, I'm, I'm glad you, I'm glad you gave a shout out to all those, uh, people and organizations and land, and like you said, landowners, they're, they're, they're important, you know, they're, uh, they're pretty vital in, in this, in this program. Um, I don't think, yeah, I think you're right. It's gonna be tough to, to do anything without them, for sure. Absolutely.
Well, uh, Jackie, thanks again for doing this podcast with us. Uh, maybe we'll check back in this fall after the, after the hunts and, um, and, and see if, uh, you know, you're at a point where you want to discuss how the, how the hunts went and how the harvest went. Um, and this will, that'd be after our, uh, big expo that we have here every year. But, uh, but you gotta get, you gotta get outta here eventually and check that out. It's, uh, you know, maybe, maybe an year we'll have you out here for the, for the expo. You can talk to 30,000 people about, um, about the ELK program. So.
Jackie Rosenberger (32:59):
Well, that sounds good. Just let me know when it is.
Will do. All right. Well, Jackie, uh, thanks again. I really appreciate you doing this for us. Um, you're doing, y'all are doing a wonderful job with the ELK program. Uh, keep it up. Uh, keep up the good work. This is, uh, it's, this is good stuff.
Jackie Rosenberger (33:13):
Thank you. I appreciate you.
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